Essential Documents and Services for a Summer Internship in France

An internship not only makes you industry ready but also gives you the requisite experience to thrive in your career. I had an opportunity to undergo a research internship at Biomechanics and Bioengineering Lab, CNRS at Compiegne, France at the end of my junior undergraduate.

The French education system, unlike the British or US education system, is a bit complicated. Language may be a barrier when it comes to finding a lab. However, I have already discussed in my previous article to find a host lab for research in France. Getting funds is a major concern when it comes to international research internships. There are several programmes by the governments like SN Bose, Khorana, DAAD or Charpak Research Internship programs that sponsor your visit to a lab. However, not everyone is lucky to get through this process. But that doesn’t mean it is the end of your dream. The labor law in France guarantees you a monthly salary up to 550 Euros if your period of research exceeds 2 months. I am one of those who didn’t get through DAAD or MITACS but decided to search for labs in countries with such labor laws. Trust me at 546 Euros/month for a period of 86 days of research internship, it covered thoroughly my airfare, VISA and stay. If you are lucky enough to get a cheap furnished housing, then it may cover your expenses on food as well. However, one must start the entire process very early. These are the essential documents and services one is likely to obtain during the entire process of visa and internship.

1. Letter of Acceptance

This is very important and it should clearly mention your guides, duration of the internship, the stipend and probably the topic of research.

2. Convention de Stage

This is the detailed contract which clarifies the minimum number of hours of work, the agreement between the host laboratory, the student and the home institute of the student. This is a must required document for students who are recipients of ‘Charpak Scholarship’ to get the VISA. However, ‘Letter of Acceptance’ is enough to get a VISA if you are not lucky enough with the Charpak Research Internship Program. Moreover, some labs require you to send the documents by post as hard copy, while some labs are fine with sending them scanned copies by e-mail. One must ask them at least 2 months before the start of the internship. The entire process takes at least one month or maybe longer. This is also essential to get the badge to access facilities of the lab after you reach in France.

3. Housing:

One can find the accommodation in CROUS. However, it calls for a security. One can apply to Cle asking the state to be a guarantee. Sometimes, the professors are kind enough to act as a guarantee. As I browsed the accommodation options, I found that the CROUS student residence was priced at 249.00 Euros/month for a single bedroom (chambre) of 9 square meter and attached toilet facilities. However, the kitchen was shared and had no culinary sets. So, I decided to go with the privately shared flats in apartments. The rent was 205.00 Euros and the maximum amount of the services was 62.00 Euros/month. However, it was fully furnished with facilities for washing machine, utensils, coffee machine, induction cooker, and microwave. Cooking can save some cents and this widens your budget to explore France and neighboring countries. One can look for Lokaviz website, or websites of the host university. They have international student counselor to help with housing. Proof of accommodation is essential to obtain VISA.

4. Bank Account

Some labs require opening a French bank account to transfer the stipend while some labs are comfortable transferring amounts directly to your Indian Bank account through SWIFT code. Look out for collaborations between the banks and universities. I got 25 Euros as starting balance and a monthly deduction of 0.20 Euros on opening a bank account with ‘Societe Generale’. They issued me a ‘Carte Blueue’. It was a VISA JAZZ card, which can act as both credit and debit card and also it has additional functionalities like automatic toll fee payments, although it is not a concern to you.

5. Mobile Number

It will be my humble request not to take Matrix Sim Cards. It didn’t work for me and had connectivity issues. However, the most important reason is the plans are expensive and you can always find much cheaper plans. I got ‘Orange’ SIM card. However, it was expensive at the sim cost 10.00 Euros/month and the call rates were unlimited local calls at 10.00 Euros/month and 3 GB data plans for 10 Euros/month. However, I realised later that one can get cheaper plans with SFR or Bouygues Telecom or some local telecom companies. As far as my knowledge goes, Bouygues Telecom can cost half as much as Orange and it provides international unlimited calls to some countries, although I am not sure about India.

6. Clothes

South France is warmer throughout the year, but North France can be cold in May. June and July are hotter months with mercury touching over 25°C on some days. The days are longer than in most parts of India with daylight ranging from 16 to 17 hours during summer. However, the nights are colder with the temperature dropping down to below 10°C. I have travelled in regions around Paris and Lille and the temperature can reach below 5°C during the night in summer. So, if your host lab is in Northern France, do carry one light blanket, one jacket and rest clothes of your choice. Please don’t stuff with too many winter garments like me because most part of the day has sunshine.

