Breaking Stereotypes: Ashish Kapoor
Ashish Kapoor, from the Department of Food Processing Engineering recently bagged a foreign internship, in France. This hardworking and dedicated student, surpassed all expectations when he left the country to pursue his dreams. Team MM caught up with him to find out more about the various oppurtunies that exist for students of his department and his experiences in a distant land.
Team MM: Which University did you do your internship at and what was the nature of your work?
Ashish Kapoor: University of La Réunion was where I interned. The university was in the overseas territory, sort of a French equivalent of Andaman and Nicobar. My project topic was: Lactic Acid Fermentation of Tropical Fruits and Vegetables. I fermented fruit juices from Mango, Papaya and Pineapple and conducted various tests on the fermented products to analyze the results and reach a conclusion.
MM: How did this internship shape you career and help you?
AK: Ours is a nascent department and we being the first batch, there were no seniors to guide us. Most of the publications in the Food Process engineering field are from foreign universities. So I did a lot of research, and after sending my resumes to various professors from numerous universities, fortunately bagged one. The work culture there taught me time management and professionalism. In addition, access to their top-notch infrastructure gave me a lot of experimental experience. At the end of every week, I had to report to my supervisor and this helped me learn to stick to my deadlines.
MM: How did you acquire this internship? Did the institute help you out in any way?
AK: There was no written round, I just kept mailing professors. I first approached my professor via e-mail. After a brief Skype interview, the professor chose me for the internship. Via our institution, I found out that scholarships are given to students willing to do research in France.
The Charpak scholarship is indeed a boon. It was very helpful of them to send this via webmail to all of us. We had to acquire an internship at any research lab or university. So I mailed around 25-30 labs in my discipline and fortunately a received mail from one of the professors.
MM: What were the prerequisites for bagging the Charpak Scholarship?
AK: The only requirements were a CGPA of 8.0 or above to apply, and a very specific Statement of Purpose to get accepted. The statement of Purpose was indeed the most important part of the whole application procedure.
Your statement of purpose should explain why you chose the French institution to which you have applied or been admitted to, as well as your future plans upon completion of the course and finally why you would be a worthy candidate for the scholarship.
Your statement of purpose should be one to two pages long and must always be an original one.
MM: Have you done any internship before this? What were the working hours and the stipend for this particular one?
AK: Yes. During the 2015 summers, I had interned at Jain Irrigation Systems Limited in Vadodara and again during the winter vacations, in the same company in Jalgaon. I worked 8 hours per day for 5 days a week and got paid 550 euros per month from the university and 310 euros scholarship from the French Government which was more than enough to sustain myself, there.
AK: MM: What do you have to say about the work culture, there?
AK: It was really good. My previous experiences of working in a facility had been limited to NITR, where we face serious restrictions because of underdeveloped infrastructure. Therefore, the facilities there and the laboratories were completely new to me. They had very high quality research equipments like Microplate Readers and Autoclaves.
MM: How difficult was it to get used to your strange surroundings? What did you do during your free time?
AK: Initially there was a huge language barrier. French is a tough language to pick up and most people there are not very conversant in English, so it was difficult to go alone. It took time, but I gradually did make friends. So together we visited a lot of places. We went to the many beaches, went hiking, to the source volcano of the islands, museums, adventure parks, aquariums etc.
The professor I worked under booked a university apartment for me before I reached, so accommodation was not an issue. I took the bus from the apartments to the university; it was a 15 minute ride. Food is very expensive and the meat they eat didn't suit me. I had to resort to self-cooked food after a day or two of my stay there. So yes this internship also taught me to cook.
The language barrier, food and other stuff make it difficult. You need a strong mind-set to live there. As time passed, I grew more comfortable with the place and people, and hence ended up having a good time towards the end.
MM: Being a part of the Food Processing department, how do you think that more students can capitalize on such opportunities and what do you have to say about your own experience?
AK: Well, what I can say about Food Process Engineering, is that there's a lot of diversity, opportunities and a lot to learn in foreign universities. So, what I suggest to everyone out there is to apply for foreign internships. Trust me; going through the pain of mailing the professors is worth it. The work culture in foreign universities is ideal, their courses are very practical-based, and contrary to the teaching system here where everything is theory-related. Also, the professors are warm and welcoming. We're a small group and not open to many opportunities. Going there, I was exposed to many opportunities, and appreciate their work ethics. Their work etiquettes really fascinate me. I plan on doing my masters abroad.
MM: How do you think the department at NITR can be improved?
AK: People here at NITR have a misconception that Food Processing is related to cooking or food. The basic idea people have of this department needs to be changed. Also, more and more students need to take up this discipline. The food industry is growing exponentially, and there are ample opportunities for everyone in this discipline.
MM: What plans do you have for the future?
AK: I may go for foreign studies, but I'm not really sure if I'm going to do my higher studies right after B.Tech or work and get some professional experience. It totally depends on the placement scenario here at NIT Rourkela. We being the first batch of outgoing students have little clue about the placement status for Food Process at NITR.
MM: Do you have any advice for your juniors?
AK: Yes, don't hesitate. Go forward and do whatever you want to. You should try more and more, don't depend on the results. If meant, positive results will come out sooner or later - but you should never base your actions of them.