InternFeel: Hello Raghavender, pleasure to meet you. Please tell us about yourself. What makes you different?
Raghavender: Hi..!! I am currently pursuing my bachelor’s degree in Computer Science Engineering at BITS Pilani, Hyderabad campus. I am interested in Programming, Robotics, etc. I like watching TV series and movies. I love to go for jogging and playing tennis and travelling to different parts of the world.
IF: Which internship, you got the chance to take? What is it all about? Stipend, duration, place?
Raghavender: I got an offer to take the Mitacs Globalink Research Internship in February 2014. I got a project offer from University of Toronto, which is one of the top universities not only in Canada but also in the world. For me, it’s about meeting new people from different cultures and societies interacting with them socially and develop friendships. Fortunately, I was in Toronto, where there were more than 20 GRIs, this gave me the opportunity to interact with people from 5 different nationalities. Mitacs is flexible with respect to the duration we are free to choose our internship duration of 12 weeks between May and September.
With regard to stipend, Mitacs generously gives us a stipend of 200 CAD in addition to sponsoring our airfare, visa fees, health insurance, accommodation and university enrollment.
IF: How you came to know about the internship? To what all sources you kept yourself connected?
Raghavender: I came to know about the internship from a notice put up in my university notice board. In addition to this I used to frequently check www.internshala.com website which gives a comprehensive list of numerous national and international internships in various fields. Seniors at my institute also told me about this opportunity.
IF: Tell us on the procedure to apply for the internship. Who all are eligible to apply for this internship?
Raghavender: The process is really simple. You need to create an account on the Mitacs site. You need to fill the required details (research rationale, transcript, resume, recommendation letters and other details) and complete your application. You then have to select 7 projects out of the numerous projects that Mitacs offers you in order of your project preference. Any student who would have 1 to 3 semesters left after the internship is eligible to apply. Generally in India students in their pre final year fall in this category. In addition to this the applicant should have a minimum CGPA of 8/10 or 80% at the time of application and should be of any of the following countries – India, China, Brazil, Mexico, Vietnam, France, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
IF: Let’s talk about how competitive is the selection process.
What qualities of yours, you believe helped you in having an edge over the selection process? What key things you feel were looked for by the selectors?
Raghavender: The selection process is really competitive as here they look for not only your GPA, but also emphasize more on your CV. Recommendation letters also play a key role in the selection process. They look for what projects have you been involved in, prior places where you have worked. They match the project requirements with the skills that you possess. The one with the strongest profile relevant to a particular project gets the offer.
I believe I had the required technical background in the form of projects, technical skills, prior work experience relevant to my project. I had an interview prior to being selected in which I displayed high interest for the project. Having a research paper / journal gives you a tremendous edge over the others. I didn’t have one.
IF: About when you got the news for the selection? How was the celebration?
Raghavender: I still remember the exact date I received an email from the professor for the interview. It was 20th February, 2014 around 10pm. I had my exam the next day. I still remember screwing up my exam that day in order to prepare for the interview. I was happy with my interview and 2 days later I got a project offer from Mitacs of my first preference. I called up my parents and told them that I got selected in Mitacs in University of Toronto and they were really proud of me. The feeling cannot be described in words. Later the traditional episodes of regular treats to friends occurred.
IF: What all preparations you did (academic/otherwise) after the results in view of the internship?
Raghavender: Academically, I read about my project and brushed up the technical skills required for the internship. Preparations with respect to what all to bring was not that difficult as Mitacs had given as a handbook which listed everything that you may need during our stay in Canada. Later I booked my flight tickets and applied for the visa. Mitacs had assigned each student a student mentor (actually a friend) to ask any doubts we may have before and during the internship. On my first day, even though I arrived late at night my mentor ensured that I had something to eat for breakfast the next morning, we went to shop for some groceries and I was introduced to my neighborhood. The mentors pick you from the airport on your arrival date due to which you feel welcomed on your arrival date itself.
IF: So Raghavender, could you please highlight us with what work/research project you carried out during the internship period? Its application in the near future and your work in it?
Raghavender: My work was in the field of Space Robotics. It required me to develop an experimental setup of 12 robots which had to pick up small items scattered over a large area. This has direct application in Space where the rovers are sent for foraging of items in an unknown location and the rovers forge for unusual substances.
