Chronicles of a Parisian Dream: Prabhu Chandan and Surabhi Bhuyan
Hard work and sheer determination can create wonders and the same happened with Prabhu Chandan and Surabhi Bhuyan, two final year students from the Department of Civil Engineering, who bagged a coveted internship at the Ifsttar institute of France. Read on to have a clear idea about the procedure of application and their research experience at Europe:
Team MM: Tell us about your childhood days, the days that you spent at school before NITR happened to you:
Prabhu Chandan: I hail from Talcher and for most of my childhood, I lived in a colony. Staying in a colony is like living in a large joint family and it’s always fun. When I was a kid, my parents influenced and pushed me to learn dancing, painting, and singing, (singing continues to be my most prominent hobby) and they always encouraged me to participate in extracurricular activities, so I would participate in a lot of debates.
Schooling was fun as usual. My mother was a teacher in the school in which I studied, thus it was predefined for me to be ‘good boy’ because all my laurels were valued equally as others but one misstep would be framed as ‘Krishna madam’s son did so and so’. It won't be wrong to say that I was ‘Krishna Madam’s son’ until my 10th grade and it was after that I was known as Prabhu Chandan.
Surabhi Bhuyan: I remember my 11th and 12th standard vividly because it used to be so monotonous and we would just study to crack IIT, but I don’t have any fond memory of my school life before class 10th. Before coming to DAV Chandrasekharpur, I was studying in a school at Burla, which was a small school with fewer students. It felt nice there, and it was much more intimate. So, I think it would be my school life in a nutshell.
MM: How did you know that Engineering would be your profession after high school?
SB: Actually it never came to be a choice, we were not exposed to different career options after high school and since we studied science, it was believed that being an Engineer or Doctor were the only possible career options. In my case, I was not too much into engineering but then again, I was not too much into anything else as well, so engineering came out to be the option I strived for.
PC: My case was also quite similar to hers. In my case, I had developed a soft spot for mathematics and so I had initially thought to study mathematics and take up basic science as my career option after 12th, but in my home, the equation was a little different. My father is a doctor, so he insisted me to become a doctor. But I knew my limitations at memorizing, so Biology was a big NO for me and so was Medical. My parents tried to evoke that love for bio and an aspiration for being a doctor, but I was too reluctant to let go of mathematics and hence engineering came to my rescue.
MM: You both are pursuing B.Tech. in Civil Engineering; so, did Civil Engineering happen by choice or by chance.
PC: I would have to say that it happened by chance. Initially, both of us were allotted with Dual degree in Electrical Engineering, but then in the subsequent rounds of sliding, we got Civil Engineering.
SB: Here also, we didn’t know what we were getting into, but we were happy because we got into one of the core branches, which my parents frame as evergreen branches. But I can say that both of us managed to dive into the realms of Civil Engineering, at least to some extent.
MM: Both of you bagged the coveted internship at Ifsttar Europe, so how did you bag this internship and what was the procedure of application?
PC & SB: It was the October of our 3rd year when we decided to start digging into our branch and then we started looking for the various internship programs like ERASMUS and others. It was after we knew, in which area we wanted to do a research project that we started looking for countries with similar internship opportunities and thus came down to France, Germany, and other such European countries.
Then we mailed at least 12 professors daily, with our Statement of purpose (S.O.P). First, she would email a list of 12 professors and I would email some other 12 professors and then we would swap. And this went on till we mailed about 450+ professors. In the beginning, for every 50 emails that we would send, we would get replies from 25 professors and many times we would get automated replies and no further response, but mostly the responses we got weren't satisfactory.
So, a change of strategy was in order and we both decided to email the same set of professors on the same day and finally she (Surabhi) got a positive response from Professor Andry Rico Razakamanantsoa, while I got his consent almost after a week, after sending a lot of emails and swaying him by stating that my grades in the applied area of research were good, if not better than hers (all laughs).
Actually after getting Surabhi on board, the professor was less interested in my CV, but eventually, things fell into place and we bagged this internship.
MM: What was the research project based on, and how did you prepare yourselves for this?
