Canada Diaries: Nishanth Kukkadapu
Nishanth Kukkadapu, a fourth year undergraduate from the Department of Mechanical Engineering bagged an internship via the elite MITACS Globalink which many have an eye for, and got a chance to research at the University of Alberta. On a fine Saturday Morning he shared his experiences at Canada, with MM.
MM: You received your Internship through MITACS Globalink. What was the exact procedure that you followed? Also tell us about the criteria of selection.
K. Nishanth: There is an online website for that https://www.mitacs.ca/en/programs/globalink.The criteria include a minimum CGPA of 8 and that, you need to be from one of the nine countries present in the list of countries, India being one of them. Along with it, you will need a resume, a recommendation letter and there will be some basic questions pertaining to your areas of interest. You fill those out and then there are like 1400-1500 projects, you need to select seven from them. There is no pre-requisite research background required, so anybody can apply. First, they pass all the applications which fulfil the minimum criteria to the Professors and then it's up to the Professorto decide who he wants to select.
MM: So, is the selection done entirely on the basis of application?
KN: Generally you just have to submit your application and then you get a response but it depends on the Professor. If he/she is stuck between two to three persons you may be called for a Skype interview or a web chat based on which you are selected.
MM: Did you apply for any other internships?
KN: I did try for DAAD but didn’t get a reply from any of the Professors. Also I wasn't that interested in that so I gave up the idea. I actually wanted to do an industrial internship, but, I didn’t get one so I settled for this.
MM: Okay, how was the experience at the University of Alberta?
KN: It was really good. The place is really nice, the summers are cooler compared to here. The Professors are really friendly and you can approach any one to ask doubts. This was the first time that we had to look for our ownaccommodation because till last year, they used to give us accommodation. We contacted people online and made an agreement before leaving.
MM: What would you say about the work culture there?
KN: My project was mostly experimental so I used to spend most of the time in the workshop. They stress a lot on safety and never allowed me if I wasn't wearing proper shoes or even safety glasses.Also, they are really organised and they actually know what they are doing. That’s one thing and then the infrastructure is huge over there.
MM: How would you compare and contrast between our work culture and theirs? Where do you think that we lag behind?
KN: I think that infrastructure and funding are what we lag in. In Canada there are 4-5 major private firm out of which one is governmental, which are linked to the university and their main aim is to fund projects irrespective of the kind of project. If you come up with something, you just pitch in the idea to them and they are very approachable. They fund like 90 to 95% of the institutes. There was a professor who told me that if you ever want to come here, I will look up for a sponsor for you. There, it's mandatory to get a sponsor before you start a project and I feel that getting a sponsorship is easier there. Here, the students have to manage on their own and there is very less probability that you will get the required amount.
MM: You were working as a Research Assistant, there. What was your exact nature of work?
KN: The Professor I had been allotted to was a good experiment analyst so, what I had to do is that, he gave me six specimens of rail steel which were taken from different parts of the world. I had to come up with new innovative ways of testing and just report him which one is best for real life and practical purposes. I conducted different tests like, hardness tests and 3-point bending tests. Normally these were done by professors but I had to come up with different ways and do the required mapping to reach a conclusion.
MM: Do you think that the working hours are a bit more flexible in the Western countries, than in India?
KN: Yes, I think that the working hours are flexible enough. My Professors never use to allot a stipulated timefor my work, he only expected me to complete the work irrespective of when I worked. But, although for me it was flexible but I don’t know about the graduates or the post graduates. I worked for about 5-6 hours in the Laboratory generally.
MM: So, letus come to your interaction level with the other students who were working there. How was the learning experience?
KN: Canada is a very diverse country like India. The difference is that India is diverse in the way that local people are diverse but, in Canada, you will find Chinese, Indians and Mexican too. We had a lot of interaction together. It was almost deserted when I went because it was in the summer but there were few people who were doing research and all so I got chance to meet them. Under my professor there was one more student from Brazil. All of them were very friendly. Only that, there was a problem of language as they didn't understand my accent at times so, I had to spell the words, most of the time.