IF: What was the best thing about the work culture and the internship? What all things you liked there?
Raghavender: The best thing about the work culture was independent decisions and the feel that you get that the project is your own. You can tell the prof to order anything required for the project and you will get it. The professors are friendly and nice there. They make you feel comfortable. My lab mates were really cool people. PhD guys are willing to guide you, you can always ask them for help. Professors value and respect your suggestions.
IF: Were there any special events during the internships?
Raghavender: Yes, there were lots of special events organized by Mitacs, they organized 2 workshops related to Communication and Team Work. They also organized 6-7 trips to companies, universities, technological trips, etc. Apart from this we were a group of 20 people in Toronto from 5 different nationalities and we use to go out together on weekends. We went to nearly all tourist destinations / spots in Toronto. On one trip to Niagara falls, we were 28 people in total and was an awesome experience. This was organized by the mentors.
IF: What was the guidance provided by your guide? What all support you received from University of Toronto’s administration.
Raghavender: My guide explained me the requirements of the project very clearly and made my goals and targets very clear. I had a timeline to follow which gave me a clearly defined path to follow. University of Toronto provided us with an ID card (they call it the “T-card”). This allowed us access to all facilities available to normal registered students of the university like wifi access, library, sports facilities, gym, etc.
IF: Let’s now talk about some negatives.
What problems you or your friends faced, regards to the internship, which your juniors may be able to avoid?
Raghavender: Frankly speaking, I did not face any negative things at all during the course of the internship. You are required to work properly for 8 hours a day and rest of the time you can relax. Sometimes my projects required me to work late in the evenings, but I loved that too. Some advice I would like to give to avoid any difficulty – learn cooking (does not matter if you don’t, you will have plenty to help you ), avoid going to lonely places alone at night, try travelling in a group at night and avoid doing illegal things there (legal drinking age 19 it’s legal to drink 😉 ).
IF: Anything you would like to tell us please. Feel free to share any interesting thing that happened.
Raghavender: Almost every weekend was interesting. Every weekend we went to new places. During the first 7 weeks, I went every weekend to some new place. Once we had an Indo-Brazilian dinner where in Indians cooked Indian food and Brazillians cooked Brazilian cuisines. Trust me it was really good. We use to go to clubs on Friday nights, which was fun.
IF: Have you done any internship/training before? It would help the readers if you could bring a comparison among your two different experiences.
Raghavender: I did an internship for 2 months at the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, Mumbai. That was my first industrial project that I undertook. Undoubtedly Mitacs experience was far better than the one in Mumbai. Nonetheless the Mumbai experience was great too :P. Project work required more knowledge, commitment and passion in Mitacs.
IF: To which all people you would, like, to thank in the context of this internship?
Raghavender: I would like to thank my University, BITS Pilani, Hyderabad Campus which put up a notice regarding Mitacs through which I came to know about this amazing opportunity. I would also like to thank my Parents who are the reason I was selected. I would thank my seniors was guiding me throughout the process and most importantly, my brother for reviewing my application time and again.
IF: How much difference this period of 2 months made in your intellectual capabilities and mindset. In broad terms what are your gains from this?
Raghavender: It was 3 months not 2. I gained a lot from this experience. The way of looking at a project changed. I became more mature as a researcher. Interacting with people from different societies made me more open minded.
IF: Advice for juniors? Which can help them in getting internships in their future college life and also advice for making the best out of it.
Raghavender: Focus on building your skillset first – gaining the requisite knowledge first. Then do projects in the field you like. Follow what you want to do, not only what your course work demands out of you. Try to focus on not only your coursework, but also do practical stuff that excites you. In the end try getting a decent GPA.
IF: What are your future plans after this internship and how much impact this internship will have on it?
Raghavender: My future plans are pursuing a Masters degree. This internship will definitely help me get a Masters admission at a reputed university.
IF: Any views about this initiative of InternFeel, and how beneficial it would be? Any suggestions for improvement?
Raghavender: This is a great initiative by InternFeel. Keep it up guys…!!
IF: Raghavender it was so nice to know all about this. We agree you would have been busy with your academics. Even then you took out time for this. We thank you and wish you best of luck for all your future endeavors.
Raghavender: Thanks and sorry for replying a month late. Occupied with other work.