Skip to main content
Kelsey Newsham

Kelsey Newsham

SFU Student
Communication, Art + Technology › Communication

empty
Matt and his friends in India
The more you accept the culture the more you will enjoy the people. I found myself becoming part of a small work family and then a part of a bigger family and then, in the end, I became a part of India.

‘No problem’. This was the philosophy Matt Yigit Karakilic lived by while spending eight months in the heart of India. Working on a Co-op term with SAP, the world’s leading provider of business software, Matt learned the true meaning of an international experience. The OLC sat down with Matt upon his return to discover how he went from being an unknown foreigner to part of India’s big family during his short stay there.

What made you decide to do an International Co-op work term?

I had been talking with my SIAT Co-op Advisor Nav Chima who suggested the opportunity in India. He encouraged me to go, helped me with the process and was a resource when I returned home. I researched the company and discovered SAP is the third largest software company in the world (merged with Business Objects). This helped push me as I knew I’d be gaining phenomenal experience. Interestingly, I, along with another student from SFU were the first SIAT students to go to India.

How did you prepare to go on your international co-op work term?

I’m originally from Turkey and when I was a teenager, I went to Germany for two weeks without my family. Germany was a new culture, new place and new language and I was okay with it. Again, when I moved to Canada without my parents, I experienced a new country with new scenery and customs so I’ve been able to adapt well to new cultures which prepared me, in a way, for India. In terms of preparing to live there, the company helped us find a place close to the office, and provided a shuttle to work. The house was half covered by us and half by them. In addition, I received the India Mobility Award (scholarship) from SFU.

Were friends and family hesitant for you to go?

My parents and friends asked ‘why India?’ What they didn’t understand was that it was a huge opportunity. They were not aware the company is the third largest of its kind in the world, that it would be my first experience in a working environment in my field and that I’d be one of the first SIAT Co-op students to go to India. My parents raised me to be independent and we have a friendship so I knew they would be able to eventually see these things – which in the end they did.

How was your first international phone interview?

On the phone you have no idea the expression of the other person to give you cues as to how the interview is going. When I got on the phone, he asked if I was nervous and when I responded with ‘yes’ then ‘no’ then ‘maybe’ he chuckled which put me at ease – it’s a small thing but it did volumes in making me feel comfortable. Overall, the interview was less formal than I expected and it mirrored India’s culture of friendliness.

Do people work differently in India than in Canada?

In India workplaces are more social and less isolated but it is still very organized. Here in Canada we are more isolated in our own offices and behind walls, the open workspace over there made me feel like I was a part of the family. I also felt like part of the family due to language. Neither my coworkers nor myself are native English speakers so the mistakes in grammar, etc we use are the same. Because of this we actually understood each other better.

What did your position involve?

Overall, we designed software for customers, but specifically, my role was as a user experience designer. The face of software that we see is called interface, which was our territory. We did research asking customers about what they would like to see. Then we did usability testing – people from around the world go through scenarios we created to identify the usability of, say, a movie. We change our interface based on this feedback. I got to work on three different levels of projects; a recently created project, one created by us, and the one that needed new features.

What did you enjoy about Indian Cuisine?

More than the cuisine, in which butter chicken and chicken tikka were my favourite, I enjoyed meal times with colleagues. We had fish Fridays, where we ate at this tiny place, squeezing in 8-10 of us. We’d eat fish, deep fried and completely unhealthy, with our hands. So more than the actual food I ate, I will remember those moments and they are the moments I still miss.

Did you sightsee?

I went to the Goa, which would be similar to Tofino, the Taj Mahal and New Delhi. I also went to Hampi - a beautiful, ancient and spiritual village in a secluded area, staying in a guest house where the family lives on the bottom floor and you stay in the top.

Any advice for students interested working internationally or in India?


Working internationally: Your habit will be to try and figure out what to expect – do try to expect as much as you can but remember you can never predict what will happen. This is a good thing as it can lead to bonus experiences – for me I didn’t know the company would merge with another company but it gave me another tick on my resume of what I’ve been a part of.

Working in India: Accept the people and country as they are and not as you need them to be, doing this will enable you to see what India has to offer. For instance, when catching rickshaws the workers always bargain over price, they don’t think you’re dumb or anything they are just trying to make money. In accepting this you can adjust your response to it – get angry or get involved with the bargaining. This was echoed in the movie ‘Outsourced’ (watch it before you go) where a company outsources staff to India. The main piece of advice the character gives to a foreigner travelling in India is accept the country and people as is and everything will fall together. Problems will occur, but as the famous Indian saying goes, it’s ‘no problem’– there is no problem that can’t be fixed, it just requires patience.

Also, you will see the existence of poverty and people trying to survive, this also requires acceptance. Visitors may think about the health violations, etc when they see these things but choose instead to simply say ‘that was interesting’. The more you accept the culture the more you will enjoy the people. I found myself becoming part of a small work family and then a part of a bigger family and then, in the end, I became a part of India. People ask me where I’m from and I say I’m from Turkey and I also say I am from Canada. Now, I can easily say and feel that after 8 months I am a part of India. I also still keep in touch with my coworkers over there – they are, after all, family.

About the Author

Kelsey Newsham

Kelsey Newsham

SFU Student
Communication, Art + Technology › Communication
Jien Hilario photo
What’s in a Name? Coming to Terms With Labelling Myself as a Person With a Disability

If you were to see Jien on campus, you wouldn’t know that she had a disability. She does not use a wheelchair nor does she have a seeing eye dog. She has an invisible disability. In this article, Jien shares her journey on how she came to terms with labeling herself as a person with a disability. 

Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere
Why Doesn’t Canada Have a Disabilities Act?

It is 2018 and Canada has not yet implemented adequate protection and legislation for people with disabilities. When it comes to equality for all, Canada is falling far behind. In this article, Jien discusses the research and reality of why Canada needs a Disabilities Act.

We Can Do It!
How to Satisfy Your Inner Activist

When people think about social justice, they think of things like protests or hunger strikes, but the options don’t end there. These volunteer organizations can help you satisfy your inner activist.

You Might Like These... Co-op Reflections, Professional Development, Career Exploration, Seeking, Work Term Extension

author, courtney, smiling
A Second Term in Government: More of the Same?

Having completed my first work term for Health Canada as a Communications Officer Intern, I was eager to try something new, and the government was not where I believed that was going to happen. That is until I was offered a position at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada...

picture of glichelle pondering a though
Surviving Workplace Politics

Ever been peeved with workplace politics? Have you ever been a victim of office politics? One student shares her experiences from the workplace with tips on how to survive.

 

person with their head in a book
Responsibility and Success

One of the most memorable parts of my time in co-op was the collection of accidents, errors, mistakes, and mix-ups that happened in the course of working in the laboratory.

 

You Might Like These... Co-op Reflections

Fahad and his colleague talking about design on a whiteboard
Life of a Design Student: Reflections and Learning

Interactive Arts & Technology student, Fahad Hasany shares how co-op taught him to be confident learning the tools of the trade with the City of Surrey. 

Diana in front of her cubicle
Tips on Coping with a Challenging Co-op Term

"Sometimes, a co-op work term is not exactly what you expect it to be; it happens." But perspective is everything. Read Diana's tips on how to cope with a challenging co-op term. 

Trees near a river
Adventures

Marilyn Brennan shares her experiences and adventures while working on a Co-op term for Treaty and Aboriginal Rights Research Department (TARR) at Fort St. John. In Part 2 - Adventures, Marilyn shares with us her first work-related road trip to Doig River First Nation.