Off Season Tourist - India Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta
Two weeks in India, 2003 Notes from the Off Season Tourist
Quality education at IIMC
Or how to tell Sadman from Stratman

The students at IIMC use a lot of abbreviations and lingo... it's quaint but takes awhile to get used to. Take the classes for example... Strategic Management becomes Stratman, Sales and Distribution Management is Sadman, Economic Development is EcoDev, Management of Creativity is MoC and Human Resource Management of Multi-National Corporations is HRM of MNC. These are the five classes I chose to take during Term IV at IIMC.

For a full list of IIMC classes and descriptions, go to the Course Catalog on the IIMC Internet. Please note that this is a comprehensive list of classes at IIMC and that not all classes are taught every term. You'll need to contact the university directly to find out which classes are offered for which term.

At IIMC there are always two batches of students… the second year students are called the seniors, or PGP2 and the first year students are called juniors, otherwise known as freshers or PGP1. When I got to campus in June 2003, the Term IV for the senior batch had already started. My first day at IIMC, Marcus and I settled into our room and were later greeted by the student assigned to be my guide. He took us for our first IIMC lunch and then had to run off to a class. He directed us to the general vicinity of the Academic Block where the PGP office is located. The PGP office is where students handle all the administrative details at IIMC. There are a few PGP Representatives in each student batch, so get to know them fast. They can help you out with practically anything! (Anita Kumar was the best!)

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The classes are held in either of two buildings: the Academic Block or the New Teaching Block, neither of which are far from any of the hostels.

Academic Block Lake
Academic Block and the New Teaching Block - offices and classrooms

Overall, I was really pleased with my five classes. Three of the classes I took were quite large (100-200 students in an auditorium-style classroom at the Academic Block), but two were smaller, allowing for more interaction between the students. I particularly valued these smaller classes as the student interaction allowed me to learn quite a bit about Indian culture and norms.

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Pre-approval of classes

Before going to India, I had chosen and gotten five classes pre-approved through my university. When we went to the PGP office to sign up for my pre-approved classes, we found out that only two of the five were still being taught. The PGP office puts out a one-page course schedule, which I had to review to see which classes I wanted to take. Many of the other students were going through the same process, as the first week of each term is considered a "shopping week." After much deliberation over the next week, I chose three additional classes that I thought would work within the framework of my degree from Baruch. For all future IIMC exchange students from Baruch, I recommend that you get all your classes pre-approved, as getting them approved after the fact is a very draining process.

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Books and stuff

Students get their books and case studies from the Course Materials office, in the Academic Block. Some materials will be Xeroxed versions, some will be real books, but all are free (included in the price of tuition and fees already paid). The materials won't be ready until the second or third week of class, so at the beginning you'll need to check almost every day until get all books. Keep in touch with the Indian students and they'll help you out with what you're supposed to have.

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Credit and Non credit classes

More on the administrative side of classes: Attendance is mandatory in certain classes and your grade will be affected if you do not attend. In other classes, attendance is so sporadic that it seems the reverse - that skipping the class is mandatory. I found out that this is because Indian students take around 6 classes for credit and two or three additional classes for non credit. The non credit classes are the ones the students attend on an infrequent basis. Also, once you're a few weeks into the term, you'll notice attendance at the 9:45 a.m. classes waxing and waning based on the parties held the previous nights. The campus has such a night owl mentality with students staying up past 3 and 4 a.m. that the 9:45 a.m. classes are understandably sparsely populated.

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Class Times

Most classes are held between 9:45 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. However, it is quite normal for some classes to be held on both weekends and evenings. The teachers use the 9 p.m. after dinner time slot for making up classes they had to miss during the normal hours. I objected to it at first, but realized it was part of the experience and learned to just "go with the flow." 9 pm seemed really late at first, but after awhile on the campus, the late night mentality took a hold of me and having classes at 9 pm began to seem like a good way to kick off the night! Study groups and other activities often began after 11 pm when all parties could get together.
Students having a break outside the Course Materials office and Canteen

The classes last for 1.5 hours. After about an hour of class, I would hear the call of "Break, Sir?" from one person the back of the room, quickly echoed by others. The students take a 10-15 minute break to drink a coffee, smoke a cigarette or just to get up out of the uncomfortable wooden chairs. In some classes, the students never called for a break - sometimes because they knew the teacher would not grant it and other times when everyone was so absorbed that the 1.5 hours just flew by.

