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Tushar Singh Thakur is a 3rd year Undergraduate pursuing a B.Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science.
An epiphany was had that afternoon as I was waiting to be interviewed, taking half an hour leave from my lab and toying with the notion of skipping it altogether: I really wanted to get a research internship in a ‘good’ University and since apping wasn’t yielding any substantial results, this was the chance at scoring an internship at a University of my choice and I better get it. The issue with my department is, there are a handful of good University that you can apply through PT Cell and fewer still will match with your research interests. So there I was, being personally interviewed by the Professors of NTU, being asked all the general questions such as what interests me, what are my life goals and all those. Previously we had to write an SOP mentioning all the Professors with whom we would like to work, so in the interview they asked about that too. All in all, fairly easy interview process. Besides the SOP, we were required to provide two letters of recommendation and a copy of latest transcript. Since the IAF portal was opened pretty late (late May), quite a few students were left with good CPI and I can’t stress more on how important a good CPI is for any University intern. Finally, a total of eight students, roughly one from each department, were selected. So yeah, I had quite some help, both with my preparation of visiting a foreign country and during our stay. We were provided with accommodation in the University hostels (or Hall, as they like to call it) though travel fare was not covered.
So, at last we reached Singapore and wow, such a beautiful city country. And before delving further into description of the city, I would first like to talk about our work. Everyone was assigned with the group of a Professor of their choosing. Some had synthesis related work such as myself, while others had coding/simulation sort of work. The working hours are quite relaxed, no one will judge for getting late as long as you get your work done efficiently. Though, I was not allowed to work after office hours (5:45 PM) or on weekends, something that I personally found rather annoying, since I have a habit of going in late and working late, but that’s just me. The laboratories and the instruments are all remarkably better compared to those of the Insti, but some of the problems that are often faced in Insti are also prevalent here, such as, your supervisor is perpetually busy, the furnace or XRD slots are booked till eternity. Every place has its fair share of problems and I am not complaining, since the overall quality of work is much better than what you would expect in Insti.
Now coming to the juicy bits. We were provided accommodations in coed hostels, but don’t get your hopes high, it’s not like you’re going to spend too much time in your rooms. The rooms are huge, almost thrice the size of Insti rooms and we were provided with fluffy mattress and plump pillows. The hostels boast all the usual facilities such as TV room, laundry room, pantry, computer room etc. We were also given our stipend in the first week itself, so we didn’t face any money related issues (well not exactly, but more on that later). The food here is pretty good too. In the University there is no mess per se, but there are canteens in every hostel and many of those serve Indian cuisine and it actually tastes like Indian. My only gripe with the canteens is that they close at 8 O’clock, so no late night supper. You can obviously prepare your own meals in hostel pantry whenever you want, which some of my friends actually did and saved a fortune, but that takes some effort and skills that I don’t have. Yeah I am not proud. Being the extravagant brat that I am, I ate in canteen or outside every day. In hindsight, I certainly don’t count it as one of my best decisions. The canteen food is actually quite expensive, if you eat there every day. Since I am non vegetarian, I didn’t even once worry about eating outside, though my vegetarian friends don’t share the same sentiments. Yes, it is often troublesome to find an Indian food joint, but I must admit, every place that we visited had at least one Indian stall ready to serve Dosa and Paratha at a moment’s notice; you only need the conviction to spot them.
I can safely say that we had been to all the places in Singapore that require visiting and many more. We had been to different kinds of zoo, Bird Park, Underwater World, some gardens and several beaches. Singapore boasts a thoroughly connected network of Metro and Bus transport system, though I wouldn’t call it efficient, since it takes way too long to travel from one corner of the city to another. It is also quite affordable by Singaporean standards.
As expected, the people here are polite and helpful and in my experience, extremely sincere towards their work. Working with them was a wonderful experience and I admire their work ethics, though to be frank, it is mildly infuriating how they take themselves too seriously sometimes.
I must say that this internship was quite a learning experience and had everything that can be expected of a University internship.
Lastly, I would like to give a serious advice, many students in their second year want an internship just for the sake of internship, to glorify their resume, this is something that is inevitable part of anyone’s career and I am not advising against it, my only suggestion is that you remain clear on what you actually want to do, be it coding, finance, consulting, research or whatever; just work towards that. I want you to understand that before applying for an internship, ask yourself if this is something you really want to do or would you rather work on something else, the sooner you have this figured out the better it would be for your future. So yeah, no pressure.