Research Internship at Carnegie Mellon University , Google Student Ambassador and Exchange Semester at NTU Singapore.

 

GrishmaMeet Grishma, a 3rd year Computer Science Engineering student of Symbiosis Institute of Technology. She is interested in doing research in Computer Science. Along with that she is a travel-junkie and loves discovering new places. In her free time she reads, writes and listens to music along with watching shows and experimenting with cooking.

Let’s know more about her!

InternFeel: What all internships and opportunities you experienced in your academic life?

Grishma: I have been fortunate enough to receive three amazing opportunities. The first was being a Google Student Ambassador (GSA) for a year, which although doesn’t offer a stipend, has its own perks. The second was doing a mini-research project for a few days at Carnegie Mellon University, USA. For that I had to pay for my travel and a nominal registration fee. The organizers sponsored my accommodation and meals. The third is the TF-LEaRN scholarship program at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore which provided funds for everything including my airfare, on-campus accommodation, tuition fees and living expenses. This was for the length of a semester.

 

IF: How you came to know about the internship? Generally what was your way of being in touch with the media to get the information about the various internships? 

Grishma: I have this habit of googling a lot. Talk about being a true GSA :-p . I was aware of the GSA program in US and was waiting for it to be open to India. I came across the link on the Google site and I requested my college placement officer to forward me the form. For CMU as well, I came across the program while looking for research opportunities. For the NTU program, it was through my college.

 

IF: How much competitive is the selection process? What things you feel are looked for in the applicant by the selectors?

Grishma: GSA: Over 1750 candidates applied and about 270 were selected. A passion for Google technologies, past experience in organizing events, creativity and soft skills would be the major criteria.

CMU: No idea about how many applied but 75 students were selected from all over the world, including 3 from India. Intent to do undergraduate research in CS would be the major factor along with your statement of purpose.

NTU: Pretty competitive. 50 students were selected from all over Asia. I had to clear the selection rounds at the department level, then in my college, my university and finally get selected by NTU. A holistic evaluation was done. They specifically looked for top 5% of the cohort, leadership qualities, community service experience and extra-curricular activities.

 

IF: What qualities of yours – educational / otherwise, you feel helped you in having an edge over the selection process?

Grishma: Apart from doing well academically, I have been involved in a lot of technical and non-technical activities. Good communication skills and determination are must-haves. There are a lot of people out there who are talented and smart but they often lose out on opportunities as they aren’t aware of them. I ensured that I kept tabs on upcoming programs and applied timely for them.

 

IF: Approximately when you got the news for the selection? How was the celebration?

Grishma: It’s all strangely interconnected actually. I got the news for CMU selection sometime in May. On the morning of 1st of July I got my US visa approval and in the evening I was informed I had become a GSA! Within a few hours of coming back to India from the program in US, I received a mail saying I was selected for the exchange program at NTU. Looking back, I think it was sort of magical and the fact that I always had something to look forward to, was exciting! I celebrated with my family and friends and treated myself to my favourite meals.

 

IF: What all preparations you did (academic/otherwise) before joining and after the results?

Grishma: For CMU, I had chosen my top 3 projects. Though I did not know which one I had been assigned till I reached Pittsburgh, I read up on each of the topics to get a feel of the research work to be done. There were a lot of preparations to be made before coming to Singapore. I had to set my affairs in order as far as academics were concerned and understand the credit transfer of the courses. Since I was going to be away for a semester, adequate shopping and packing had to be done. You need to think of all the little things including adapters and LAN wires. But it wasn’t much of a problem since I had been to Singapore before and was familiar with it.

 

IF: Any problems that you faced before joining, which you feel could have been easily avoided if known before?

Grishma: I was lucky enough in the sense that all things went smoothly. However, it is always a good idea to know about the culture, the climate, the food and utilities available in case you are going to a new place for your internship.

 

IF: Any common mistakes which you feel students should avoid while searching and applying for internships?

Grishma: Present yourself as well as you can, be it in your CV or your communication skills. Grammatical mistakes can be off-putting. It is good to have a clear idea of why you are applying for a position. Keep searching for internships regularly and note the deadlines as it is very easy to miss out on them. Try not to fill the application in a hurry or wait till the last day to do it. Most of all, a lot of people think that they won’t be getting the internship and choose not to apply. There is no harm in sending in your application. I’d have never thought I’d get the opportunities that I did, yet I applied for them nonetheless.

 

IF: So Grishma, could you please highlight us with what work/research project you carried out during the internship period? It’s application in near future and your work in it?

Grishma: For CMU, we worked as a team on ‘Automated Sharing for Communal Progress’. This dealt with distributed systems and collaborative working. As a GSA, I founded the ‘Google club’ in my college. We have been doing various activities like evangelizing the Internet, community service, organizing educational events, teaching people about Google technologies, etc. At NTU, I have taken up coursework in fields I am interested in. Apart from that I am also involved in community service and cultural events.

IF: What was the best thing about the work culture and the internship? What all things you liked there? The difference you found in comparison with the work culture of our country?

