HeyMath! Consultant: Cristina
When I arrived in Chennai the first think I noticed was the heat, which hit me as soon as I got of the plane. I spent my first two days wondering around the city and even thought the level of smog and generally dirt was quite high, I liked it. After this I started working.
HeyMath! is an e-learning company. It designs animated math lessons for the high school curriculum of schools in Singapore and India. It also deals with answering students and teachers questions on particular problems, setting assignments and online tests. The main idea is to try to give a sort of realistic meaning to the boring mathematic concepts so that the students will find it more appealing. There are around 25 people in the office: around 4-5 foreign tutors and 20 Indian tutors, animators and programmers. People are very nice and helpful and generally the atmosphere in the office is friendly. My main task is to create new lessons and so I spend my days thinking of innovative ways to present difficult concepts. As my flash skills are very basic (I have started leaning it here, but I am not too good when it comes to computers) I make a lesson plan and I work with an animator which then does the animation. However, knowing how to use flash really makes a difference as it makes you much more independent. I have also started doing a game on lower sec algebra and I like that as well.
Being a foreign in India means that everybody stares at you all the time. You are constantly in the centre of attention and when you go to tourist places you are often asked to pose for photographs with all the member of the family. Being a woman can also be a problem, as sometimes you get sexually harassed. I got attacked by a man on the street once, nothing serious, but not at all pleasant, and all my female friends here had similar experiences.
I did Part III In Cambridge and one of my friends was applying to work for HeyMath! so I decided to apply as well, I met up with Charlie, did the assessment, had an interview with Nimmi and got the job! I left Italy in July and I have now been in India for 5 months.
I found the first month quiet hard, not because I had some type of cultural shock, which actually I did not get at all. I have lived in many different places in the past 5 years and I am used to people behaving in different ways. And the work was ok, I got a computer next to Bindini, who helped me a lot at the start to know what I was actually suppose to be doing and within one week I started on my very first lesson right from the beginning. My problems were due to the complete lack of foreign people. I made Indian friends and I stayed a couple of times over at some of my colleagues house, but Chennai is a very conservative city, people don't go out, don't drink (or better, woman don't drink and men drink without their wife/mother knowing) and they don't have a social life as we know it in Europe. So even though the people in the office are really super nice, their approach to life is completely different and I found that I also needed someone who was in my same situation and had the same needs. I find I can't work 9 to 6 and have nothing else to do. I have started on my second week an intensive Indian classical dance course, which I still go to every morning. Anyway, things go better shortly, my family and a friend came to see me and then I bumped into an Italian girl who was working in Chennai as a trainee with Aiesec (a student organization that sends people abroad on traineeships for periods varying from 3 months to 1 year). I found out that there were at least another 20/ 30 people from all over the world, in my same situation. So I started going out a lot and really enjoying being here. The city does not offer much from a going out point of view, but there are few nice places to eat out and we also have parties in someone's house. I started going away ever single weekend with the people I have met, catching night trains on Friday night and coming back on Monday super early in the morning, just in time to have a shower and go to the office. There is a lot to see in South India and I find going away refreshing. I still see my Indian friends, I have been to a wedding and an engagement wearing a Sari and I enjoyed that a lot, but then it is nice to know that there are other people as well which you can talk to about everything.
As my way of living and working somewhat differs from the way the other foreign tutors in the company work I don't have a lot of contact with them but I think that in our own way we all enjoy being in this beautiful country.