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The teachers

Prof Ray
Prof. Ray teaching Stratman
Just like at any university, the quality of teaching ran from outstandingly superb to eh, could be better. Luckily, most of my teachers were somewhere in between with a few on the superb side. One had even won the award for best young teacher in all of India's B-schools. All the teachers were respected by the students, but this was the only teacher I had whom the students feared slightly. The classes were of course taught in English, but this having been my first trip to India, I had a bit of a problem with a few of the teachers' British/Indian accents and also some of the references they would make to Indian businesses or situations. Sitting next to a friendly IIMCer can make all the difference in the world. Thanks to all the poor students who had to translate for me during classes!

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Taking notes in class

My second week in class, someone asked me why I was taking notes. I think I responded with, "Uh, just a nasty habit I picked up in college!" He explained that the teacher will usually post their powerpoint slides on the CourseWeb bulletin board (on the extranet) and besides that, there was one guy who takes such good notes that he graciously allows everyone to copy them to study for exams. This guy is the unsung hero of the 39th batch at IIMC. I'm sure there's one of him in every batch, magnanimously slaving away while others skip classes. I never spoke to him and don't even know his name, but even I got his notes and they did help me prepare for exams in the two classes we had together. His notes would always be placed his hostel's copy room where everyone can go and purchase a copy. Each hostel has a copy room where students can pick up notes or copies of chapters of books they're meant to read in the library. Again, just ask the Indian students where these are and what you need from it.

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Exams, papers and grades - The good, the bad and the ugly

Each class will be different, just as with any university. I had the full range of requirements - one class had mandatory attendance, case studies, and a term paper but no exams. Another class had only one requirement: a final exam - this was difficult for me, as it meant that the exam would count for 100% of my grade. I actually got a "B-" on this exam, as I blanked on one of the essay questions. I recommend you find out what your university requirements are to have the IIMC credits transfer to your university. I found out when I returned that I had to have a "B" or better to make the credit count. I contacted the professor who had given me the "B-" and he graciously agreed to let me do additional work to change my grade. I did a 2000 word essay on a topic he gave me and he changed my grade to a "B".

Here's a summary of my class requirements and my grades.

Stratman - "A" - group case studies, quizzes, presentations and a final case study as the exam

Sadman - "B" - final exam and group project

HRM - "A+" - group case studies and term paper

Ecodev - "B-" changed to "B" after additional work - final exam as 100% of grade

MoC - "A" - class participation, case studies, book report, creative composition

You should also be aware that all grades are publicly posted, and everyone will know what everyone else's grades are. It was hard for me at first to know everyone knew my grades, but it's just part of the culture you have to deal with.

There was also one instance where I actually volunteered to do a case presentation that wouldn't even count towards my grade. In Sadman one day, I volunteered for this not 20 minutes after I finished making fun of two other students who had voluntarily done case studies in front of the class. "You don't get graded for this... why on earth would you volunteer for additional work? You've got to be crazy!" During the class, the teacher asked for volunteers for the next presentation and no one in a class of over 100 students raised their hand. I had no intention of volunteering until the teacher said something about how IIMC students are not known for being good presenters. Being defensive in nature, I thought, "Oh no? I'll show him that we IIMC students are great at presenting." Not one month into my 11 weeks there and I felt like a full PGP2 IIMC student! I raised my hand without really realizing it and before I knew it had volunteered. I said, "I'll do it, but only if someone else volunteers to do it with me!" A student I didn't know on the other side of the room eventually, reluctantly raised his hand. It turned out to be a lot of fun, as the student who volunteered ended up being a good friend of mine.

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