Monday, January 4, 2016

Guests among Friends

First it was Hamburg and now they’re off to see the world. Every year, NIT Class 14 alumni choose another destination and get to know one of their fellow-students’ home countries. They have already visited India and Hungary, and in 2016 they are visiting the United States.

Imre, Vivek, Matthias, René, and Yijun are sitting in the airplane. They are flying to India, where Vivek comes from. They want to get to know the country — from New Delhi to Goa, then down south to Kerala, and finally to Leh in the Himalayas. The five got to know each other at the NIT Northern Institute of Technology Management. While studying at the Hamburg University of Technology they spent two years for an MBA at the same time. The Class 14 students, 30 in all, come from ten countries and five continents. “We were curious about where our fellow-students come from,” says Vivek. “And we didn’t want to lose contact with each other after completing our studies. So several of us made the NIT International Travel Pact.”

Every year the five engineers want to visit another country and get to know the others’ families at the same time. In 2013 they visited India. Their base was an apartment about 30 km from New Delhi in the National Capital Region—where Vivek’s parents live. His mother spent much of her time cooking generously for the visitors. “She was so excited at having the house full,” Vivek recalls. For her the international guests were something extra special. “We saw a lot on that journey,” Matthias says, “from the excursion to the Taj Mahal to a several-day tour of the tea estates in Kerala.” They drove over the Kardung Pass, one of the highest drivable mountain passes in the world. The air is so thin that everything can only be done at a snail’s pace, people were easily breathless and moved around very slowly and deliberately. In Leh, 3,500 meters above sea level, they went for a ride on a camel across a polar cold desert. Mountains, water, snow, and desert—the Himalayas have them all at the same time. Sadly, Yijun was unable to join them. As a Chinese he was not allowed to visit Ladakh for political reasons. In India the students learnt to show consideration for each other. “For three weeks we did everything together—living, laughing, talking, playing cards. And we were there for each other, such as when we inevitably had food poisoning,” Vivek says. “Just like in a family.” 

Last spring Imre invited his friends to visit Hungary. Other fellow-students—Andrew, Désirée, Maxwell, and Timothy—joined them, them being Imre, Vivek, and Matthias of the team who had toured India. It began with a classical tour of Budapest: the castle district, Andrássy Avenue, the banks of the Danube, Heroes’ Square, and, of course, the nightlife. Imre’s family arranged the accommodation. Then they headed east. In Imre’s home town Hajdúböszörmény the NIT alumni experienced the real Hungary, the tasty cuisine, the hospitality, a birthday party en famille, including a soccer match. The football was something special for everybody: both for the locals and for the guests from Australia, Germany, India, Nigeria, and the United States who didn’t always get very far with English and communicated non-verbally. A Hungarian tradition made that easier. “Hardly are guests there but in Hungary the pálinka is on the table,” says Matthias. It is a strong fruit brandy that comes in different varieties. And none of them have forgotten a wine tasting in a fine old wine cellar in the countryside. Good conversations and shared experiences form a strong bond between the friends from different cultures even though they no longer see each other on a daily basis. “On our travels together we are open-minded and keen to experience new things,” Imre says. That makes it easy for the group to work. “We then do everything together, that strengthens our friendship.” Some of the former fellow-students now already live in other cities and other countries.

For 2016 the NIT alumni are planning their next journey. On Independence Day, July 4, they are off to the United States, where Andrew, a fellow NIT alumnus, is looking forward to showing his friends the States—and his family in Kansas. “I’m sure that with him we will gain insights into the country and the people that would otherwise remain firmly closed to us,” Imre is convinced.  

Matthias Schmittmann

In August 2015, Matthias graduated with an M.Sc. in Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering. Alongside his engineering degree program at the Hamburg University of Technology he studied for an MBA at the NIT, where he majored in Entrepreneurial Management. In 2014, together with a fellow-student he set up a company, bentekk, which specializes in mobile gas chromatographs.  

Vivek Tyagi

Born in India, Vivek came to Germany in 2011 to study Information and Communication Systems. His savings were only enough for one year, so he concentrated on his master’s program but looked for a job as a working student. Via NXP Semiconductors he came to the NIT, where he spread his wings further with the MBA program. Today Vivek is a trainee at NXP, where he is employed in international product management.

Imre Kulcsár

Imre hails from a small town in eastern Hungary. He came to Hamburg in 2012 for the double-degree program at the TUHH and the NIT, having previously studied Industrial Management and Mechanics for a B.Sc. in Budapest. A mechanical engineer, he now works as a project engineer for Seidenader Maschinenbau in Munich. Imre is Chair of the NIT Alumni Network.

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