Summer Internship at Carnegie Mellon University – Aakanksha Mirdha from VIT

Unlike the conventional heart-beating, eyeballs-popping experience of people at USA, Aakanksha Mirdha shares an insight story of her internship at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh. Aakanksha is an IT Engineering student at VIT. Read on to explore what she has to say.

“I got this mail from Internshala about some internship story writing,” tells my friend.
“Writing an internship story? Well, even I did an internship this summer, am I eligible to share one too?” I asked.
“Where did you do that?” my friend asked me back. I wondered, dude, you seriously don’t know where ‘I’ did my internship? Carnegie Mellon University, USA, I replied back. What he said and expressed further was the usual awe, which I am not getting into. But this was how, in short, I came to know about this story sharing platform.

Before sitting down and starting to write this story I wondered what’s there to write. It’s like any other internship story; talking about elite professors, their heavily funded projects, how beautiful US! And this can go on forever. But then, I realized that this is not all that my internship was really about. It was also about values, what a person I was before and what it made me, how I learnt to know myself better, things which I had never known before. Forgive me folks if i don’t give you details about how I applied and reached there but I hope I’ll be able to convey a much more insightful message.

To start with, why I wanted to do this internship? Honestly, forget amazing projects and professors, dude, its America…who doesn’t want to go there. From NASA to Niagara, they have it all. Secondly it’s Carnegie Mellon you are talking about, for those who don’t know, this is where the movie A beautiful mind’s adroit Prof. John Nash went to study. Well if that’s not good enough a reason to swipe you off your feet, then you must know that this is where the man who invented captcha (and not to forget recaptcha) teaches. I hope you can get a sense of how rushed my adrenaline was with the idea of interning at this place.

29th May, all set, tickets booked, visa stamped, bags stuffed, I flew for Pittsburgh, the exquisitely beautiful city of bridges, the home to Carnegie Mellon. After extensive preparation for the new city, as soon as I landed I knew I had to take a bus to reach the area of the city where my apartment was. But, as every story has a villain, so had mine. The buses there have no conductors, just a charging machine (akin to vending machines) installed on the bus, the only difference being that this machine doesn’t return any change. You always need to put the exact change fare into it. But with immense generosity I had been given only hundred dollar bills by Indian currency exchange kiosks. Soon it struck me that I should buy something and will probably have some change then. I went to the vending machine and what i saw there left my eyes stunned–a packet of Lays for 4 dollars. What? That means 240 Indian rupees for a packet of chips? With a lot of pain in my heart and pocket, I just bought that packet and managed to get some change, and got onto the bus.

The next day I had an introduction session with all my fellow research interns for the summer, on the CMU campus. I was at the session a bit late; you know Google maps are not always accurate. When I walked into the session I met my mentor, greeted her and joined her on a table. She asked me to grab some food, but I thought that might look weird as I had just walked in and some very reputed professors were talking to us, but a few minutes later I just observed that everyone in the room, all my fellow interns had their plates full and were enjoying the food as the session went on. Believe me when I say I tried numerous times to get up and get some food but only my Indian etiquettes didn’t allow me to gather the courage to do that. After two months, now I know that it was a lunch meet where people are supposed to eat while the lectures are being given. This is how it works in the US. Cool, isn’t it? Food is such a good way to ensure such lectures and sessions have huge audiences, after all who doesn’t want free food that too in a place where a packet of chips can cost you an equivalent of 240INR.

Time passed by, I started working full-fledged, I also had a PhD student supervising me in the absence of my mentor whom I used to call sir in my mails from India but now called him by just his first name. Brilliant people, inspiring places, the latest of latest tech, mouth-watering barbecues and ice cream get together, take a name and CMU has it. You get to see a wealthy nation, and can contrast it with a developing one in every single aspect, whether it’s how people behave, how people dress, how people work, you can see it in everything. I had a bunch of amazing friends, some Chinese, some American. We would all work together, cheer for FIFA teams together, go out to eat together and have fun. Talking about going out, I would like to tell that the 60 conversations while paying the bills was always going on in the back of my mind, only difference is that now I had accepted that fact and started enjoying even though my bank account was in excruciating pain.

It had been one month in the foreign land, and my love for the United States was on its peak. But the second month didn’t go as expected. My love for the US, which was till now an exponential graph with time, was now becoming flat. Why? I am not sure. As I would talk to my PhD mentor/friend and other Chinese and American friends, we would all laugh sometimes on crazy things about our countries, like China trying to abrogate Google and build its own Google like engine, Americans smelling like beer on Friday evenings, and Indians earning from running bullock carts in fields. Whenever someone joked about India it seemed like they were joking about me. Even if those were just jokes, why does India have to be related with bullock carts? Why India is considered a third world’s country and not a developing country?

Soon I realized, however much I like America or the prettiest, most advanced nation of the world, I will always be an Indian and my patriotism is only for India and for no other country on this globe. This is the country that has raised me, these are the people I grew up with, doesn’t matter if they stink sweat, those are my people, and India is my land. Staying in India, one can never realize this feeling, because we are just too busy blaming politicians and their corrupt policies, talking about rapes and scams.

To all my friends who have read so far, I would like to tell that going abroad for an internship is probably the best time of one’s life. You get to learn more than you get to learn in your undergraduate duration, and being impressed with the other nation’s wealth is a natural thing. In fact, there are thousands of things about those countries and its people that we must learn from, but reflect those things in a positive way, not by forgetting your own land. If someone tells you that Indians have poor English, don’t laugh off with them over this misconception, correct them, tell them that Indian kids are always the top most in international Spell Bee competitions, how can they say Indians have poor English. My point is not to show anyone that we are superior to others, because the truth is that we aren’t, but to not let others live with a wrong image of our nation. When you travel outside India, you are not from New Delhi or a village of UP, you are from India, that’s all foreigners understand. Tell them what the real India is and realize it yourself. That’s what this internship did for me. If you get a chance, hope it does the same for you–make you a better self, make you a better Indian.

If Aakanksha’s experience motivates you, you can view the latest international internship.

Editor’s note- Have you got an internship story to share? A chance to win cool Internshala T and other cash prizes by sharing your internship story here.

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4 thoughts on “Summer Internship at Carnegie Mellon University – Aakanksha Mirdha from VIT

  • December 6, 2014 at 11:49 AM

    First of all,ur sense of writing is good.because when ever i read internship stories most of them( international internships) will share their activities, the fun time they had and about professors.But you are the one who portrayed your patriotism on ur country( INDIA).I like ur ideas and beliefs on india.

    Reply
  • January 25, 2015 at 11:21 PM

    Girl when you share your internship story you should tell people how you got the intern. That is the part that concerns everyone not what fun or whatever experience you had there. The way to get through is important rather than what you did there. And seriously Patriotism!!!

    Reply
    • January 27, 2015 at 1:30 PM

      Hi!

      You may want to search the author, Aakanksha on Facebook or LinkedIn and connect to her to know how to get an internship at Carnegie Mellon University.

      Thanks.

      Reply
  • June 17, 2017 at 2:15 PM

    Excellent narrative of first hand experience of internship, quite an interesting summary of life out in the USA. Please keep writing.

    Reply

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