It’s that time of the year again, when ‘internship’ becomes a chant-word and browsing about the types of internships available takes a heavy toll on Google. Remember, it’s more important to get something that you love rather something that your parents can be proud of or something to add to your Resume. This might sound like pedestrian advice, but we say it only because we’ve seen and experienced it.
Around this time last year, I too was struggling to get more information about various internships, asking certain ever-so-patient seniors and spending excessive time browsing. So it is only fair that I share my knowledge on what I know. Below I’ve compiled a rough procedure for the internships that I had applied for, I hope you find them useful.
I. DAAD WISE Scholarship
Description: This is given to roughly 150 Indians every year for a period of 2 months in any of the German Universities, although most students aim for the TU9 set.
It is very tiring, mentally stressful and requires buckets of patience. So the procedure is pretty simple:
1) You go through all the TU9 universities first – http://www.tu9.de/en/. Again, every singe page will be translated from German to English, so you need to overlook a lot of glitches.
DISCLAIMER: You CAN look at Universities other than TU9 too; these are just the most reputed on an overall basis. It is highly possible that say, Energy Engineering or Nanotechnology is more popular in a non-TU9 University.
2) Go to each sub-universities and your respective departments. In Germany Chemical Engineering <-> Process Engineering. You can also check Mechanical and Civil Engineering, all these overlap.
3) Comprehensively go through all the research areas offered under each Professor/Assistant Professor/ Associate Professors. Again, they might not have explained ideally, it’s okay. Simultaneously open an Excel Sheet, jot down every single field that you find even slightly interesting.
4) Once you’re done with a good list of 10-20 Professors, it’s time for you to draft your mail. Don’t think too much, it needn’t be word to word perfect. With your mail, it is compulsory to attach your Resume/CV and recommendable to attach your transcript as well as recommendation letter.
5) Here below I’m pasting the sample cover letter which I sent in the mail (omitting all the numbers),
“Dear Prof. …, I’m B Soundarya, currently pursuing my third year Chemical Engineering at National Institute of Technology – Tiruchirapalli (NIT-T), one among the top ten premier engineering institutes in India. My Cumulative GPA is … and my last semester GPA …, placing me in the …. position in my department. I am a research aspirant who holds interest in exploring different fields to gain knowledge. I’m keenly interested in experimental area as well as coding and am well versed in ….. *Input all the softwares that you know of*. I was going through the projects in Technical University of Munchen and found the topic of energy interesting. I would like to work on the project of … or any related project under your guidance for the summer 2016.
I worked for over …. hours on my 2015 summer project which dealt with … at the Department of Chemical Engineering, Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore, India under the guidance of Professor …. I’m currently doing a semester long project on …. *If you’re working on something currently* in my college and working on writing a paper. I have also done a project on … *If you worked on anything in the past*. Apart from projects, I have completed three online courses on …. *If you have taken any MOOC course* and also an honours course on ….
I was awarded …. *Talk about any significant awards that you received here*. I have attached the link of my Curriculum Vitae for further reference. I’ve also learnt German A1 level. If required, Prof. …. and Prof. … would be glad to provide a LOR. I assure you that I will do my project with utmost sincerity and I am ready to fulfill all the necessary condition. I have also applied for the DAAD Wise scholarship which will take care of my travel and accommodation expenses. Kindly reply at your earliest convenience (The last date to submit the application is November 1st).
Curriculum Vitae: *paste a shortened URL* Transcript: *paste a shortened URL*
Thank you very much for your time and consideration. Yours sincerely, B Soundarya V Semester Department of Chemical Engineering NIT, Tiruchirappalli India”
DISCLAIMER: Do NOT use this word to word. First of all it will be redundant then and secondly cover letters are very subjective and you need to tailor it according to the professor that you’re sending to. This is your chance to be creative, talk about the subject books which you really like or made you interested in Chemical Engineering, or talk about a certain topic which you find fascinating or even about the equipments in the professor’s lab.
