Among the many hurdles for an engineering intern, finding means to fund your stay and travel is a big challenge. While experience gained during an international internship plays a pivotal role in your career, it’s tough to find paid internships that give you the international exposure. Among the few lucky ones, Tushar Borekar, a senior undergraduate in Department of Metallurgy, Indian Institute of Technology (Banaras Hindu University) Varanasi got an opportunity to intern at Brunel University, UK. In an interaction with ‘A Numb Mind’, Tushar reveals his perspective about a foreign internship and its implications on one’s career.
Supervisor: Dr. Paul Sermon
Summer Internship 2017 at Brunel University London, UK
Numb Mind: Hello Tushar! Congratulations on your feat.
Tushar: Thank you!
NM: What was your mailing strategy? How did you land the internship? A lot of students would want to know that.
Tushar: An international internship represents to me an ultimate way of combining learning and travel for personality escalation. So, I started approaching various universities depending on their QS world ranking. I had an interest in material science but as you know, it’s a vast field. So, I narrowed down my areas of research.
I prepared the following documents:
- Cover letter for internship/ E-Mail content
- 2 Recommendation letters (one from my B.Tech Project supervisor and another from the HoD)
- A small powerpoint presentation on my previous research work
I targeted labs in various countries like England, France, Germany and the US. I drafted mails addressed to the professors in my areas of interest and arranged them in the order of their priority. I always believe that ‘It takes the right place, right time and the right opportunity to nail it’. Strategically, I would send e-mails to those professors during their early office hour (say 09:00 AM). It’s highly likely that a professor will open the email in the first hour of the morning. I didn’t send any new mail on Fridays. Fridays were reserved for reminder emails.
Some professors would reject immediately. However, once a professor is ready to have a further discussion, I would propose having a Skype interview to discuss regarding a project he/she is planning or work plan to proceed. Only after the confirmation of the project and professor’s keen interest in hiring me as an intern, I would discuss regarding the remuneration/ stipend.
Relevant: 5 Benefits of a Foreign Internship
NM: So, did you have a Skype interview for your selection for the summer internship position? What were the questions asked? This would help others to face internship interviews in the future.
Tushar: For my internship at Brunel, I was not interviewed as my project matched their requirement. However, I had another internship offer from Pierre and Marie Curie University (UPMC), Paris. The project there was different than my current projects. So it was decided to take an interview on Skype with all the project associates.
The initial few minutes were difficult as the French accent is a bit strange but soon I got familiar and started to answer the technical questions. Few questions were out of my domain as they had never been taught to me in the class. Hence, I proposed them to share the project topic which they were planning for the internship so that I can understand the topic and its application.
Towards the end of the interview, they allowed me to ask some questions. I asked them the following questions:
- application of project
- their expectations form an intern
- stipend and accommodation
NM: But why did you reject the internship at UPMC? UPMC is one of the best universities in France.
Tushar: The lab at UPMC agreed to support my stay. Meanwhile, my mentor from London proposed a project with a proper work plan. The project at Brunel sounded more promising to me than the other one. Further, it was closely related to my area of interest. So I ended up choosing Brunel.
NM: London is one of the costliest city in the world. How did you manage your expenses? Any tip for students undergoing internship in London to help them save.
Tushar: In my case, the professor promised me a stipend of £25/day and an arrangement of campus accommodation. This support from him relieved me of any kind of trouble in finding accommodation in an unknown city. Thus, I suggest all the candidates seeking foreign internship should persuade their mentor to at least arrange the campus accommodation because it is usually costly outside or even if you find an accommodation outside, it will cost you time and money to travel to your lab.
NM: What was your project on? How many students were there in your group? Was it a sponsored project?
Tushar: My project during the internship was on SiO2 NanoFluids and its characterization. This project aimed to use the nanofluid for heat conduction in different heat transfer equipment. I was working solely on the project but there was a marked difference in the work culture. My professor and his postdoc scholar helped me a lot in the experiments and gave proper guidance to accomplish the project. It was quite result driven. The data generated by me was to be compiled to be used in further research.
NM: Enough of technical stuff. Now coming to the fun part of an internship. London is a beautiful city. What was your most memorable experience of the UK?
Tushar: During my stay, I explored the city on weekends. The most memorable experience is actually difficult to express, as every trip was a new adventurous episode for me. But coiling it down to one incident, I can remember of the 5km long walk by the river Thames which revitalized my soul through various street performances and mesmerizing infrastructure. It inspired my thoughts and enthralled me with good photogenic views. One of my relatives truly said that to extract most from the city, start walking into it and you will be delighted by its grandeur.
NM: What documents were needed for the Visa process? Was it very complicated?
Tushar: I found UK VISA a lengthy process than a Schengen VISA. So, it is better if you apply at least before one month. In my case, I got an appointment in mid-May. Aas a result, my joining dates were delayed and I had to reschedule my flight twice.
You are supposed to fill the application form after registration on UK immigration site. If you are planning for 6 months or less research in the UK, your VISA category falls into ‘Short Term Study Visa’. (Please look for exact details on VFS global site. Once you are done with application form try to fix an appointment in VFS global as early as possible and download the checklist of required documents. I have listed some documents which could be helpful in avoiding query generation:
- Acceptance letter from UK University.
- Accommodation confirmation
- Stipend confirmation (Better if it is already mentioned in the acceptance letter)
- Letter of travel plan on your letterhead.
- Bank account statement of guardians/ parent. (more than 1 lakh is desirable)
- Letter of declaration from the parent on letterhead. (mentioning that they are in the position to handle the expenses in case of any medical emergency)
- NoC from college on college letterhead. (stating no objection for your internship in the specified period)
For VISA appointment see that if on the spot entry is available at centers with a nominal fee of ~2000/- rupees. This may fasten your visa process. You don’t need to book your flight tickets until you get VISA approved. You can hold the ticket and attach its copy to the application. If I miss out any other document, please see the checklist from VFS global website.
Numb Tip:There are two types of UK Visas for pursuing an internship in the UK:
- Short-Term Student Visa: If your internship is less than 6 months duration and it’s a part of your curriculum, then you are eligible for ‘Short-Term Student Visa‘. In the case of Tushar, the research internship was a part of the curriculum and Indian Institute of Technology Varanasi awards credit for successful completion of a summer internship.
- Tier 5 Visa: If you are keen to pursue an internship for your professional development, you can apply for a Tier 5 Visa. However, you should have a ‘certified contract‘ and a ‘certificate of sponsorship‘ from your employer in the UK. The maximum period of internship can be 2 years.
NM: What was your reaction when you came to know about your selection?
Tushar: I received my official acceptance during the end semester examination in April. I was excited for spending my summer in London for 2 months. Friends and family members were very happy to see me attaining this success after lots of dedicated effort.
NM: Any other tips for students who look up to an international internship.
Tushar: Once you are in a foreign land, remember that you represent India as a whole. Act responsively so that you never defame your country and institute. Don’t start discussing financial assistance as soon as you get a positive reply from a professor. Have patience and wait for the right time. Make the most of your time in while exploring and enjoy to your fullest.
NM: Thanks Tushar! Good luck in your future endeavors.
An international internship opens new avenues for you. However, it takes some real grit to find paid internships. Perseverance is the key as it can be demystified from Tushar’s internship experience. Stay tuned for more internship experiences. Meanwhile, you can comment below about anything specific you want to know and you can connect with Tushar with specific doubts regarding an international internship in the UK.