7. Food

Stuff yourself with Indian snacks and food. You will find mostly packaged food here. Having a good culinary skill can be a delightful experience for you. However, France is famous for its cuisines. One can find meals (repas) in the university canteens which range from 2.60 Euros to 3.25 Euros. Do look out for free coupons against your BUTC and CROUS number. One can find these numbers on one’s badge given by the lab.

8. FOREX Card and International Debit Cards

I would suggest to go with Forex Cards as you don’t have to bother about the continuously varying exchange rates. Further, you can reload them at any time you want. I carried a Forex Card by Thomas Cook and I got really decent exchange rate of 70.8 rupees=1 Euro. This was just 0.70 rupees more than the market value.

9. Money Transfer to India

Transferwise is probably the best money transfer option to India from your French Bank Account. The exchange rates are very competitive and they provide transfer at the current exchange rates. Further, you can avail transfers without paying any extra cost.

10. Money Transfer from India

If you have a Forex Card or International Debit Card, then you don’t have to worry much. International Debit Card is an hassle-free option. However, transfer to Forex Card Account may need a person in India to visit the nearest Forex Card issuing agency. I didn’t go with PayPal as it had higher transaction costs. If you are carrying cash and none of the above two cards, do carry extra cash as the transfer from Indian Bank Acccount to Foreign Bank Account may take some time. Transactions using cards are usually faster.

I have shared about the transportation in France and effective way to travel in France and neighbouring countries during the weekends.

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Notions that Foreigners have about India

I have traveled extensively to various parts of France and the neighboring countries. Coming from South-East Asia, Europe was a culture shock for me. Nevertheless, it was amusing to learn about the various notions people had about India and Indian culture. I believe that this is the perception that people have developed from watching the Indian movies, the portrayal of India in Hollywood movies and the stories about Gandhi, British Rule in India, and Indian restaurants in Europe etc.

 1. Arranged Marriages

It was very amusing to know that some European people think India doesn’t have the love marriage concept. I went to a multilingual party where a French girl was curious to know about India. She had earlier met an Indian guy, who happened to be married. He had narrated them how his father made him see the bride and talked about marriage on the pretext of taking him to a restaurant. It was really difficult for me to convince her and some of her friends that Indians have love marriages. Further, their firm belief stems from news about ‘Khap’ and how people murder couples who go against family norms to marry.

2. Song, Dance, and Happiness

The people in France and particularly, the people in my lab thought that Indians are usually quite happy and they sing and dance every now and then. There was this girl from Morocco who had watched Indian films and knew Shahrukh Khan and Akshay Kumar. She was inquisitive if people really dance every now and then in real life. Thankfully, I could convince her that music is an integral part of most Indian movies. I convinced her that there are musicals made in other parts of the world like ‘La La Land’ and she seemed convinced with the rationale. There was another guy in my lab, who believed that Indians dance only by folding hands and shaking heads. One fine day, I decided to explain there is not just one dance form. I showed him Indian folk dances like Bhangra, Kathak, Indians dancing Salsa, Tango and then some classical dances like Odissi and Kuchipudi.  I gave him a plausible explanation that India is an amalgam of various cultures and dance is a medium of expression of one’s culture. So, it is quite natural for people belonging to different cultures have different festivities. So, this is for once and for all, people in India don’t dance every now and then. The folk dances are usually in the festivities when families meet and everyone is in a light mood.

3.India and Football

Yes, we cheer for Messi and Ronaldo but we are underperformers in soccer. Now, there was this guy who had interest in sports from around the world. He was curious to know why India doesn’t fare well in football, athletics, and swimming. I was prompt and ready for my reply. I asked him if people in France can play cricket, wrestling, and Kabaddi. Well, he was bewildered with my reply. These sports were as much foreign to him as petanque to me before coming to France. I explained that Indians are obsessed with cricket. India has fared well in hockey, boxing, and wrestling in Olympics and we are the best team in cricket. (Fortunately, India was ranked number 1 in both test and ODI at that time).  Now, I told him the history of cricket and how faring well in cricket against the Britishers became a medium of protest during the Indian struggle for independence. Maybe that would have changed his notion.

I will write on these as and when I am in a mood to write. But you can skip to the next notion I can’t help myself writing.

