Waterloo Record – Internship program gives international students a taste of Canadian life

For two months, Aritra Sasmal has been immersed in Canadian university life.  

He spends 10-hour days at the University of Waterloo campus in the math and computer building where he’s researching the mathematical theory behind the energy of internal waves in bodies of water. He’s studying the importance of these waves that occur beneath the water’s surface.  

By night, he shares a room in residence with other students like him. Sasmal, who lives in Calcutta, India, is one of 18 international students on a 12-week research internship at Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University.

“It’s been really fun and a wonderful experience,” said 20-year-old Sasmal, a third-year student at the India Institute of Technology in mechanical engineering with a minor in physics. He hopes to attend graduate school in Canada or the United States.

“Canadians are really friendly people. They are very accepting to international students at Waterloo,” he said.

Sasmal works closely with his adviser Kevin Lamb, a professor of applied math.

“He picks things up on his own,” Lamb said of Sasmal. He’s a very bright student.”

There are about 280 international students at more than 30 Canadian universities who are working on projects ranging from plant biology and sustainable living to search engine code analysis.

The Mitacs Globalink program caters to international undergraduate students, providing them with research connections to Canada. In 2013, Mitacs was awarded $13 million from the federal government to add new research exchange programs and provide international research internships in countries around the world to Canadian undergraduate students.

Mitacs Globalink covers the costs of international students to come to Canada while they are here. Sasmal arrived May 2 and returns to India July 17.

Sasmal’s first visit to Canada hasn’t been all work. The students have explored Toronto and watched fireworks on Canada Day at Columbia Lake in Waterloo.

Sasmal said living with students from other countries has helped to break down stereotypes that many people have.

Sasmal has cooked daal — a lentil dish and chicken with yogurt trying to avoid hot spices.

“My Brazilian roommate asked me if I was trying to kill him,” Sasmal chuckled.