Abhijay (left) was at faraway seas from home but still his grassroots lived in India. He worked and researched on robotics and also got a chance to present his paper in a conference. He interacted with everyone at the university and learned to lead a balanced life. Apart from the difficulties that he faced initially, he was a quick learner and his eagerness to learn and explore paved his road of success.
“Our flight will be shortly landing at Melbourne International Airport. The temperature outside is 8 degrees. We wish you a pleasant stay in Melbourne and hope you choose to fly with us again ” These were the words of the flight captain, during the early hours of 30th May, that further fuelled my excitement, and I already was having an adrenaline rush.
Before I go ahead with my story, let me introduce myself and give you the backdrop of the events that led to all of this. I am Abhijay Vuyyuru from IIIT-B and am currently in my 4th year of my Integrated Masters programme in Information Technology.
Now, at the end of my 3rd year, the college requires us to do a 3-month mandatory internship, either at a university or at a company. I decided I would like to do a research project at a university abroad, and so the hunt for colleges began. I was willing to take up what came my way. I left no stone unturned. In fact, I even lost the count of universities I had submitted my application too, but I definitely remember one thing. I was rejected by all. One month of search had failed and this had hit me hard. It was the end of April, with the internship drive coming to an end, and all my friends having an internship or a research project. I decided to apply for the last set of companies that were coming to the college, cause now the business was getting too risky. However, one day prior to the arrival of these companies, another internship opportunity at Australia-India Research Centre for Automation Software Engineering (AICAUSE), RMIT University opened up. Facing so many rejections, I definitely had the courage to face another. I decided to give it a shot. And yes, I got the internship.
Running short of time, next step was taking the IELTS examination and applying for the VISA, the latter probably more difficult than getting the internship offer letter. By God’s grace, all these proved to be no hurdles, and I took the flight on 29th May to the world’s most liveable city, with ambitions in mind and responsibilities on my shoulders.
Continuing the story I left, clothed in approximately four layers, I proceeded to exit the airport. I figured out the bus I had to take, and proud of this small feat I hopped on, only to have my first dose of surprise. The bus had no conductors! Yes, to travel in any form of public transport, you needed to have a travel card called ‘MyKi’ card, and tap on the devices installed in these transport services. No wastage of paper or hassles for finding change, convenient isn’t it? After getting off the bus, I decided to walk down to my accommodation. The second surprise came up when I was looking for a sip of water and found out that you can safely drink Melbourne tap water – it is one of the purest supplies in the world! The downpour had begun and continuing my walk, I had some trouble finding the exact address and approached a lady for directions. She was kind enough not only to explain me the directions, but switch on the GPS in her phone to explain the landmarks nearby, all amidst the heavy rains, till I was convinced I could help myself. This was the first impression I formed about Melbournians – they are really helpful people, and in fact, they will even go out of their way to assist you.
The next day I had an introduction session, where I met the other interns and my mentors. We went for a team lunch at a resto-bar, sponsored by my mentor. Although I was being given a decent pay to cover all my expenses including travel, I scanned the cost of items I liked on the menu, multiplying it by 50 to estimate the impact of staying in Melbourne for eight weeks would have on my bank balance. The estimate was huge but worth it. How often does your Professor buy you chicken wings, and discuss topics ranging from safety-critical systems deployed in aeroplanes to why does a Porsche 918 Spyder take 2.9 seconds to go from 0-100 kph?
After team lunch, my mentor gave me a broad idea about the project. I was working on a project to develop next-generation applications in cloud support for industrial automation engineering and personal safety monitoring in the newly established RMIT Virtual Experiences Laboratory (VXLab). To be honest, the field of robotics was relatively new to me, and I was dealing with technologies on which I had not worked before. I had eight weeks to deliver a project, something which would be of use to the lab. Apart from the state-of-the-art facilities, unconditional support and guidance from my mentors coupled with advice from other Ph.D. students and fellow interns made this project happen.
Days passed and I grew accustomed to the Melbourne life – a fusion of cultures, great places to pamper your taste buds, best nightlife and to top it all, Melbourne being a safe city – we used to walk back home at 2 AM. I could rant on and on about watching Real Madrid in action at MCG at Phillip Island or driving by the Apostles on the Great Ocean Road or other adventures I had during my stay. But I think, what changed me as a person, what made me realise what I am, was the Melbourne experience as a whole. For instance, simple tasks like cooking your own breakfast or shopping for groceries teach you life-essential skills which are probably more important or at least equally important than your technical skills.
The fact that you are in a different country, thousands of kilometres away from your home, you learn to manage yourself, and that is when you realise you have evolved as a person. For instance, the conversations I had with the guy who used to play the guitar for a living outside the State library or my interaction with my housemates who were from Singapore, Chile, Los Angeles, Netherlands. The diversity of views and ideas and engaging discussions mould your opinion and provide you with fresh perspectives which, possibly, you wouldn’t have got elsewhere. Without slightest of hesitation, I could say Melbourne experience was the best time of my life.
On an academic front, the internship was an enriching experience for me. I developed the “telerobotic cloud”, a cloud-based robot vision and coordination system enabling a remote user in directing a robot to locate, pick up and move objects, using hand gestures. My system was prototyped and deployed in the VXLab’s Advanced Manufacturing Robotic Interoperation Test Lab on robots supplied by AICAUSE partner ABB. In addition to the press release of my project, I also got the chance to submit my research paper at an international IEEE conference.
However, there were times when I heard comparisons between the two countries: For example, why can’t people in India follow rules and keep their country clean? Or why do they need to honk their vehicle horns so often? It was really upsetting sometimes when Melbournians told me that they were scared to visit India because women felt unsafe there. Why were they so surprised if they heard an Indian speak fluent English? I am not saying that India is “better”, or Melbourne is, but when Aussies hear my country’s name I do not want them to form a misconstrued image. There is much to learn from the Australian culture, just as it is to learn from the Indian and one must not forget what their homeland has given them.
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