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International Co-op Experience

October 28, 2015

About Me 

Being an Indian that grew up in Zambia, answering the simple question “so where are you from?” was never just a single worded answer. Now try adding “well I’ve been studying in Boston for the past 3 years, and I’m here for an internship in the Netherlands till December” to that mix. It does make for a great ice-breaker, and it also usually leads to an interesting conversation which has some mention of a distant friend or relative in one of the 3 countries I now associate myself with. My name is Mohit Bhardwaj, and I’m a 4th year Mechanical Engineering and Physics combined major student, pursuing my 2nd co-op at ASML in Eindhoven, the Netherlands!

During my time at Northeastern, I have been a part of the original group of students that started NU Sailbot (a club that makes an autonomous robotic sailboat that competes in maneuvering around obstacles at a national competition) and NU SASE (which stands for the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers, which started with only 6 students has now grown to around 50). I am also a member of NU UTSAV (a Southern Asian group on campus), and being a sport’s enthusiast, I was a member of 2 intramural teams last spring semester, in soccer and basketball. I also enjoy doing research work, and I am a member of Professor Jose Lorenzo Martinez’s lab on campus, where I work with the mechanical assemblage team in developing a system that can detect suicide-bombers in large social gatherings from distances of about 30 meters away. In my leisure time, I enjoy playing the guitar and hitting the gym.

International Co-op Experience 

For my first co-op, I had worked in a startup company called “Symbotic”, located in Wilmington, Massachusetts. It was a phenomenal experience, however I used to think the 40 minute carpool to work every day made the co-op a long way from home; quite naïve considering I’m now in the Netherlands- about 3,500 miles away- for my 2nd coop experience. That’s the beauty of the co-op program offered by Northeastern University; you don’t know what adventures await you, and there are no limits as to where you can go and explore- you just have to be willing to make the commitment of traveling abroad for a large period of time!

I now work at ASML as an intern in the Design Engineering, Environmental Control and Infrastructure group. ASML is currently the largest supplier in the world of photolithography systems for the semiconductor industry. In layman terms, they essentially manufacture large printing machines that imprint the chips used in all electronic circuits. My project is to develop a method to locate the smallest leaks in the system. This comprises of conducting research on the types of leaks present in the system, defining the smallest leak possible, finding different tools that can detect and locate these leaks, and then testing the tools in an experimental setup to qualify the optimum solution. In a system dealing with over 1,000 connections, locating a miniscule leak can turn out be quite a tedious task.

I have learnt an abundance amount on fluid dynamics and leak mechanics during my time here so far. I was extremely pleased to have seen that the theory I had learnt in my Fluid Dynamics class at Northeastern the summer before coming here was actually being put to practice in leakage applications. I found myself being able to read and understand papers by PhD students, something they don’t mention that you will be able to do after having taken the class. My project is off to a great start, and now entering the testing phase, I shall be getting more hands-on experience whilst dealing with ultrasound tools, infrared thermography tools, and helium gas detecting tools.

As for the non-technical side of this co-op, it has been a remarkable experience so far! Becoming a local here in Eindhoven may take a while, however the community is very accepting of international students. Netherlands has one of the highest English speaking proficiencies with over 90% of the population being able to speak English- hence, language was never a barrier. Out of personal interest, I did decide to pick up some Dutch, and surprised my colleagues when I greeted them with a “Goedemorgen!” (Good morning) as I arrived to work on my first day.

A lot of traditions can also be observed in Eindhoven, such as having a fresh vegetable market in the city center every Tuesday and Saturday of the week, and having a large market selling clothes, food, and crafts- all in the presence of a live band- every last Sunday of the month. Some traditions are similar to ones I have experienced before, such as the Eindhoven 40 km marathon that took place last week which closely resembles the Boston marathon that also takes place once a year.

A few cultural norms that were new included the abundance of bicycles everywhere. It is common for every member of the family in Eindhoven to own a bicycle, which usually means up to 4 bicycles per house! Coming from Zambia where nobody really cycles as a way of commuting due to large distances, and Boston where if you love your life you make the wise choice of either walking or commuting by car; seeing this many bicycles everywhere in the city was certainly a surprise to me. Naturally, my first purchase was a bicycle, because I soon realized that the choice in this mode of transport was not due to the high exercise benefits, but rather due to the ease of transport. There are special lanes made for bicycles alongside the roads, which are actually separated from the roads by a small barrier- hence, making accidents from cars-to-bicycles very uncommon, and also making the commute significantly shorter if there is a lot of traffic.

Another cultural difference that caught me off-guard was the love of dairy food products. It is very common to carry a simple cold sandwich consisting of cheese alongside a bottle of milk to work for lunch. Perhaps this is why the Dutch are statistically the tallest people in the world. What really showed me the Dutch love for cheese was when I asked a Dutch colleague at work what are great traditional treats to eat for desert (as I have quite the sweet tooth myself). She told me the perfect slice of cheese compliments any meal. I personally do love cheese, so I’m quite enjoying this emphasis on dairy products- 6’6” here I come!

I do intend on making the most of my time here in Europe and travelling to a variety of nearby countries. I have currently only travelled within the Netherlands to the east to visit a friend in Arnhem, and to the north-west to visit a friend in Amsterdam. I also have plans on travelling to Scotland, Switzerland, and England. I thank Northeastern for this amazing experience, as I know I would not be able to expand my knowledge on different cultures, and gain this open-minded perspective of the world, without their brilliant coop program. #iHeartCo-op