Testimonial Divya Mathur

Hello everyone,

I am Divya Mathur from India and I received Erasmus Mundus Postdoctoral Scholarship to carry out research in the field of Organic Chemistry at Ghent University.

When you go to a new place, away from your home and comfort zone, you are filled with all sorts of emotions. Like me, all my fellow Erasmus scholars must have felt anxious about how this new experience of living in an unfamiliar place is going to be and at the same time the excitement to explore new horizons, the determination to make good use of this incredible opportunity and the hope that in the end it will be a fruitful expedition. Today being close to the end of my ten months journey here, I am feeling content and happy. This experience has made a profound impact on me. The overwhelming sense of accomplishment, self-belief and zest to conquer the challenges the future may hold is simply indescribable. For all this I would like to convey my heartfelt gratitude to the European Commission and the India Platform for awarding me this opportunity through Erasmus Mundus Svāgata.eu programme.

I came to Belgium knowing only of its more than 400 brands of beer, tasty chocolates, waffles, Manneken Pis and Tintin. This country does encompass these things, but there is so much more to it. In the same way, the real India is beyond its curry, caste and cows. I have realized that in order to confirm and challenge the existing notions about a country and its culture, it's very necessary to personally interact with its people and listen to their point of view rather than simply relying on the media and Internet. Studying in Ghent gave me this amazing opportunity to meet other students from all over the world who had come together in this multicultural city. It expanded my understanding of the world around me and broadened my horizon. With people from different cultures intermixing in Belgium, it truly makes the Belgian culture richer. It was something I could relate to, coming from India, which is known for its rich history and vibrant culture. I found the Belgian people very warm and welcoming. It takes time for them to open up, but once they do they are great fun. Upon meeting someone for the first time, there is always a friendly air of curiosity and not of suspicion around a foreigner visiting their country. I also noticed that the people are very patient. I truly appreciate the work culture here and the belief that there should be a balance between work and social life.

It's easy to feel lost and alone in an unknown city, but I never had to go through that feeling in my ten months in Ghent. I feel really blessed to have the pleasure to be friends with some amazing people here who supported me throughout. I would like to thank the people from the India platform, especially Anne and Peter, who supported and ensured that I have a comfortable and successful academic and personal experience here. Being a part of their brainstorming sessions on School Education was a very interesting and knowledgeable experience. I hope I would be a part of such developmental programs in the future as well. I would also like to thank my promoter, Professor Johan Van der Eycken who has been very encouraging and supportive. Working in his laboratory has provided me with additional skills and opportunities to further my development as an organic chemist. People in the department have always been very nice and helpful. I have learnt a lot by working as a researcher at Ghent University and I hope to use this experience back home.

I wish to share with all of you the experience on my first day in Ghent. When I first landed here I was a bit intimidated when I saw that all the signs on the roads, shops and advertisements were in Dutch. Given I don't know the language the first few days were a bit unnerving, however, with each passing day I felt a sense of familiarity with the streets of Ghent. Even though it wouldn't hurt if the signs were also in English along with Dutch for the convenience of the new international students, I understand that it's a part of maintaining the identity and culture of the community. Understanding the language is also an integrated part of experiencing the culture of a country. Another thing which was new to me was that in India the shops are open till 11 pm be it weekdays or weekends. When I came here I was a little taken aback by the fact that on Sunday all the shops are closed, and on the weekdays they close at six. But I slowly understood the reason behind it and I appreciate that the rights of the work force are protected here. I also noticed that there's a lot of respect for pedestrians, for cyclists and for the environment, as well.

Erasmus experience isn't like a holiday; you are not a tourist but a resident in that country and this change in perception undoubtedly lead to a better understanding of the place and its people. In today's competitive world apart from academic aptitude, innovative thinking, not afraid of taking challenges and trying new things is greatly appreciated. Living and studying in a new country is a challenge and Erasmus experience prepares you for a better future. I believe that my experience during Erasmus Mundus Svāgata Postdoctoral Programme would help me in fulfilling my goals and give a fillip to my career advancement as a scientist. It's greatly appreciable of what the European Commission is doing through the Erasmus Mundus Programme, the experience that they are providing to the individuals, who return from their year abroad more confident, independent, and with an enhanced C.V. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I would encourage anyone who gets this opportunity, to go for it.

I have gained an enduring link with Belgium. I have felt a sense of calmness in the vibrancy of Belgium's best-kept secret, the city of Ghent. Ghent is full of life and offers a plethora of art galleries, museums, cultural events and festivals. The memories of strolling in the cobble stone streets, admiring the medieval gabled guild houses, picturesque canals, castles, cathedrals and churches is something I will relish forever. I have a lot of interesting stories to take back home. I am sure that whenever I will think about the time I spent here it will bring a smile on my face.

Testimonial Namrata Harsh Jajoo

I'm returning to India after a very fruitful mobility period at Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV). It was a remarkable learning experience for me both academically and culturally. UPV has very good systems and structures, which enhanced the learning process and made it easy for me to settle down easily. Most importantly the staff at the International office was very co-operative and friendly and my supervisor had very meticulously planned my activities during the mobility period. He took cognizance of my requests which were over and above the initial plan and organized the inputs. He and his department ITACA-IBIME are role models for me.

More specifically, I got good exposure to the Quality Systems in Hospitals as also in the area of Public Healthcare system in the country. Projects related to Biomedical data mining and Clinical Decision support system (CDSS) were very interesting and could be an area of collaboration for our University. The Healthcare management programs at UPV are another area, which could be of interest to our staff and students.

As advised by you, I did visit a public high school here and thoroughly enjoyed interacting with the students.

I know a lot of hard work goes behind organizing such mobilities and I want to thank both of you for all your support and help in making this experience such an unparalled value addition for me.