Internship Hunt

Among engineering college students there is always a fuss about third year internships. Everyone wants to get a lucrative offer and good place to work during summer. I also had high expectations in fifth semester during my third year. In IITK, the internship process starts in early August when the companies come and take various rounds like GDs, written tests, interviews, essays, etc to shortlist the students. Initially [till Sept. 2013] I couldn’t make it to any of the reputed companies like DB, ITC, etc. After which, I decided I would go for academic internships.

I already did a research project during summer 2013 in IITK under a EE professor, which helped to prepare my application and molded my interest. There had been a lot of sessions by our seniors about how to apply for university internships. Here, I would explain the options that are available to avail university internships.

  1. Internship program – One can check for university website for International scholars program and apply in it. Most of the good universities have internship programs for foreign students. One can google something like “CMU summer internship”, “IITK summer program”, etc. (Keywords: “college name”,”summer”,”internship”, “fellowship”, “research”) So you can prepare your application according to instructions on the website and wait for the results. The general requirement is good GPA, previous project and research experience, good recommendation and personal essay. Each program has their own criteria of selection, so go through every aspect to make your application strong.
  2. Contacting Professors personally – One can directly contact professor of your interest and ask if there is any position for internship student. This is very cumbersome task. As per my understanding one needs to follow these instructions to increase her/his probability of selection.
    1. Write down all of your previous projects, research experience and interest, that you have done in undergrad. This should be extensive.
    2. Filter down your interest to few topics in which you would like to pursue research.
    3. Make a good academic resume.
    4. Look for professors across the world who are working in your field on interest. Suppose you want to on image processing, then google something like “image processing XYZ university computer science department”. Other way is to read recent research papers on that topic and contacting the authors. So after few iterations, it will give the list professors who are working in that specific area. Scroll through the profile/webpage of each professor and spend at least 30 minutes/1 hour to understand what he/she is currently working on. This can be done through reading his/her recent paper, looking onto the webpage thoroughly, may be talking to current graduate students, etc. This will give you the insight of the group. Once you investigate few papers, that will definitely create curiosity (or a new idea itself!) in your mind.
    5. After this background research, you can email the professor (prefer to email from your college email ID not gmail, yahoo, etc).
    6. There is no fixed email format but please do follow all the etiquette and be precise in your words. In my case I used to first introduce myself and my purpose of sending the email. From the background study that you have done before, try to explain your interest and how did you develop it. Why are you emailing that particular professor only (here you can cite his papers and elaborate upon the results which fascinated you and which topic would you like to explore more) and talk about the current research. Then you can write about your previous experience and it would be wonderful if you have your own idea for the project. If that is the case then, attach total description of the proposal in a separate PDF file. This increases your chances manifolds. Also attach a copy of your resume. 
    7. As professors might be busy, so you should wait at least a week for the reply. If you still don’t get the response, you might want to send a gentle reminder. If there is still no response then you can assume the professor is not interested and don’t send any further emails. Many times it happens that a professor is willing to take you as intern but there is no funding to support you, then you have to arrange funding on your own (you can mention it in your email if you are self sufficent).
    8. Please don’t spam the inbox of professors, as it deteriorates the college’s reputation and it is timewaste for both. Write to each professors personally and spend time on your email. This might be time taking, but fruitful. Most of the professor would reply if you have written the email genuinely.
  3. Contacting companies: You can directly contact the companies where you would like to intern and follow the HR instruction afterwards. This process might be time taking due to delayed response of the company but it could be escalated if any employee from the company could assist you. It is recommended that individual connection is brought to notice of SPO so that they can streamline the process. Prefer not to contact the companies who are already being invited by your placement team.

I got offer through amalgam of first and second mode to HKUST [program link].

Other useful resources:

[1] – Quora link for Internships

[2] – Quora link for cover letters


Duke – IIT Kanpur Internship

A lot of juniors have asked me about the internship process for Duke University. So here I would explain my case and experience.

In the early January [1st January] an email was sent to all EEUG [electrical engineering undergraduate] students to apply for the internship program at Duke. We had to send two documents to a mentioned an email address provided in the email itself. The list of professors was also given who were interested in taking the students along with description of their project. It required two documents.

  1. CV
  2. Personal statement

So I wrote resume which was inclined towards academics including course project and internships. For the personal statement, only one professor was working the my area of interest/work so I wrote the essay focusing on his area of work. In the statement I wrote about my previous work related to his project in detail along with my future plans.

After a month [20 February], I received a direct internship offer letter from Duke internship coordinator. She asked me to confirm the offer along with some other formalities for acceptance. In a week they started the visa process. Subsequently  I received another email where they created my account in Duke visa services where I had to fill in all my personal details. It is a very long and multi-page form so fill it patiently and accurately because they would be using these details to prepare visa documents [ds2019] for you.

After extracting all the details from me, I guess the university applied for my J1 visa status. It took about one month to get my visa document prepared i.e. ds2019. They sent ds2019 to me via post and I received it by March end. I also received email about insurance policy. Duke had a tie up with Garnett Powers and Associate for Intern students. It gave us option to either take their policy (costing $724 for three months) or find any policy which fulfills their insurance criteria (a criterion list was given). After inquiring here and there, I couldn’t find any policy which met their terms so I went for the GPA insurance plan and paid $724.

After ds2019 in hand, I applied for US visa in Delhi office. During my time we had to pay a visa fee, sevis fee and schedule an appointment for the same. The visa appointment is a two consecutive day process.

After scheduling the interview, the website would create a list of documents and procedure. In the interview you one just have to take the documents they have asked for in document. It clearly mentions all the steps one needs to follow to get the visa. My interview was scheduled on 14th and 15th April. On day 1, they verified my documents and took essentials things like photographs, thumbprints, etc. On the day 2, there is one to one interaction with an american visa officer. The visa officer asks for purpose of your visit [IMP], who is sponsoring your visit [IMP], where you would live [IMP], details of project, etc . He is practically in-command of issuing visa to you, so treat this personal interaction seriously. Like in my case, the research project was on transistor fabrication so it didn’t matter much and interview was friendly but I have heard cases when a project is based on some security issues like atomic energy, any other sensitive topics which raises eyebrows and they tend to investigate more about it. So try to explain your case truthfully & clearly and make it sound like a academic project (which is indeed your purpose). If the visa officer finds anything suspicious then he may put your visa on hold and ask for more document from you to clarify your project/things which the officer finds suspicious. After visa being issued, one can collect it from the office. I got my visa issued after two days itself i.e. on 17 April 2015

After a week [21 April], we got an email from Duke internship coordinator asking about my flight preferences which I confirmed instantly. So my flight tickets were ready by 27th April. Now I just had to wait for departure on 24th May.

These are the few things that I would suggest you to keep ready before you travel.

  1. Ready to eat packed foods [MTR, haldiram, etc]- Take about at least 20-30 packets of these as it is cheaper here.
  2. Daily use things like soap, shampoo, medicines, etc.
  3. A foreign travel card, $500 cash, etc.

There is generally a lot of email exchange before day of journey, where they would make you aware of all the planning like details of your stay, campus map, etc. I had flight from Delhi to Newark and then Newark  to Raleigh-Durham Airport. The coordinator had already booked a cab to receive us at RDU airport and take us to our campus apartments.

The housing [at central campus apartment CCX] was provided by the university itself. It was more like two bedroom flat as per Indian standards and it was well furnished. They also provided a whole set of utensils and dining dishes. So if one knows how to cook, they he/she can buy raw materials to cook food everyday. The CCX is well located with all the facilities nearby like washing machines, bus stop, grocery shop, etc.