Vikas Mittal, who interned at New Jersey Institute of Technology this summer, shares his cognitive experience contrasting the learning culture in US as from ours. Vikas is a final year Electronics & Communication Engineering student at BRCM-CET, BAHAL. Read on to explore his experience.
Patience is the key to success”. This is what my “Summer Research Program” or ‘internship’ taught me. Our institution (BRCM-CET, Bahal) selected 2 students for internship for 6 weeks at NJIT, Newark starting from 20th June, 2014. I was among the lucky ones. The institution, NJIT has been recognized nationally for providing graduates with a high rate of return on their investment. The survey of U.S. colleges ranked NJIT in the top 10 percent nationally for return on investment and classified the university as one of four best buys in New Jersey higher education. The trip advisor took our interview and cleared our doubts regarding the internship, stipend, lodging and food arrangements etc. Both of us were asked to give the project topics and the professor’s name according to the field of our interest. I selected the Design and Fabrication of BioMEMS as the title of my project. Later on my prof. told me that I had to work on ‘Design and Fabrication of a Variable-Pressure-Sensing Microfluidic Valve’.
Immediately after our 6th semester exams we had to join on 23rd June, 2014. It was a very long journey because first we went to New Delhi, then to Hong Kong and then finally to Newark. We reached Newark on 22nd June 2014, one day before the beginning of our internship. The director of our program came at the Newark airport and he took us to the Laurel Hall where our accommodation facilities were made. Both of us were assigned a single room which was large and comfortable with a cupboard, a table and a chair. I liked the dorm very much and had a quiet and peaceful first night. The next day we were introduced by two senior students and they told us all about the campus and its surrounding areas. We were given a tour of the organization’s main campus and then we all went to New York City at Time Square, a dream place to visit.
Now, finally the most important day of my life comes when I have to meet my Prof. and have to start working on my project under his guidance. After giving a small introduction to my Prof, the straight question from him was, “Show me the design of the microfluidic valve and describe the process flow”. I can’t forget that moment throughout my life because I didn’t expect this question on the very first day and I was not knowing anything about the microfluidic valve. But my Prof expected me to know everything about the project. On the next day I told my Prof that I am new to this field and I had to work with him to get to know about the basics of this project.
In the starting (first week), my situation was very bad because my Prof was very strict and he seemed like a very conservative person, he didn’t even give any hint of the problem. Generally he would assign me with problems which have no specified solution either on the web or in the books. He always expected each and everything from design to whole fabrication process from my side which was not easy for me. The designing of valve was not related to my field, which was a very big problem for me. I tried each and every method to get the answers of the problems given to me. After facing all this, one thing that became very clear was that there is no space of any type of ‘Jugaad’ in this country.
Sometimes, due to some confusion my Prof got irritated from me and used to say go away from here, I don’t want to tell you anything. That moment I used to feel very helpless but I didn’t lose my patience and kept working on. I used to work the whole day and night continuously, even then my Prof didn’t get satisfy from my answers. After one week, I started making 5-6 answers of each single problem and started to argue with my Prof regarding the validity of my answers provided, and in that argument my Prof would unknowingly start giving the hint of that problem to me. And now it became easy for me to solve that problem. Finally, after lots of efforts the design of my valve was complete in first two weeks. Than according to our schedule I presented a PowerPoint presentation to our program director and he was amazed after watching the design and function of the valve.
My main interest was in the field of fabrication which is related to my course. So, now I had to again apply my knowledge and skills to fabricate a reliable valve with minimum error and maximum efficiency. To enter in the Fabrication Lab, I had to pass a safety test first. I scored well in that test and now it was the right time when I can enter and can explore my dream lab. The fabrication part was very interesting and I enjoyed each and every moment in my lab. By this time, my Prof was also happy with my work because I started performing well and learning rapidly. You can say that I got some relief in the 3rd week from all the tensions of my project. It took two weeks for fabricating the valve.
Now, we are asked to make the posters for our final presentation which held on 31st July 2014. It took complete 1 week to design the poster and we finally presented it on ‘Seventh International Summer Research Symposium, 2014’. It was a completely new experience and I enjoyed it a lot. Most of the people liked my project and appreciated my work. That day was very lucky for me because the abstract of my project is made available online and now is considered as an online publication at NJIT web portal. Our internship ended on 1st August 2014 after we both had submitted our respective reports of the study to the Program Director and left for India on the 4th August 2014. I bought a lot of things for all my near and dear ones. I had to get a gift for my elder brother as his warning of ‘if you want to stay alive’.
The internship at NJIT, Newark was a great learning opportunity for me as I got to understand the huge difference between the teaching methods in US and India. The work conditions were nice, there was freedom, but calls from home made me a bit emotional. The food there is not meant for vegans which made it a tough job for me to survive there. The best part of the entire internship were the weekends. We had Friday, Saturday and Sunday off every week, so in the meanwhile, I went to New York, Staten Island, Corny Island, and Jersey City with my friends and really had the time of my life. We also went to Niagara Falls and Washington DC. The climate was moderate and was far better than the summers of India (especially New Delhi). All in all, the interesting work, friendly people, and fabulous sights made for me quite an unforgettable experience. Having received a chance to, I look forward, returning to the place next summer impatiently.
I sincerely thank NJIT and BRCM for giving me this opportunity and helping me to decide the course of my life. Thanks a lot to Internshala for allowing me to tell this story to the world. US is a great place to be in and to learn your trade, and if you get a chance to visit US, then please don’t miss it.
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