6) Please, please keep yourself motivated. I’ve seen cases where people get a reply after 15 minutes of sending a mail AND cases where it takes months and they never get. Both of them might be equally qualified, but the reason could be as simple as the Professor not seeing the mail. A few tips which might just work,
- Try sending mails such that it will be the first thing that they see in the morning (Use Yesware to schedule the mail to reach at 6:00 AM German city time)
- Send a remainder email informing them VERY politely that whether or not they have seen your previous email. Send it 7-10 days after the first mail
- Plan a proper schedule where every day you can spend an hour on finding new professors and sending it.
Finally, once you get a reply from a professor take a moment to pat yourself on the back BUT at the same time realise that you were also incredibly lucky. Simultaneously start your DAAD WISE application because well, it’s pretty huge : https://www.daad.de/…/daten…/en/21148-scholarship-database/…
I understand that the CGPA cutoff is pretty frustrating, but I would say a safe margin would be above 9.0 if you have amazing research experience. (Again, talk to other seniors about this margin) The results for this year were announced on the third week of January via E-mail.
Stipend: 650 Euros per month + 550 Euros for the flight ticket
Perks: It’s EUROPE y’all! You get to tour the continent with a single passport, I’m sure you must have seen pictures of Switzerland, Paris, Coldplay concerts from the current fourth years who had gone for it. Also, German Universities generally do not demand a fee from the students during undergraduate, so while you’re there it is possible for you to get accepted for a Masters degree if you do really good work. Finally, the Germans have an amazing work culture wherein everybody works hard (or so I’ve heard) which will motivate you to work harder.
Downside: Language. Although most people inside a University will converse in English, at the end of the day you might find someone who does not. But then again, you can turn this upside down and use the opportunity to learn a new language. If you’re concerned about the stipend, DAAD pays a little lesser than MITACS and SN Bose.
II. MITACS Gobalink Research Internship
Description: This is a competitive internship for international undergraduates from Australia, Brazil, China, France, India… basically a lot of countries. If selected, you will (and must) work for a period of 12 weeks in one of the Universities in Canada.
Currently, MITACS internships are available in over 45 Canadian Universities and hence you have a good pool to choose from. This 45 includes many of the top ranked Universities such as University of British Columbia, McGill University, University of Toronto, etc. (Of course, please don’t limit yourself to top Universities) The CGPA cutoff is a bit lax here with a minimum of 8/10 for Indians.
So, MITACS I would say is a reasonably long application with the only assurance being the well organized structure of it.
1) Register in the MITACS portal – https://globalink.mitacs.ca/gri/index.html (This will test your patience, I tell you. To write this article I tried registering myself and it took me 20 minutes to log into the portal even at 1 AM in the night)
2) The section Personal Information implores basic details. I understand you all have a nicely structured CV/Resume of your own, however MITACS wants it to be tailored according to their need. So strictly follow their guidelines and upload the CV/Resume.
3) Under the Education section, you will have to upload your transcript (don’t mind the fact that they have asked it 4 times, just upload it once). The English proficiency exam is not compulsory and will not increase or decrease your chances of getting the scholarship.
4) The Research section is the most important and scrutinized one of all. It has four sub-sections. Take your time to fill out each of them. MITACS has a word limit, mind you, so you need to learn to omit superfluous words and be succinct. For ‘General Description of Skills, Background Knowledge, and Research Interests’, I wrote bullet points under each of the topics separately. Skills here refer to your software (and maybe soft skills) and technical skills. Jot down your courseworks in the Background Knowledge and anything else if necessary.
‘Notable Achievements’ is pretty self-explanatory. Please include only those that you think are really note-worthy and don’t use terms which they will not understand (such as ‘Festember’, ‘Pragyan’, give a brief description if you’re mentioning them). ‘Research Rationale’ was the hardest for me to write in spite of it being 200 words. When it comes to SOP’s, the shorter the word limit, the harder it gets. Think about why you really want to pursue research, if you feel there is a personal and emotional connection to it then do mention it. If you had any life-changing events or lectures, mention them. Write it once, come back after a day and read it afresh. Edit it, and do the same at least 4-5 times. I would definitely not say that this decides whether or not you get it, but it’s important.
