杜風 49 期 國際交流


Kunal Umbarkar

Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati


Hello friends,

First of all let me introduce myself. I'm Kunal Umbarkar, a final year student at Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati commonly known as IIT Guwahati. IIT Guwahati is one of the fifteen premier institutes of technology spread across India. It ranks as 6th best technological institute in India. The IITs are termed as the most difficult school to get into as the acceptance ratio is just 1%.

Being in one of the country's best engineering school; I got exposed to very rigorous curriculum. Apart from getting sucked into academics I always tried to maintain balance between academics and other extra-curricular activities. I'm currently the Vice-President of Association of Civil Engineers, IIT Guwahati.


In front of Main Gate with T_id_ (台大) written in cut-grass


Most of the students try to seek for summer internship in and out of India during their pre-final year. So did I. I applied to various institutions across the world and got internship offers in South Africa, China, Malaysia, Canada, Taiwan and Japan. In Taiwan I applied in National Taiwan University and Prof. L.J. Leu was kind enough to offer me an internship. Finally on the basis of quality of universities I decided to go for NTU.

So May '11 started. My time to leave my home and visit to a foreign land came closer. I'd just turned 20 and was leaving the country for the first time, so it was quite obvious for me to be a little scared. With the little scared mind I left for Taiwan on 10th of May '11 all I had with me was my clothes, food for 2 days in case I don't like Chinese food and a photograph of Hoi Kou Pang (Kelvin) in my laptop.


Prof. Leu and me wearing kurta with research group
in front of NTU library


I landed on Taipei international airport. I don't want to be racist or mean to be rude, please forgive me, but when I landed on airport all the people looked alike, I bet you'll feel the same if someday you come to India. I saw the picture of Kelvin again, and started looking out for Kelvin and there I saw him with a board in his hand – “Kunal Umbarkar, India”. Actually it was a calendar which I still have with me in my dorm room. He was really nice, he greeted me first and then we took off to NTU campus in a bus. I was feeling a lot tired and sleepy, but the enthralling beauty of such a technologically modernized city surrounded by green hills of nature refreshed my mind.

Finally we reached our campus and then Kevin shown me my room, from where can I get my food and basic amenities. The most important task for me was to get connected to world by internet, because only this way I could get in touch with my family.  As soon as I got internet I contacted my family and informed them I was well received by the students of Prof. Leu.  I was seeing co-ed dorms for the first time. In India, most of the campuses have separate dorms for boys and girls. After getting refreshed Kelvin, I and Prof. Leu went out for lunch. There I met Prof. Leu for the first time. We ordered food and then he offered me beer, now in India a professor never drinks or smokes in front of student or vice-versa, so I was quite dazzled. I started sensing the cultural differences between our two countries. That night I ate just at Coco Ichibanya just behind me dorm.


SheZi Bridge construction site trip organized by CECI


Next day Prof. Leu kept lunch as a welcome party for me. There I got introduced to his research group, they all seemed nice. I was feeling quite uncomfortable as everyone was speaking Chinese, I was not sure but it sounded like mandarin to me. We started discussing about eating habits of each other. I didn't know why they found Indians way of eating with hands so different. Eating with 5 fingers is quite easy compared to maneuvering food with 2 sticks so hats off to Chinese people who can eat with chopsticks. Then I told them we consider cow as a god and worship her so Indian Hindus never eat beef.

When I returned I met my roommate for the first time, his name was Eden Liu. He was watching an Indian movie – ‘3 Idiots'. I didn't know this movie was famous in Taiwan too! That night he took me out for the dinner to the local market behind campus. Frankly speaking, I had started to like cuisine of Taiwan. After dinner we told each about ourselves and got to know each other. He was my first friends in Taiwan.


Welcome Lunch Banquet for me by Prof. Leu's Group


Next day I met Prof. Leu, he described me the problem I'll be working on. In my university nobody works on topology optimization and hence it was a relatively new field for me. He was generous to buy a computer for me in the lab so that it would be convenient for me to focus on research work. In the lab I met everyone for the first time. Prof. Leu told me the way work is done in their research group. Usually they work in weekdays and present the work carried out on Friday. This was the best type of work culture I'd ever seen. Working in this way enables one to continuously use their mind and likely reduces the work load at the end. In my university undergraduate students work 20 hours a day just few days before exam or other academic deadlines, this puts a lot pressure on mind and body. I was asked by him to present on India. On the day of presentation I was quite excited; I wore a red kurta – a traditional Indian dress. After presentation everyone was quite dazzled as they came to know about different Indian cultures, festivals, etc.

