New Opportunities for UCF Students to Study in India

Puja Shanbhag

Students majoring in Mathematics, Computer Science or Engineering have the opportunity to study abroad at the Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT) in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. UCF recently initiated a reciprocal student exchange program with VIT. The program is accepting students for fall 2024. Students who are interested in participating can contact UCF’s study abroad office. Recently, Barry Griffiths, Ph.D., Senior Instructor in UCF’s Department of Mathematics and a faculty affiliate with the India Center, worked as an Adjunct Professor at VIT for two weeks. Griffiths helped establish the exchange program with VIT. He details his experience at VIT in the interview below.

Barry Griffiths, Ph.D. standing beside faculty and administrators of Vellore Institute of Technology
Dr. Barry Griffiths with the Chancellor, faculty and administrators of Vellore Institute of Technology

What was the most distinct difference between teaching at VIT versus teaching at UCF and what was similar?

In many ways the classroom experience was similar. The students were clearly anticipating my lectures and there was a constant buzz of excitement throughout. The students at VIT seemed more reluctant to ask questions during the lectures versus those at UCF, and even after prompting them for answers, they were typically shy in responding. However, after class, individuals and small groups came forward to speak with me.

What was the highlight of your trip?

I’ve been lucky to travel extensively around the world, but India was like nothing I had experienced before. The sights and sounds were quite unique. I really enjoyed waking up early and walking both inside and outside the campus before the crowds, the traffic and the heat started to build.

Barry Griffiths, Ph.D. delivering lecture in front of students

How did you connect with the students at VIT?

I stayed in the classroom after each lecture to answer questions and so that I could ask questions of the students. We spoke about being a student at VIT, their goals after graduation, along with random things related to India. Many students would ask me questions outside the classroom as well. If I was standing on campus waiting for someone, students would ask if I needed assistance, and begin to engage in conversation. Plus, I was there during the Cricket World Cup, so mentioning one of the games was usually a good way to interact.

How can current UCF students benefit from being a part of this exchange program?

For a UCF student to spend a semester at VIT would be the adventure of a lifetime! It would show them a part of the world that few people in the US ever get to experience and give them a much broader perspective of the issues and challenges that are common elsewhere.

What advice do you have for current UCF students that wish to participate in the exchange program?

I think students should embrace the initial feeling of being out of their comfort zone, and slowly immerse themselves in everything that VIT has to offer. Within a short time, I hope students who go there will get into a routine, develop friendships and start to feel at home.

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