PC & SB: Our project was based on the Reduction of dust emission in construction sites. We were provided with a lot of research papers by our professor in France and thus they were sufficient for us to serve as a study material. Moreover, when we reached there, our professor told us that we will be writing a research paper under him and we were overwhelmed. Also, our project included a major chunk of data analysis, so we were provided with background information about that field and the rest we discovered during those 2 months of internship.
MM: Was this a paid internship and how was the accommodation arranged there?
PC & SB: Yes, this was a paid internship. We were paid 30 Euros for each day we worked. We were also reimbursed with half of our travel expenses. We used trams as our mode of transport, which costed us around 30$ a month and the college reimbursed half of that for us. Europe has a unique system of availing accommodation, according to which one has to submit an S.O.P, just like one does to bag the internship. And the rooms of the hostel which were allotted to us were like the epitome of space management. Back there the hostel rooms were furnished with a bed, a study table, and an attached bathroom, and all of this fit into a space of 9x9 m2. At first, I couldn’t find my bed but then the cupboard opened and my bed came out of it.
MM: How was your overall experience in Europe and how did you use to spend your leisure time?
SB: Europe was lovely. We didn’t want to return back. In the leisure time that we got, we would buy groceries for our lunch and breakfast, but still, in those hours that we got, we went on trips to Amsterdam, Netherlands, Paris. The trips and the places seemed like dream adventures, straight out of the fairytales. Our professor once took us to the largest beach in Europe and it was overwhelming.
PC: Europe was definitely amazing. We share the same memories. For the internship, we had to work from 7 AM to 7 PM for 5 days per week. On weekends we went to the islands of France. There is one such experience I would like to share wherein our professor told us, he wanted to take us somewhere, but what we didn’t know was that we were going to that place in a BMW. While we were overwhelmed with the journey in the car, the place he took us to was the 2nd largest island of France. It was nothing like we had seen before. It hosted nature’s play like no other place.Then we went to the dockyard and returned back at 2 A.M in morning. That was one trip worth remembering.
MM: Did you pursue any internships prior to this?
PC & SB: Yes, we both had got into CMPDI. There are only six institutes in India, which deal with geotechnical research like GPS, GIS, etc. At that point of time, we realized that this part of Civil Engineering had a bright scope and it was this internship that made us look past the curriculum to explore the branch.
MM: How is their approach to research different from what we have at NITR? How is their infrastructural asset different from ours?
PC: I wouldn't compare both the institutes since the intentions with which both are made are completely different. Ifsttar is a research facility and thus the standard of research is very high. Whereas NITR is an engineering institute, where even a simple equipment needs to be in abundance to facilitate the huge strength of the students taking the lab classes. Their labs are well equipped and there are no outdated instruments, but then again they spend a lot of money to buy one simple grinding machine and the rest is channeled to buy the advanced machines. But NITR has to spend a substantial amount to buy a huge quantity of simple machines. We were allowed to use the whole laboratory, even if only three students interned in that department, which cannot be the case with NITR.
SB: I would totally agree to Prabhu. But we can't blame our system here. Ifsttar is a research institute where very few research students get admitted compared to the total number of students studying at NITR. They have the option of spending on better and latest instruments. NITR has to look out on both constraints i.e quantity and quality and spend accordingly. Analogically, the ratio of same instruments can be around 20:1. We lag behind in proper and updated instruments.
MM: Both of you have been placed in analytics and consulting companies. So, do you plan to return to a core job in the coming years?
PC & SB: This internship introduced us to the field of data analysis. We both plan on to do MBA in Data Analysis and not in any other branch of study like HRM, Finance, etc. We want to explore this area of study more and continue our career as analysts. As of now, there is no intention of returning back to core jobs.
MM: Any message that you would like to leave for our readers:
SB: People fail to explore and contemplate the possibilities and exposure that lie ahead of their career. Better late than never, I would advise students to spend a little bit of time in their first year to dig up and find their area of interest. The topic you think can be your interest might not fascinate you when you work on it. So you need some time before you know the area you want to focus on. Start early, target on a single thing and work hard for it.
PC: I second Surabhi here. Personally, I am a huge believer in GOD. To succeed in anything in life, you need the support of your parents. Love your parents and learn to convince them for any work you want to pursue. The enormous support and love you get from your parents will help you tackle all the obstacles and to hoist your flag of success. If you can convince them of doing it, you will do it for sure.