Summer in India: IIMA

Laura in India

In the photo, some of my classmates and I are interviewing a local SHG as part of our microfinance management course.

After leaving Vancouver following the end of our Masters of Food and Resource Economics coursework, I travelled to India to pursue the final component of my studies- the Graduating Project. I had been to India once before and couldn’t wait to get back!

I completed my first month at the Indian Institute of Management – Ahmedabad (IIMA), a world renowned business school. The campus is beautiful: it is practical, yet inspiring (as the architect Louis Khan aimed it to be). The dorms, the classes, the library, the professors’ offices, and the student dining area are all close by, only a few minutes walking away from each other. The buildings are made of red brick with large circles forming open windows. Some of the floors cut in-between the circles, so that from inside the structure, the open windows take the form of semi-circles. There are also trees and patches of green grass all over. The effect is stunning.

Daily life of course is different here. With an average daily high of 40° C, the heat is hard to ignore. At first, I felt dizzy in my dorm room. The fan would make the small mirror over by bed swing lightly, creating light effects that added to the dizziness. I learned quickly that the air-conditioned library is the place to be during the day. As a result, the heat is a great catalyst for effective studying!

Since the dorms and other structures have open windows and entrances (no glass or doors), animals roam around freely. Wild cats and dogs casually hang around the dorm rooms and classrooms. One exchange student complains about having to kick a dog out of the shower every morning. There are also monkeys by the trees, bats in the library, and lizards everywhere.

The student dynamics are also very different. The second years interact closely with the first years (called “faccha”), sometimes playfully insulting them but, most often, helping them and pushing them to do well. The level of trust between students is high, with people leaving their laptops and phones in the library for hours while they attend courses. Teamwork drives all the motivated exchange students crazy: the work gets done at the last minute, at odd hours, and often with varying quality standards. But the teams work together, debating and helping each other until the end of the project, no matter what hour. This type of collaboration is truly valuable.

The environment will change a lot for the students who will be here in the next term. First off, the heat will have abated. Secondly, about 100 exchange students (instead of 10 in the Summer) will arrive mostly from Europe and 150 IIMA students (out of about 400) will study abroad. IIMA will have the diversity of an American campus and the student population size of a European business school. I can’t image IIMA suddenly becoming so international.

In my classes, we discuss economic issues in the Indian context and sometimes compare it to what happens in the US (often an idealized version of it). It is very interesting, and sometimes entertaining, to learn about what happens in India. Overall, I’m very happy to be here. It is great to extend my learning experience from the MFRE course into an international setting and I look forward to create many more memories!

– Laura Uguccioni, MFRE ’14