Going Places: A Tale of Determination
The ever busy Shubhangi Jha, is a fourth-year dual degree student pursuing her degree in Electrical Engineering in NIT Rourkela. She is not only a very amicable and approachable, but she is also an inspiration to all of us after bagging a career changing foreign internship at the University of Siegen, Germany. Despite the many difficulties that came in her way, she managed to surpass every single one of them and yet come up with a perfect 10.0 SGPA, as well. Team MM got in touch with her to let her narrate her own story of success.
Team Monday Morning: What motivated you to opt for a foreign internship?
Shubhangi Jha: After completing my first year I had a CGPA of 9.7 and most of my seniors assured me that I would crack DAAD provided I maintained my pace after 3rd year. That was how I got to know about foreign internships and over time I realized how important they are for dual degree students. Hence, when I had the choice I naturally chose a research-based internship as opposed to an industrial one, more so in light of the fact that it would help me to a large extent during my final two semesters.
MM: What were the prerequisites of the internship? How did you prepare for it?
SJ: At the very beginning let me clarify that CGPA is not the only criteria. The first thing you need is an acceptance letter from a professor allowing you to pursue your internship under him in that university; only then will DAAD approve your scholarship. Once we got an idea about the selection process, Satwik Mohanty and I started preparing cover letters which included information about us, our educational details, why do we prefer Germany over other countries and our skills. We mailed these documents to different professors from the starting of September. I remember waking up at early hours of the day just to ensure that the first mail in their inboxes would be ours. Eventually, I ended up emailing about 80 professors and received an equal amount of rejections, as well!
Finally, I was accepted by a professor in Brunswick 5 days after the deadline had lapsed.
I was thus not only ineligible for the DAAD scholarship, but also ineligible for any other scholarships provided by the university, and that was disheartening. In my final attempt to achieve my goal, I wrote to Professor Hubert Roth and luckily for me, he accepted my request.
MM: Was it a paid internship? If yes, how much was the stipend?
SJ: No, since I was ineligible for any of the scholarships, I did not receive any stipend.
MM: What was the exact project that you undertook and how do you think it has boosted your career?
SJ: Our professor gave us the freedom to choose and participate in an ongoing project or to start a new project, by ourselves. We opted for the latter and decided to design a self-balancing two-wheeled vehicle.
Since we had to design the vehicles ourselves, we spent a large amount of our time researching and reading existing articles. Finally, our team was complete when we were joined by another intern from USA, and we finished building our vehicle.
Since all of the university’s facilities were easily accessible to us, we did not have to spend on the project at all, from our own pockets. In the month of July, Sawtik and I were part of a meeting on blended mobility and we got to interact with important personalities; even though the meeting was in Deutsch and we did not understand a thing, we spoke out our minds without any hesitation. Our contributions were given due importance and this further boosted my confidence. On a personal note, my experience at the German University familiarized me to research as an ongoing process and has definitely prepared me for the upcoming interviews that I will face.
MM: How were the facilities that you received and how did you adjust to them?
SJ: Naturally, there were language barriers and food facility issues initially, considering the fact that I am a vegetarian. Gradually during those two and a half months, I got accustomed to the cuisine and even learned to cook food. As we didn’t have any funding from DAAD, it was necessary to keep a meticulous tab on all of our expenditure. Nonetheless, the hostel that we stayed in had great security and safety systems in place. Everything was completely digitalized there; the rent of the facility we were living at was 215 euros per month, and we managed all our expenses within INR 2 lakhs.
MM: Tell us what you did there apart from academics. What all places did you travel to?
SJ: Since we had a bus-cum-train travel pass, we visited 5 places in North Rhine-Westphalia; Cologne, Düsseldorf, Essen, Aachen and Dortmund. We event went to Paris for a day.
MM: Did you notice any major differences in the work culture between here and there?
SJ: The students in the university were given freedom to think and choose for themselves, and they were certainly not spoon-fed by the professors.
In Germany, CGPA is not given the utmost importance and is just essential for acquiring a scholarship. The students emphasized on learning practical applications of theories that they had previously read in books.
The ambiance there was a fresh change from the kind of environment that we are accustomed to here.
MM: Was there anything that you admired about the university and would like to implement in NITR, as well?
SJ: I loved how self-sufficient the people and the facilities were. If a person used the kitchen, they made it a point to clean it, making it easier for the next person to use it.
Everyone had civic sense and there was no hassle in the shops or in the public transport systems. Everything was very systematic.
Moreover, whatever we studied wasn’t just rote learning and we understood the applications of each one of them, which is something that doesn’t happen very often, here.
MM: What advice do you have for aspiring juniors who aim to secure a foreign internship? Do you think the exposure gained from foreign internships benefit the students?
SJ: The most important advice I would like to give to interested juniors is be aware of the deadline and start early.
Consult your seniors as they are the only people who can guide you through the strategies and the nuances of the procedure. To get through DAAD, you need sincerity and labor.
However, once you manage to secure an internship, it definitely boosts your confidence. Coming to the exposure, it plays an instrumental role in achieving personal growth. Coming to myself, I realized that I had become a lot more self-dependent, expressive and confident. These simple skills are powerful tools in this competitive world and will definitely help you in the long run.