Being awarded a Prime Minister’s Scholarships for Asia (PMSA) is a once in a lifetime opportunity, one which 15 Whitecliffe New Zealand Fashion Tech students are the lucky recipients of for 2019.
The level 5 Diploma in Apparel and Fashion Technology students, seven from Auckland and eight from Wellington, are travelling to Bannari Amman Institute of Technology (BIT) in India as part of their Indian Apparel and Textile Practicum.
Each week, students will have their unique Indian journey highlighted as they’re immersed in international issues and culture – this week, we feature Wellington student Michael Barlow.
A week ago today, fifteen students from the two New Zealand Fashion Tech Diploma classes were up at sparrows, checking in for the first of two flights that would take them all to India. As we all said goodbye to our checked in luggage and made our way through customs we were buzzing with excitement, ready for the new journey ahead of us.
After our 18-hour commute from New Zealand, we were welcomed to India at Coimbatore International Airport by a crowd from the Bannari Amman Institute (BIT) of Technology team, instantly making us feel welcome and comfortable here, even with the intense heat and humidity.
After one long, bumpy, and hectic 90-minute bus ride later, we safely made it to BIT in Sathyamangalam – our new home for the next six weeks – although it was nearing 1am on Monday morning, we were totally and fully impressed by the mansion-like guesthouse that we were led into.
Five hours later, it’s Monday morning at 6am. I’m up again, not wanting to miss breakfast! I had no need to worry though, I would soon come to learn that breakfast is served at 7:30am every morning, and I was able to sleep in, just that little bit extra.
Now Indian breakfast is nothing like a good old Kiwi breakfast, where you might have some cereal, some toast, maybe even a bowl of porridge, Indian breakfast is full of Idli, chutneys, and many other spicy items – all of it is very tasty – and getting used to the spice levels is just another fun activity to fill up the day.
Monday was an orientation and registration day for the first part, we got to meet all of the people that would be overseeing and supervising us before we headed back to the guest house for a sit-down lunch. Sitting down for a proper cooked lunch is an everyday experience, and I tell you, with the amount that I am eating, I’m going to come back to New Zealand as wide as I am tall.
After lunch we went out to check out a few of the temples in the area, the most spectacular being the Bannari Amman temple, which is dedicated to the deity of the same name that cares for the surrounding area.
Tuesday was a blur of colour, we spent the first part of the day shopping for sarees. It was an amazing experience to have the sarees unfolded in front of us. A lot of students, including myself got a little carried away while buying and spent upwards for ₹10,000 rupees, and up to ₹17,000, and I know it sounds very bad! Thankfully the exchange rate makes those totals sound a bit easier on the pocket. In NZD it works out to be $215 – $366.
Lunchtime came and went with more amazing food, and we found ourselves on our way to Bhavanisagar Dam Amusement Park. We all got to have fun on the rickety swinging dragon, on the playgrounds and swings, and on the paddle boats, sadly we were having too much fun and missed the dam being emptied! It was still a good trip out, with lots of fun and lots of laughter.
Come Wednesday and classes for us start. We spent all day Wednesday and Friday on campus in class, learning about yarn spinning and knitted fabrics. We also got a basic demonstration of some old sample machinery.
Thursday brings an industry visit to Poomex Cotton Spinning Mill near the city of Tirupur. Seeing all of the machinery and yarns being spun on an industrial level was incredible – the speed and sheer amount of machinery that was there to hit targets was just breathtaking.
My body, however, didn’t think the same, and thought that the trip would need a bit more excitement and drama. That’s when I experienced for the first time what it feels like to dislocate your knee. although after five minutes I showed the classic Kiwi “she’ll be right” attitude and continued on the tour of the factory floor with not too much more than a wince and a slight limp.
There had been plenty of excitement during the week, which was making me more, and more excited for Saturday – a day set aside purely to go to Brookefields Mall in Coimbatore – a four-story shopping complex! I was let loose and spent more money than I was expecting, but I’m definitely not complaining.
Once shopping was concluded, we were driven to watch a fashion show as part of Coimbatore Style Week 2019, where we saw many insane designs, many of which have given me some ideas for my own end-of-year diploma show mini range.
This all brings us to Sunday morning, where I am still in bed, finishing off this blog post, chilling out and recovering from the entire week. It’s important to get a chance to breathe in a fast-paced environment like this. Nothing in New Zealand could have prepared me for the journey that has taken place since I’ve been here in India, this has been an absolute dream, a full montage of food, fun, learning, and friends. I am so incredibly happy that I took the opportunity to come and study here at BIT for six weeks, I will be coming back to New Zealand a changed man.
So from the comfort of my bed, before I get ready for Sunday brunch, stay posted for the other student posts, because no two days are the same!
Goodbye from India!
Michael Barlow is a level 5 Diploma in Apparel and Fashion Technology student currently studying in Wellington. Originally from Thames in the Coromandel region, Michael not only looks at this PMSA trip as invaluable experience, but it is also his first international excursion.