  • Spicy Food
  • Genius in Information Technology
  • India is Unsafe for Women
  • Bromance

4. Slumdog Millionaire and Lion

I found carpooling a cheap and convenient option than taking a public transport in France. This also gives you an opportunity to interact with the locals, gain an insight into the French culture and make some new friends in a foreign land. I booked my journey from Cannes to Montpelier through a carpooling app. The initial conversations that began with me teaching the co-passengers ‘Namaste’ as the Indian way of greeting delved into the culture, songs, and movies. It was during this context that, Orlando, a university student in Montpelier mentioned, ‘’O, I like Slumdog Millionaire and ‘Lion’. These Indian movies are really heart-touching.”

This got on my nerves. It was at this time, I was convinced that cinemas and media has a greater role in forming the public opinion. “But these are not Indian movies. The film directors of these movies are Britishers. Have you ever watched a real ‘Bollywood’ movie?”

“What is Bollywood? Is it a film industry in ‘Indian’ language?”

I sensed another error. I felt like it is obligatory on my part to correct the notion Orlando had about India. “Hey Orlando!, there is no existing language called Indian.There are 22 official languages in India. So, there are movies of several languages. Only those that are made in Hindi with production houses mostly based in Mumbai are known as ‘Bollywood’ films.”

These are definitely great movies. But the depiction of India is that of the 1990s and over the last two decades India has undergone massive change. I knew that I don’t have to boast about my culture or leave people thinking of me as a jingoist. However, I wanted him to know more about India and Indian culture. Somewhere, in my heart, I felt that India is not as inferior or poor as it is depicted in the movies. I have seen poor people in Paris, Lille, Amsterdam and in Frankfurt. I realized that it becomes tougher for a poor in a developed country than in a developing country like India. The cost of the basic amenities of life is very high in developed countries. Definitely, there are slums in India. But there is more to India. I gave him a carefully thought list of 10 movies that would give an answer to a lot of questions about India. ‘Swades’, ‘Namastey London’, ‘Lagaan’, ‘Chak de India’, ‘Kaho Naa Pyar Hai’, ‘Manjhi’, ‘Jodhaa Akbar’, ‘Airlift’, ‘3 Idiots’, ‘PK’ etc. Over several other conversations, I realized that ‘Bahubali’ is popular among the people who keep an interest in world cinemas. For those who don’t have an idea about Bollywood movies, ‘Swades’ is the story of an Indian scientist from NASA who returns back to India to work for the upliftment of his village. You see there are good movies that don’t necessarily have to win Oscars!

Science Communication: An Art to Cut Through the Jargons

A recent article asserts that reading scientific journals have a complex over the last few decades. Science and Nature which used to receive huge readership in the early 1900s are no longer everyone’s cup of tea. The articles published by scientists are meant to communicate ideas to fellow scientists and get validated or recognized for their research. However, it’s really hard for the common public keen to gain an insight into this world of research

Bioengineering and Fashion

The contribution of Biomechanics to foot and apparel industry is patent. The recent trends of various wearables like apple smart watch or ….. However, the focus of this article is inclined towards the technical aspect rather than present a generic layman description of the subject. In 2009, the investment in Fashion Tech was $50 million and by 2014, the number had risen to $2.8 billion. New York Fashion Tech Lab and Fashion Tech Accelerator are some of the prominent fashion tech labs.

 

I read a research article titled “Flip-flops: Fashionable but functionally flawed.” The research says that flip-flops don’t hold onto the foot tightly like most other shoes and hence, we have to use our muscles and tendons. A company Fitflop Ltd. sells flip-flops on the context that their flip-flops tones the hamstrings and buttocks.

  1. Adjustable Height Heels and Stilettos
  2. Recyclable Clothing materials
  3. Smart Textiles
  4. Bio-engineered textiles have particular advantages like water repellent nature  etc.
  5. Connected Clothing from Loomia

Some further analysis articles: 1. Lee, C-M et al. “Biomechanical Effects of Wearing High Heel Shoes”. Int’l J of Industrial Ergonomics 28: 321 – 326, 2001

The biomechanical solution for stilettos is yet to be achieved.

Companies: 1. Modern Meadow is growing animal-free leather in their industry. The leather industry is currently a $100 billion market globally.

Rachel Arthur writes various articles at the intersection of technology and fashion.

It’s not just about the innovation rather it’s also about the setting and the philosophy that shapes the innovation. (Motivation of the innovation)

‘Bolt Thread’ is aimed at creating new generation of advanced materials.