Kunal Soni (left-seated) interned at International Institute of Advanced Scientific Studies (IIASS), Italy, and shares how he aced his internship in abroad despite a low GPA. Kunal is a Science student at IISc Bangalore. Read his internship story here.
I interned at IIASS, Italy this summer. Now, before I go about describing my internship story, let me just tell you that I am an average student with an average GPA. In fact my GPA was so average (6.4 on 8 is quite average in IISc), I wasn’t even thinking about applying for internships outside India. But then some of my friends got selected for internship in Germany through DAAD. Obviously, their GPA was way more than me. But seeing them get selected for foreign internships just got me motivated to apply. I wasn’t very sure of getting any place good because of my average GPA. But I knew one thing: more the number of places I apply, more are my chances of getting somewhere. I started applying wherever I could, even if I was remotely related to the field I was applying to abroad (I remember applying for a biology internship just because it was open to everyone). My GPA wasn’t very good, but I had quite good relations with big professors. And one of them happily gave me recommendation for every single place I applied.
I had applied to around 7-8 places abroad for the internship with the help of Internshala alone. And I sent requests to around 50 professors of a few universities in Paris for Charpak scholarship, a lot of which agreed as well. I was quite sure of getting the Charpak scholarship but was met with bad news on the day the scholarship results were out. Our University was not that popular among foreign delegates who decide the scholarships, and hence nobody (even people with high GPA) got it. Two months had passed since I started applying, but didn’t get a positive response from anywhere. I had almost given up on going abroad but then, I received the most amazing news of my SELECTION. I had been selected for an internship in IIASS, Italy. This was the last internship I was hoping on receiving as it offered only five scholarships and accepted applications from around the world. It was the most perfect internship I could ask for.
It was a 8 week internship and I received whopping 2000 Euros. The five internship students were given an amazing apartment right in front of the beach. Yes, the institute was right next to the beach. I was given a PI, who, I must admit was quite lousy. He gave me some papers to read in the beginning, and I took all my time for reading them. My PI was a bit busy guy, and couldn’t really respond after the first meeting. He just kept giving me minor stuff to read and work out. Honestly I was a bit pissed off that I went to my PI’s home once and asked for some topic on which I could myself work. He was quite impressed by this and gave me a topic to work on (it was analyzing quantum dynamics of particles in curved surfaces). And then I didn’t contact my PI for weeks. I independently worked on the problem and had fun at the same time. Since it was a theoretical project, I could work when I felt like and enjoy the rest of the time. Because I was paid a good stipend, I went on an entire Italy tour. I traveled to Rome, Venice, Florence, Pisa, Sienna, Amalfi, Pompeii, Naples and a lot of other places. Not many might agree with me but good stipend is very important for the internship, as only because of it I could actually travel so much, have amazing Italian food almost everyday and had an amazing time. Also, since I don’t really accept money from my parents, I had a very satisfying time as I enjoyed on my own scholarship money.
I had successfully completed analyzing the quantum behavior of particles in curved motion (my topic of research). Not just that I took ahead the knowledge I got from work, but I independently analysed particle quantum behavior on a new surface ‘mobeius strip’. I only contacted my PI again when my work was completed. And I still can’t forget the smile on his face when he saw my work. He was so impressed by what I did that he said me he would love to give me a recommendation for PhD wherever I will apply, and would love it if I continued under himself for PhD. Apparently, he hadn’t expected to get that kind of work from me in a time as short as 8 weeks. Eight weeks passed by like wind and it was time to go back. And believe me, it made my eyes wet because I literally felt like home in Italy.
I came back to India and I was an instant star as nobody ever expected me to go abroad for an internship. And now, every other day a guy with average GPA come to me for asking me how to apply abroad. To tell the truth I had better time in those 8 weeks than I have had in 20 years of my life. Even today it brings tears in my eyes when I think of those days by the beach, that Italian hospitality, those great pizzas and wines, those beautiful churches, and all the amazing people I met along. Nothing ever can come close to the experience I had in Italy. At times, I felt it more homely than India.
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