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Summer 2018

Summer Diaries: University of Arctic Norway (UiT)

July 23, 2018
- Ritvik Raj

Making it there

Having a low cgpa, you would not expect anyone to get (even apply for) a foreign research internship but this didn’t deter me down. After receiving decent responses based on my profile from the professors, my confidence kept on rising. However, most of them turned out to be unpaid internship responses. Still, I kept on applying for like ten days. I started applying on 22nd March (which is too late to even think of applying for research internships but I knew that I had a decent resume which boosted my confidence in doing so) and got few responses which were positive and had funding opportunities. I finally settled for the internship at UiT Norway amongst the three interviews which I had with different university professors. I researched about it online that the Norwegian universities pay a good amount of money to their employees and interns. Also, the topic which I would get as an intern was a very fundamental topic in visual attention and symmetry (computer vision). I saw this as a very good opportunity to learn new things and experience new culture and hence grabbed this opportunity. Finally, I got the acceptance from the professor on 2nd April (took me ten days to get the internship) but I advise you to apply from September to November (professor don’t have holidays in this period) and January to March.
I took help from my senior to make a cover letter which was short but at the same time had all the important information. I’d suggest you to read some recent project of the professor under whom you have your internship and mention it in the mail because that helped me in pursuing this. Make a one-page resume and keep only the important information which makes it easier for anyone to read at one glance.
After getting the acceptance letter, I took my visa appointment on 22nd April which is a bit late. It took me one week to collect all the documents. I got my visa on 10th May and flew to Tromso, Norway on 15th May. Travel was well covered in the stipend. I recommend you to take layover between flights so that you can see around. Some countries have visa on arrival for Indians. The accommodation provided by the college was a single room along with kitchen shared amongst 6 people (co-ed hostel :P Seems pretty fun for IIT student, huh?)  

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Life at UiT

My area of the internship was in visual attention and symmetry. My work, initially, was mostly to code the research paper from scratch in python. Then, I had to investigate whether Symmetry or Asymmetry is important for visual saliency in an image based on MIT and several other freely available datasets. The work timing was from 8 AM to 2 PM which gave me a lot of time in the evening to study on my own. The best part was when I used to meet my supervisor. Try to have several meetings with your supervisor even if you have not completed the work. This would make you learn more and complete the work faster.

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Culture

Everything about the place was quite new since this was my first time in Europe. I liked the social and gender equality in Norway which is one of the best takeaways. I loved the mountains (obvious, if you know me), fjords, islands, oceans and the beaches. I was actually living on an island named Trosmø . You get to see the Midnight sun (summer) and Northern lights (winter) which are great natural wonders.I even managed to save some money and travelled around Norway and some nearby places in Finland, Sweden, Paris and Amsterdam. I took car trips and tried kayaking, skiing and even hiking to some mountain peaks. I’d suggest you to plan the days intelligently!
I took a week off and travelled to Paris and Amsterdam. Try to go to Paris on their National (Bastille) day which is on 14th July. I was there that night and had an amazing chance to see the Eiffel tower lit up by fireworks. These great megacities are famous for its art, culture and history. Overall, it was a great experience visiting several countries in just three months.
Weather in Europe is the best in summers. The temperature in most of the places is between 10 to 30 degree Celsius. Walking on the streets is the best thing you can do in this temperature. I even learned to cook food during my stay there. I tried some different cuisines but Indian food still stands my favorite.

Summing it up

Try to be brave in taking chances and risks. While it might seem tempting to just shy away from challenges, don’t! If you are working with someone in your lab or travelling somewhere, try to make new friends and contacts. You can get some help from your fellow interns to find something that will meet your needs for a future internship. Internships are all about learning. So, if you really want to have an experience which is a mixture of travel and work, I’d suggest you to go for a foreign internship.

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