5) They have given a survey under the ‘Research Rationale’. Till date I do not know for what reason, but all I can say is be consistent with every answer. And finally, write about your research in the past in the last section.
6) The toughest part I would say is choosing the projects. And since there are so many and we have amazing net speed here, use as many filters as you can and narrow down the areas to suit your needs. I faced the problem where I had to trade off between a good project and a good university. I went ahead with the good university, but I feel like that was a slight error on my part. If you have the same conundrum, go with the good project if you really like it.
Please, please don’t wait till the last day to do something. I still remember on the last night of the deadline I remembered something which I had to change. It was 2 hours before the deadline and I took a big leap of faith by trying to change it. Do not do that, finish your application 10 days in advance and keep proof-reading it every two days. Also, if you did not know already, DO NOT mail any of the professors separately. MITACS highly discourages that practise (which only saves you more time). Once you’re done with the application, you might or might not get interview calls from Professors. I did not get, so if you don’t there is no need to worry. Some professors just like to talk and interact once before they take a student in and some feel that your application is enough. Some might be just too busy.
The first phase of results will be announced in mid December itself which will give you plenty of time to hunt for alternatives if needed. The second phase comes out in early January, but they give you only a fortnight or so to agree or decline.
Stipend: 200 Canadian dollars every week + flight fare
Perks: The best thing about MITACS is the fact that the organization of projects is done very well. You get to know a good amount of what it will be like before applying and you get a wide variety of it. Since many countries are involved in this scholarship, you’ll have the chance to not just meet but also live with people from such diverse backgrounds, which is exciting! Although not up the DAAD level, you still get to travel to various regions in and around Canada. Last but not least, you get the opportunity to go back to Canada for Masters.
Downsides: Last year, there was a huge confusion in the procedure and it irked almost every Indian who applied for MITACS, let’s just hope it does not happen again. Another downside is the time period, although 12 weeks is a good amount of time to do research, you will be missing more than a month of College. For those worried about missing a lot of classes, this is a good time for you to learn how to manage multiple things at once. (You will still get OD for the classes)
III. SN Bose & Khorana Scholarship
Description: A competitive internship where in around 40 people from India are selected for a 10 week long summer internship in one of the top 20 universities in USA. (Note: SN Bose is for people from engineering and sciences background wherein Khorana is for people from biological sciences background)
So, personally this is my favorite since I went for it this summer so pardon me if I show some bias here and there (just kidding). I will try to add some personal experiences apart from the procedure itself.
1) Out of the three application forms, Bose was the shortest as it contained just 5 pages. They have not yet opened the application for the year 2016-17, but you can see how the last year’s form looked like – http://iusstf.org/story/53-74-For-Indian-Students.html
2) The first two pages have basic information including your educational background. The most important section is the question about your research background and current research interests. To be honest, it took me a very long time to figure out what to write here as I kept telling myself it was the most crucial detail (Don’t worry, it’s not, they don’t focus on one single thing)
3) I cannot post here my response, however this was the outline of how I answered for the question ‘Statement of Purpose: Research interests, possible project ideas and what you hope to gain from this experience (Please restrict your response to the space given below)
Paragraph 1: Believe it or not, I started with a quote. Not just any random quote taken from online though, but something which I came up with. And then I ended with a little background on my childhood. (Talk about your childhood if you think it is important)
Paragraph 2: A brief description of how my summer project went and what I’m expecting out of this internship. I ended with why I should be selected for it/how I would be an asset.
Paragraph 3: I began with my research interests and cited the different fields that I’m interested in. I did not launch into details for all the fields here.
Paragraph 4: Here is where the most important part of the answer lay. I went into detail about the possible project idea, to write this you need to search extensively online and look a few papers first.
Paragraph: I ended with my long term goals and how this intern will lead me to them.
4) For the next question, this was the rough outline of my response,
‘Research experience, technical background, other internships, courses, lab work, techniques exposed to and past lab experience (Please restrict your response to the space given below)’
Paragraph 1: I explained in detail about my summer project and its current status (then).
Paragraph 2: I explained a little less in detail about the ongoing semester project (not necessary)
Paragraph 3: Talked about the knowledge of softwares
Paragraph 4: The coursework that I had completed and will be completing by the end of 5th and 6th semester.
