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I recently completed my MCITP Enterprise Project Management qualification with Koenig in Shimla, whilst my husband Kevin, took his CCNA and Linux +...

Julia & Kevin Maidment (United Kingdom), MCITP: Enterprise Project Management with Microsoft Office Project Server 2007;MS Office Communications Server 2007 (OCS);Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) 15 Jun to 26 Jun 2009

I recently completed my MCITP Enterprise Project Management qualification with Koenig in Shimla, whilst my husband Kevin, took his CCNA and Linux +. We were there for 3 weeks.  This is our 2nd experience of studying with Koenig, as we’ve previously taken a course in Goa.

Why did we choose India to do our training, rather than the UK?  The answer’s simple: a chance to travel, experience India and obtain a qualification – all for a very reasonable cost.  We completed 3 courses between us (with accommodation and flights) for roughly the same cost of one of the courses in the UK. 

Our experience with Koenig started well before we arrived in India.  We had several queries prior to travelling, which we emailed to Koenig.  The staff were very helpful and always responded promptly and courteously.  Everything was very well organised, and we received full instructions prior to departure, including a photograph of the meeting place at Delhi airport.

The journey to Shimla was an experience!  Travelling by train takes the best part of 2 days.  We flew from Heathrow to Delhi where we were met at the airport by a Koenig representative.  We were taken to the Koenig Hotel in Delhi, where we showered, ate, and relaxed before being picked up again in the early hours of the morning and taken to the train station.  The train journey started with a ‘normal’ train, which was air-conditioned.  The Koenig rep stayed with us until the train arrived and helped us to our seats.  I was surprised to find that all luggage is placed in the overhead racks – no matter how big your suitcase!  If you’re travelling with a lot of luggage, it might be better to take the night bus because when you arrive at Kalka you change trains and take the historic narrow gauge train for the rest of the journey to Shimla. 

This journey was hot, long and pretty cramped, but worth it.  You have reserved seats, but there really isn’t much room for luggage.  We stacked our suitcases behind the carriage door, next to the toilet.  The journey is a lovely way to see India though.  The train makes regular short stops, where you can get out and stretch your legs, and buy food from the local vendors if you wish.  You can feel the air getting cooler the closer to Shimla you get.  I’d imagine it’s pretty breathtaking during the winter months with all the snow!

We stayed in the Hotel Willow Banks, which was where most of the other students were also staying.  The hotel was clean and comfortable, but didn’t have air-conditioning (only a fan).  We didn’t find the staff in the restaurant as friendly as the rest of the hotel staff, and we usually ate out.  We tried several local restaurants on ‘The Mall’, but often found ourselves at the Combermere Hotel where the staff were very friendly and the food was good.  One word of warning – the food is pretty spicy in Northern India!  Kevin was in heaven, but I found a lot of it a little too hot.  Upset stomachs are pretty common so make sure you take supplies of imodium and rehydrating solutions with you!

The thing that surprised me most about Shimla was its size.  I was expecting a small, quiet, sleepy little hillside village, but it was big and bustling.  We were there during the tourist season - the start of the monsoons, although the monsoons were late and we had mainly hot, sunny weather during our stay.  Temperatures probably ranged from 25-35 degrees C.  There were lots of shops and bazaars, as well as street vendors, and plenty of people visiting them.  The streets were still full of people at 10 or 11 o’clock each night. Shimla is built on a hill, with the main street (The Mall) running parallel to another narrower, winding street which is also full of shops.  There are lots steep steps which link the two streets.  Plenty of potential there for keeping fit! 

Each morning we were collected by the Koenig driver and taken to the training centre.  (You have a short downhill walk to the meeting point.)  The drive to the centre is an experience not to be missed!  It’s not quite the same as driving in the UK!  The training centre is clean, comfortable and well equipped, with each course taking place in its own lab.  Classes are small and you often have an instructor to yourself.  My tutor was very knowledgeable in his subject, polite and helpful.  His English wasn’t as clear as some of the other tutors, but it didn’t take me long to ‘tune in’, and didn’t really create any barriers for me.  Having my own tutor was ideal as we could structure the course to suit my requirements. 

As I was inexperienced in MSP, I spent longer on the first part of the course to make sure I had a firm foundation for the other 2 parts.  The exams were well organised and took place in a separate air conditioned room under strict exam conditions.  I was able to take my last exam a few days after my course finished, as I had a few days to fill whilst Kevin was finishing his course.  It gave me a little extra revision time, and was easy to organise through the Koenig staff at the centre.  The Koenig staff are very flexible, and go out of their way to help meet your requirements.

Every morning we were given a bottle of water and a selection of menus from which to choose our lunch.  I’d recommend the ‘Koenig specials’ which are cooked by the Koenig chef.  At lunchtime you eat in a separate dining room where you meet up with the other students.  It’s a great opportunity to meet new people, and we made some good friends whilst we were there.  

Classes finished at 4 pm or 5 pm every day.  You could either return to the hotel using the Koenig taxi, or walk back.  The walk was very gentle and probably took 30-40 minutes.  Walking offered a great opportunity to take photographs as the scenery was stunning.  One night we walked back via the monkey temple, but this walk isn’t for the faint hearted!  It was mainly uphill and took well over an hour.  We found out later that the walk is easier and quicker from The Mall, especially if you have a lot of books to carry back from the centre. 

There are lots of places to visit around Shimla if you have time, and it may be worth considering staying on a few extra days so you can to do a bit of sight-seeing whilst you’re there.  The Koenig staff are very helpful and will help to organise trips for you, or point you in the right direction so you can arrange your own.

At the end of our course, we travelled back by the night bus.  We were collected from the hotel and installed safely on the bus.  In Delhi, we were met at the bus station and taken to the airport.  You’re never left to fend for yourself, which makes the journey far less daunting.

To sum up our visit, we had a fantastic time in India.  Everything is very well organised right from the time you book your course, to the time you leave India.  The Koenig staff are friendly, polite and helpful, and they try to be as flexible as possible to meet your individual requirements.  I can certainly recommend Shimla or Goa as great places to study.  We’re only sorry we couldn’t stay a little longer, but we hope to go back again in the not too distant future.