Summer Internship at an ABET accredited university in the Middle East – Areeba Kamal from Alig, U.P.

Areeba Kamal interned at an ABET accredited university (Middle East) this summer, and discusses about her new found love in Computer Science which was missing until completion of her third year. Areeba is a student of Computer Science and Engineering in Aligarh (Uttar Pradesh). Read on and explore how this internship brought about a big change in her life.

Today one of my classmates slit her hand and we only noticed the blood when she fainted. She is one bright young lady, a great programmer and definitely someone who would make remarkable progress in the research world. What leads us to feel so low that we are willing to hurt ourselves over it? Each one of us has our own battle. Each one of us here is trying to live up to his or her dreams, trying to be successful in this crazy competitive environment. Today, I am one step closer to the place of being content than I was when I first entered into this crazy academic world. However, the light at the end of the tunnel was not always visible. It was not until this summer of internship that things took a turn and shed a leaf for the better. So let me rewind back a little bit and tell you about my mindset, thoughts, and experiences that have shaped me to the person I am today.

Having travelled a few countries and knowing people from literally all over the world, I can say that Indians are the most driven people I have ever met. Almost every Indian kid wants to become an engineer or doctor. There is no other option. If you did not manage to get accepted for those programmes, you have simply FAILED. That is what our society has ingrained into the minds of millions of Indian kids. After you have done your Bachelors of Engineering or MBBS, you then have to worry about Masters and MD. And this is the point I, as well as my classmates and friends are reaching.

After my first year, I had decided engineering is not for me; it is simply not my cup of tea. It is not that I am slow or intellectually challenged; it is due to the sudden change in the education system. Since Grade 1 to Grade 12, I studied in an American school in the Middle-east. For starters, it is quite different from the Indian education system. Here, you are fed an insane amount of information and are expected to regurgitate that information on your answer sheet during the 3 hour exam that happens once a semester which constitutes the largest portion of your overall grade. I was used to the American system where you are taught enough information but you learn it in such a way as to master that knowledge via applications in interactive discussions, critical thinking assignments, and analytical projects—none of which we got here.

There were times I felt so down because of my grades I was getting in college. From being a student who was on High Honor Roll throughout my four years of high school to quite literally failing courses at university. Fortunately for me, due to my supportive parents, I never reached the point where I felt the need to slit my wrists. Nevertheless, it has had a profound effect on my confidence, self-esteem, and belief in me. I pretty much had given up on myself.

Due to the persuasion of close friends and family, I nonetheless continued onto my second year. The car kept moving at the speed of a snail for the past three years and now I have reached my senior year. I can finally see the light at the end of this long tunnel. However, that ray of hope was not even visible until this summer of 2014. It was a turning point I was not even expecting.

Before third year ended, everyone was talking about placements next year, GRE/GATE/CAT/GMAT exams, and the importance of internship. It gave me great stress when people were discussing these things because I was merely hoping to pass all my exams and barely maintaining that First Class status. I went to visit my parents in the Middle East, and mom asked her cousin who teaches at university there to let me intern under her. I was quite hesitant and I had told my mom that it’s not good idea. The lady had agreed and I was merely hoping she would help me out with my senior year project.

After landing and reaching home, the very next day my mom dialed her number and was speaking to her while I was sitting close by. As she began to talk about me, I made a face displaying my lack of interest in going to her department. Before I knew it, she said, “here, why don’t you talk to her yourself, she’s right here”. I just froze; I was whispering “NO NO NO!” But my mom is no less insistent. So finally I took the phone and said, “hello”.

The first day I spoke to her was over the phone and she asked me where my interest lies. And I was a bit struck because honest to God, it was nowhere. My interest quite frankly lied in just finishing engineering and moving on to bigger and better things like management. For apparent reasons, I could not say that to her. So I said Data structures and Database Systems. From then onwards, she told me a lot about databases and she made me meet the database administrator for the college. I would sit with her unwillingly daily and watch her type commands. The more I watched her, the more evident it became to me that this definitely was not where I want to be.

A week later, I said to the teacher that I no longer wanted to go to the Database admin. She probably spoke to her about it because the next time she sent me to her, the lady started explaining everything she was doing. I suppose earlier she thought I must know everything as I’ll be entering my final year of computer engineering. It was due to her explanation that I began developing an interest in that area. I would go home and research more about things. I began wishing that I had brought my textbooks on the subject here so this time around I can read it to gain knowledge as opposed to just attempting to memorize so I can write it on my answer copy.

On my last day, I gained the courage and thought it was appropriate to ask her how much do you make per month. Her answer pleasantly surprised and motivated me. From her what I learned is that you don’t need to know everything, you just need to pick one area that seems most interesting to you and just work crazy at it. You need to MASTER that one area.

It’s okay that you get C’s and D’s and its ok that you pass with low marks even in that particular subject. It’s okay to worry about your future, but it not ok to kill yourself over it. What matters is that YOU have gained something from the experience and that you CONTINUE working hard even after the test is over. Just never turn down or miss the opportunity to gain knowledge, to learn. When I look back, had I not held the phone my mom was passing to me, I may have missed the opportunity to see the brighter side of the course I will have spent four years studying. We all have dreams and it’s a rollercoaster ride much of the time.

I am in my final year of engineering school (thank the dear Lord!) and looking forward to learning more and more, making my parents proud and hopefully influencing many lives along the way for the better. As clichéd as it sounds, it doesn’t matter how many times you fall, what matters is how many times you got back up. Because the truth is, “A river cuts through rock, not because of its power, but because of its persistence.”

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