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Kaivalya Lal is a 3rd year Undergraduate pursuing a B.Tech in Civil Engineering.
Well, the biggest concern for most of us in our third year is getting a good intern for summers. It was the same for me but I aspire to do Masters in the field of Structural Engineering and so I had an aim of going to a university having good Structural Engineering Program. I had not applied to any company IAFs. I had been talking around to seniors of my department regarding the same and it was pretty clear to me that it isn’t going to be easy to get such an intern. Another huddle was that placement cell doesn’t get many such interns so I had been mailing to Professors from various universities by myself. Well then, to be frank I didn’t have any offers till April 2nd week, as Professors rarely take undergraduate interns as Structural Engineering is an old stream and needs advanced research skill which we undergraduate students lack of. Also, there was only one such opportunity (Loughborough University) from placement cell and I had tough luck there.
I attended a seminar regarding Structural and Earthquake Engineering in our institute presented by Professor Andrew Whittaker in the first week of April. Thereafter I mailed the Professor stating my interest to do a research intern in his field. Side by side I had also applied to other universities and was in final negotiation phase with one another Professor from National University of Singapore. I got a positive reply from Professor Whittaker, but it took around a month to get things finalized. Structural Engineering is very much advanced in USA and also the topic of research here was more inclined towards my interest so I chose this over NUS. Another reason to choose this opportunity over NUS was that I aspire to do Masters in USA and hence a prior intern in USA itself would help me a lot to get into a good masters program in future. The next challenge was getting a USA Visa, but that’s a long story so I would not bore you by telling that story.
Coming over to the interview and selection process, there was a Skype interview taken by the Professor himself and then I had send over my resume, academic transcript and a recommendation letter. The interview was more of a formal discussion and not like a typical interview taken by a company HR. Things went fast thereafter and within no time I landed in USA.
I was pretty much excited as it was my first trip in the States. Out of excitement I had done a lot of ground work about Buffalo City which in return created more excitement to come and explore around. Buffalo City is the second largest city of New York State and one of the very green and clean cities you would find in the States. Even the university campus is so beautiful and a huge one (it took me half an hour to find the building where I had to first report). Also the university has a well maintained lake where you can go and do kayaking or canoeing (equipment is already there, it’s free for university students). Frankly, I was over whelmed and a bit confused for the first few hours.
Accommodation, Travel and Food
Like rest of the university interns, this university doesn’t provide with accommodation on-campus. So you are left with two options, on-campus housing and off-campus housing. I had on-campus housing just for the first four days of arrival as I wanted see around and then decide between the two. After exploring around and seeing various places to stay, I decided to stay off-campus as it is of one third the cost of the on-campus housing and also with much more amenities. Another advantage was the lively environment around the off-campus housing.
Coming to the travel part, the university bus goes to the most parts of the city so you need not spend bucks for travelling. The buses even go to all the shopping malls on a particular day of a week, the time table of which you can find on the university website. Also there is a well-established network of Metro and City buses running from early morning to late night, so travelling to any part of the city is very easy.
Food is a bit tricky here. If you are a non-vegetarian, this would be a very good experience for you as you get really delicious stuff here, and the place has even got some specialties of its own for the non-vegetarians. Well if you are a vegetarian like me, you have limited options to dine outside (Taste of India, Subway, Dosa place, etc.). The most reliable option is to cook your own food like I did (trust me, cooking isn’t tough at all and you would really love cooking and experimenting over the cool evening set up every day). There are two Indian stores in the city where you would get all of the Indian stuff (literally u would). Then there are supermarkets like Walmart, Wegmens, Tops and Aldi where you would find food items beyond your imagination (that’s where your creativity would come into place to try and experiment with new stuff).
Department of Civil, Structural and Environment Engineering is a very well established department of the State University of New York at Buffalo. There are Professors and students working in harmony from around the world (even from IITs). The environment inside is picture perfect and very friendly. You would always be motivated to work more and more when you are active in the department. There is no fixed time to work for, you can come anytime you feel comfortable about. The University at Buffalo’s Structural Engineering and Earthquake Simulation Laboratory (SEESL) is one of its kind in the whole of the USA. Many of us regularly went to play soccer in the evening. After spending two months here, I have a got a whole new circle of friends in the department, including Professors, PhD students and many others.
I would recommend this intern to anyone who wants to have a fruitful summer intern in the field of Structural and Earthquake Engineering while having a completely new and a wonderful experience. The good news is, they are looking forward to getting 3-4 interns from IIT Bombay next year by coming through the placement cell. Interested ones, keep an eye on that!
Places to Visit
The most fascinating place to visit is The Niagara Falls (I guess, all of you would have heard about it). It is also known as Heaven on Earth, and it felt like one to me. I would recommend you to visit Niagara Falls at least once in your lifetime. Then there’s canalside at downtown in Buffalo. One of the very lively places in the city where you would regularly find events like carnivals and concerts happening throughout the summers. If you are fond of theatre, there is Shea’s Performing Arts theatre in the city where there are elite performances happening occasionally (even if you don’t like theatre, I would recommend to visit this one).
Another one to visit is New York City-The City that never sleeps (literally it never does). It would take you an overnight journey to reach there. Dare you miss visiting NYC if you are here for your intern. Boston is nearby too. Visit both of them if you can.
To conclude, I have been to various countries before, but the time I spent at Buffalo, New York has been a completely new experience to me. It taught me many new things such as greeting strangers all around with “Hello”, “How’s your day going?” and “Have a good day” to saying “Thank you” and “Sorry” for petty things. Additionally it gave me clear vision for my career along with gaining insights into a whole new world of research and also details about higher studies. I am sure it would be the same for anyone who would be here for their internship.
P.S. Feel free to contact me if you need any information regarding applying to universities by yourself or about the intern at the State University of New York at Buffalo.