MM: On a different note, do you think that the stipend provided by these scholarships is enough for the student for their complete stay abroad?
KN: MITACS gives you more than enough. You get around 6500 Canadian Dollars. Including 1500 CD for flight, 2400 CD for stipend and 2600 for the rent, mostly you would end up saving money. This extra money is usually used for travelling around. Some of the Indian students were partially funded by Indian government and MITACS. Only some of NIT and IIT students were funded by both MITACS and the Indian Government while some were funded entirely by MITACS. Mine was funded collectively by Indian govt and MITACS. I got my rent and flight expenses from government.
MM: Is there a criterion for this kind of difference in funding?
KN: I cannot say exactly how they distinguish but, finally I got a mail from MITACS that I was among the students who will be funded by the Indian govt. We approached the institute but due to some issues, it got a bit delayed. Yet, fortunately, we got the amount beforehand which was unlike how it was with our previous batch who had to arrange for their own expenses and were reimbursed after they returned from the internship.
MM: Did you face any other such technical problems during travelling or elsewhere?
KN: Actually yes, there was a serious problem. It was about my Visa. I had booked both my onward and return tickets via London prior to receiving my Visa. Now, to fly via London, we require a US, Canadian or a transit Visa. Unluckily for me, I received my Visa one and a half month later and that too it was upto 29th of July while my flight was on the 30th. So, I was stopped from getting on the plane at London only to be exempted in the last moment. Many of my other friends were denied and they had to fly back via China.
So, I would like to say that it is better to wait for the Visa, or get tickets directly to Canada, or fly via a country that doesn't ask for a transit Visa. Canada doesn't object if you leave even after your Visa expires, but the authorities at London won't allow you to.
MM: Okay, on a lighter note, what were some memorable places that you travelled to during your stay there?
KN: The place where I stayed in is known for its Canadian Rookie. I even went to the Banff National Park andCalgary. There is this famous show called the Calgary Stampede which features a rodeo show that goes on every year. I even went there.
MM: What were some previous experiences or exposures that helped you bag this Internship?
KN: Yes,I was working for BAJA and I was the Captain of the HPVCteam of ASME.
What I feel is you need to select those projects which reflect your area of interest. There are a set of questions, which ask you what your area of interest is and if these diverge from your actual area of interest,then, even if you have a good research background there are less chances of selection. I joined BAJA and HPVCbecause I thought that there was some gap between my theoretical knowledge and practical applications and these two helped me a lot to bridge that gap and to know how things work in real life.
MM:You also worked on a Research Project at the Vishakhapatnam steel plant. What was it about? Do you think it helped you in any way, for your Internship at Canada?
KN: I worked at the Vishakhapatnam Steel Plant at the end of my second year. It was a project about reheating furnace in the rolling mills. I was there for just two to three weeks. And, no, I don’t think it had any significant contribution in bagging this internship or helping me through it.
MM: What are your plans and prospects for the future? Do you want to continue on the research line or do you have anything else on mind?
KN: I wanted to give the research line achance, as I didn’t know whether I wanted to go for research or take up a job. This was a good opportunity to learn and to know whether I was up to that or not. I am not yet sure if I will continue research, but yes, if I get a really good university then I might opt for that. My initial intention was to join industry. Even now I am more inclined to get a job than going for research. But, if I get into a really good university like say, at Germany, I might opt for doing my Masters there.
MM: What advice would you like to give your juniors?
KN: I think it is important that one interact with their seniors. Every senior might not be intelligent but they are more experienced. Even now I call my seniors if I need some advice. Time is very precious and they should seek guidance from seniors who have already had experience in a particular field. Also, failures are normal because you see, even I got rejected by a couple of companies but I didn't stop trying. I kept working hard.
Failures are lessons and you learn more about life from them. Keep working hard and even if you fail, somewhere and sometime you will reach where you want to be in your life.