Days were passing by smoothly. I enjoyed the natural yet modernized Taipei's gardens, parks, museums. The National Palace Museum blew my mind off! I'd never seen a museum bigger than this with so large collection. The long painting of ‘Dwelling in the Fu-ch'un Mountains' struck my mind. My friend from National Tsing Hua University used to come in NTU and stay there overnight on weekends. He used to enjoy more in NTU as it was in heart of Taipei. My roommate told me about a fantastic place called Yehliu. There I came to know I had discount as I was a student at NTU but my friend didn't.

The primary reason for choosing Taiwan over other countries was Taipei 101. One day I was watching Extreme Engineering on Discovery Channel, that day they were broadcasting construction of Taipei 101. I was so amazed by the complexity of building and the way structural engineers tackled all the problems. The most amazing feature of that building stands at 400m from ground – Tuned Mass Damper. That day I decided to become a civil engineer. Finally one day I paid a visit to Taipei 101. It's not what it looks like on television, Its much more magnificent! Though a little expensive, I went on top of the building as it was a life time opportunity and it was worth it.


With Damper baby and massive tuned mass damper in background


Once Dept. of Civil Engineering was organizing a trip to construction site of SheZi Bridge and CECI head-office and Prof. Leu asked me to hop in so that I could get a picture of what type of work is done in Taiwanese construction industry. The site visit and the briefing were quite insightful. It gave me a chance to interact with Vietnamese people as well.  The visit to CECI head-office gave me chance to see how the BIM modeling work is carried out and see the advanced labs of CECI. It was fascinating to know that CECI provides consulting services in India too!

On many evening my roommate had long chats about cultural differences in India and Taiwan. Once I saw a married couple taking pictures around the campus. So that evening we talked about marriages, he told me about the marriage system in Taiwan. However in India, most of the marriages are arranged marriages. In arranged marriage parents of boys look out for grownup girls from the same community. Once they meet girls' family and if boy likes girl then they get married. Both the systems have their own advantages and disadvantages. One night we talked about relationships with neighbors and friends. He told me he had no friends in his dorm, his neighbor didn't used to talk a lot with him. One night our air-conditioner was making a lot of noise. So the guy below us complained the dorm manager instead of coming up and telling us. This is the only thing which I didn't like about the people of Taiwan. The neighbor relations are very weak. My roommate said his roommate, prior to me, didn't talk in 1 year as much as we talked in 3 months. In my university I know names of almost everyone who's in my batch. In our dorm we have a group of 10-15 people who go out for dinner together, after dinner we sit in one room and talk. I've very good relations with everyone who lives close to my room.

On most of the evenings I used to have my dinner at Paolo Kitchen and Sakura Rice bar, because he was the only one who could talk with me in English. He was really nice person. Most of the time he saw me eat alone so later he started joining me so that I don't get bored. I never imagined that the people of Taiwan would be so nice in real. Another favorite item was bubble tea. I miss it very badly here. Amongst the memorable experiences was the recording for Discovery Channels competition. My roommate had to submit a video with people commenting something about Taiwan. So I chose to say – ‘Taiwan is a great place'. I weakly recall it as ‘Taiwan shi eka hou ti fang', excuse my mistakes.


With Room-mate Eden in Jiu Fen Market


However my most fun experience was climbing on the mountains of Jiu Fen. My roommate was nice enough to take out time from his busy schedule so that he can take me out for hiking. I bought a lot of gifts and sweets for my friends from Jiu Fen. As most of friends were in some or other country we decided to bring something for each other. I brought them Kaoliang and Wasabi peas to eat with it. They simply loved it. My roommate and I then went to Jiu Fen market. There I tasted quite different food than that I used to have in Taipei. It was a wonderful day on a wonderful friend with wonderful friend.

Finally my time to go back to my country came closer. I gave a Green Kurta to Prof. Leu which my parents bought for him as a gesture to show respect. On final day I had mixed feelings, one part of me wanted to stay in Taiwan and other was calling back me to my home. I'll never regret my decision of choosing Taiwan over other countries and I'll never forget the most wonderful 3 months of my life in Taiwan. I thank Prof. L J Leu for the supporting my internship. I'm thankful to him for guiding me along the right path and making me a better student by teaching me to think out of the box and work punctually. I'm thankful to my friend Eden Liu for making my stay comfortable and memorable. I'd also like to thank Jeff, Kelvin, Steve and other members of their group for all the help. I hope I'll get another chance to visit Taiwan soon.