Grishma: The work culture was different at CMU. People are friendly and informal and it’s kind of a relaxed environment. The fact  that people are so warm and approachable is very encouraging for students.

 

IF: What problems you or your friends faced, during the internship, which your juniors may be able to avoid? Any safety issues  for girls, which generally all parents are fearing about? Food and accommodation?

Grishma: Did not face any problems during my stay for CMU. It was very well organized. My stay in Singapore so far has been good. It might be a bit difficult for vegetarians like me as Singapore cuisine is primarily non-vegetarian but there are Indian food outlets, so it  should be okay. Also, Singapore is a safe city so parents need not worry.

 

IF: As with almost everything, what were the cons of the internship? The elements which you felt, if wasn’t there could have made this internship super awesome?

At CMU, I wish the research workshop would have been for a little longer. We could have worked more on our project. At NTU, I wish there were more options for vegetarian people!

 

IF: It would help the readers and other aspirants if you could bring a comparison among your two different experiences. 

Grishma: All the three were very different experiences. CMU was a technical, research-based thing, GSA was more of educating  people, developing marketing skills and a bit of technical know-how whereas my time at NTU gave me exposure to a different kind of academic environment and insights into cultural diversity in Asia.

 

IF: Were there any special events during the internships which you would like to share?

Grishma: At CMU, there were talks delivered by experts from Oracle and IBM and senior professors from CMU. There was also a faculty and industry panel which threw light on research in the respective fields and a graduate student panel which told us about their lives as graduate students. I had requested Prof. Manuela Veloso to see CoBot in action and her student Brian Coltin was kind enough to do so.

COBOT in Action

 

My journey as a GSA started with the Google India Community Summit at the Leela, Goa which had people coming from Google from all over the t world to deliver talks and share their experiences. Everything right from the travel to the lodging was sponsored and it was an amazing and enjoyable time where we got to interact with different people.

Apart from the usual fun in college and at hostel, our hosts at NTU had organized many fun events for us like the Singapore Tour, Chinese New Year celebrations, International Leadership Forum, etc!

 

IF: What was the guidance provided by your guide? What all support you received from your intern institute administration.

Grishma: At CMU, I had a fantastic mentor, Dr. Mosse, who was not only friendly but also had a good sense of humor. The organizers were  very helpful and had made arrangements for lodging and accommodation well in advance.

 

IF: Any special experience which you had during this period, which you would like to share with us.

Grishma: This isn’t relevant to the internship per se, but do make the best of your stay in a new place. I remember going around in Pittsburgh and later New York all alone to explore the place. It was immensely liberating and the kind of high it gives you is inexplicable!

 

IF: To whom all people you would, like to thank in context of this internship?

 Grishma: My mom, dad and younger brother have always been very supportive of whatever I have done. Special shout-out to my mentor  Viswas Sir who has always encouraged me to not sell myself short. My HOD, Shraddha Ma’am has been sweet enough to grant me permission  to attend these and did the formalities for the same, as have my teachers. Deepak who is the co-ordinator for the GSA program ensured I worked effectively. My friends who keep asking me for treats and share my joys with me. Also, Ms. Widom, Sunayana, Kartik and Namrata who ensured I had a pleasant stay at CMU.

 

IF: How much difference this period of 8 weeks made in your intellectual capabilities and mindset. In broad terms what are your gains from this?

Grishma: Each of these experiences has opened new doors for me. I am still in touch with my mentor and friends. CMU gave me an insight into research in CS and that is something I will be building my career on. Being a GSA has honed my managerial and soft skills and given me a chance to help the community. As a student at NTU not only have I got the chance to learn new subjects, but also gain a deeper understanding of different cultures.

 

IF: What advice you would like to give to your juniors, which can help them in getting internships in their future college life.

Keep tabs on internships and ensure that you don’t miss the deadlines. Present yourself to the best of your abilities, be it on paper or in an interview. And most importantly, believe in yourself; don’t be afraid of failures, you always learn something from every experience that you have.

 

IF: What are your future plans after this internship and how much impact this internship will have on it?

 Grishma: I have a year more to go before I finish my engineering. I will be working on projects and doing research in CS. I intend to pursue my Masters in CS after graduation. Thanks to the chances I got, I know more about the different technical fields.

 

IF: Any views about this initiative of InternFeel, and how beneficial it would be?

Grishma: I think this is a great initiative of InternFeel and will surely help the students. It’s always nice to get a first-hand perspective on internships and tips and tricks from someone who has been there, done that. Kudos to the InternFeel team.

 

IF: So Grishma, we are at the end of the interview. We can understand you are a busy girl. From the entire team of InternFeel, we thank you for taking out your time sharing your experiences with us, for everyone and we wish you best of luck for all your future endeavors. 

Grishma: Thank you so much, it was my pleasure. I wish all the very best to each and every student out there. Give it your best, havefaith in yourself and who knows, someday you’ll be giving an interview to InternFeel!

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