Paragraph 5: Since SN Bose does not ask you to upload a separate resume, this is your chance to talk about your achievements and extracurricular activities.
5) Then there was a section about the two references from whom I had to get recommendation letters. You need to be careful of who you choose. A normal professor writing a specific, you-centric recommendation is much valued than a generic recommendation from someone with a high stature. You need to either attach the recommendation along with your application or your professor can send it to Bose directly. (Prefer the former)
6) There is a check list at the end which makes your job easier. I’m hoping you all know how to get your transcripts by now, if you don’t:
Go to SBI i-collect, under Educational Institutions select ‘NIT Institution Fees’
You can select ‘Transcript’ under that and pay the required amount
Print the receipt
Go to nitt.edu, under Formats and Downloads, download the ‘Transcript Form’ and take a print out
Take both of these forms to the transcript section in the first floor of admin block and submit them. You will get your transcript within a day!
7) For the No Objection Certificate (NOC), you need to take a print out of the format that they have given and go to the Director’s office. I’m guessing by the time you go they will know what you want, hence they will basically ask for your rank card to make the NOC. (You can obtain the Rank Card the same way you obtained your Transcript)
That’s pretty much the procedure. Although when I was talking with the organizers at University of Wisconsin-Madison (where I interned), they said that the procedure might be different this year. Similar to MITACS, they will be using a portal to collect the forms from you. Now SN Bose generally announces the results the last of the three scholarships, around the end of February (this year at least). There are two-three waves of results. If you do get it, don’t be too relaxed as it does not end there. They will give you week’s time to find a professor from any university in the USA who is ready to accept you (a DAAD déjà vu all over again). But, the good news is even if you don’t get acceptance from a professor, they will still match you with someone from their pool.
Talking about my experience at UW-Madison, it was transforming, both mentally and emotionally. I had amazing set of friends around me who were from such diverse backgrounds with diverse characters. I had a lot of culture shocks, both good and bad but more on the good side. I was forced to cook on my own for the first time and live in a single room (although I barely spent time in my room except when I was sleeping). The people are the most nicest you will find. You understand the value of Indians when you go to a foreign country. I had two precious non-project Indian mentors without whom I could not have survived. They both helped me in so many aspects that I’m forever indebted. Even though I did not meet my PI on a daily basis, I met him weekly at least once or twice (which is what you can ask for) and my project mentor was so patient in teaching me certain concepts that I used to scold myself at times for asking doubts. But you should ask doubts. According to me, there is no shame in asking a lot of questions. That’s how you learn.
Stipend: 2000 US Dollars for the 10 week period + flight cost to and fro
Perks: More often than not, the University that you will be going to will come under one of the top 40 which will be good for your future applications. Unlike other internships, you get to specifically talk about your project interest and propose ideas here, which, believe me will be reviewed by the pool of professors who might be your PI in the end. The application procedure is much simpler I felt, compared to the other two. And in certain Universities in USA (such as UW-Madison), the University takes care of your accommodation, health insurance and even issues you a student ID with bus pass (very important, trust me).
Downsides: The results are announced extremely late to be honest, and by the time they tell you, you might have already accepted either DAAD or MITACS. You will be put in an awkward situation wherein you have to mail your professors with the rejection. In my case, although I got to go to USA which has people from all over the world, I felt as though I spent most of my time with the Indian peers. Although this was amazing in its own way, I felt that the international connection which would have been there in MITACS or DAAD, was missing here.
So I know this is a lot of information to process, don’t read it all at once. You might be knowing this already, but I would have still wanted someone to tell it in writing. Talk to your department seniors and ask about other internship opportunities too, there are just so many out there. Apart from applying, it is also good to personally mail professors from inside as well as outside India with your CV/Resume. In many cases the professor might go as far to fund half or even your complete journey (if it is abroad). Don’t have the mindset that it’s either abroad internships or nothing. IISc and IITs have equally good if not better projects and faculties. The only difference is the exposure quotient. And when you all get amazing interns, don’t forget to help your juniors because I’m sure they will need it.