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‘I had to send 500 e-mails’

Perseverance and a well-written application can fetch you a research internship in a foreign university. Undergraduate students share their experiences reports Vimal Chander Joshi

education Updated: Oct 06, 2010 09:32 IST
Vimal Chander Joshi

B efore summer vacations began, Rajat Goel, a third year student of BTech (computer science) at NSIT (Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology) had sent around 300 e-mails to computer science departments of universities around the world.

Only a couple of them responded and there was one university (University of Western Ontario in Canada) which agreed to sponsor a six-week project in computer algebra. A hit-and-trial formula helped grab a foreign internship, he says.

Perseverance pays
Another student from the same college, Abhishek Gupta, had sent around 500 e-mails to avail a similar opportunity at Ryerson University, also located in Canada.

“A friend of mine is studying engineering at IIT Delhi. Even he had to send 200 e-mails before he got a call from a Chinese university,” says Gupta.

His seniors at NSIT guided him in preparing the application which, as they had suggested, needed to highlight prior experience in college laboratories. “My area of interest lay in the security of ad-hoc networks and I had already worked on a similar project at NSIT. In my application, I also attached an abstract and summary of the project,” says Gupta.

Goel had been exposed to similar projects in the past. He had worked in a startup in the college campus and had also contributed to a video game designed by his seniors.

Getting through a US college is the real test of patience, thanks to an extremely competitive nature of application procedure. Shivani Pande, a final year student of environment engineering at the Delhi Technological University (DTU) wanted to intern in a US university but couldn’t make the cut. So, she went to University of Padova, Italy to work on a research project in Biofuels. “Top universities there such as Caltech and Princeton have a system to select interns from applicants world over and one has to be extremely talented to get through,” says Pande.

Career advancement
A research internship can prove useful for those who hope to pursue a career in research and who plan to join the industry. International exposure certainly makes you stand out. “Even if you don’t get into research, the international exposure helps you in your career. Foreign universities are much more diverse than those in India. In US universities, the percentage of foreign students is somewhere around 35 per cent,” says Kavita Singh, CEO, Future Works Consulting.

Among a batch of 60 students, Gupta was the only one who went for a foreign internship. Though, he intends to take up a corporate job right after his BTech, the experience, he believes, will further his career prospects.

During his project work at Western Ontario, Goel got to work with students, scholars and scientists from around the world. “There were two interns from France, others were MS students in the university and came from all over the world such as Iran and Caribbean,” he says.

Shivani Pande went to the Italian varsity confident that it might buoy her chances of selection when she applies for her PG at an overseas university next year. “I want to apply abroad for my further studies and this internship gives me the global exposure I needed,” says Pande.

Internship without prior experience
Though previous experience in research increases your chances of selection, it’s not a thumb rule to get an internship. Shivam Gupta, a student of BBA in Amity University, recently returned from Ukraine where he worked on an environment related project. The fact that he had never worked on a research project before didn’t scuttle his global ambitions. “My project wasn’t funded by any university but by AIESEC which provided boarding and lodging for the six weeks

I spent at Ivano-Frankivsk, a city in Ukraine. I worked on a comparative project on ecology of India and Ukraine. During my stay spanning six weeks, I had to travel to a different cities,” says Shivam.