Urba Mandrekar shares her experience at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
I first came to the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago when I was 18 years old — right out of school, bright-eyed and brimming with excitement, ready to get started on achieving my dreams! Up until then, I had lived at home my entire life, where my mom did my laundry and there was always a hot meal waiting for me at the table. So coming to Chicago was my first real attempt at independence.
How’d it go you ask? Well, let me tell you a little about my experience...
I graduated from IIT’s College of Psychology, this May 2012, with a B.Sc in Psychology and minors in Biology and Entrepreneurship. In the past four years at IIT, I have done everything from research to studying abroad, organising cultural nights to participating in scavenger hunts around the city! And yet, I wish I had an additional four years here, so I could do everything else that I missed out on!
In my freshman year, I joined the Indian Students Association, where a group of students got together a few times every month and planned events, so that no one would feel too homesick. I absolutely loved it! Two years later, I was the president of the organisation, and planned events like Dandiya Night, Holi and Ganesh Puja. IIT has roughly 100 student organisations on campus, from religious and ethnic groups, to rock climbing and a capella. So you’re sure to find a group on campus that’ll help you keep your interests alive. And if you don’t, you can go right ahead and create one!
In my junior year, I was selected, along with 10 others, to be a part of the Finance Board, and it is, by far, one of the coolest things I’ve done at IIT. Essentially, we played the role of ‘financial advisors’ to student organisations on campus — helped them put together their budget proposals, and then deliberated on which ones to pass. I mean, where else would I, a 20-year-old student, be given the responsibility to allocate 300,000 USD worth of funds in a semester?
IIT has one of the most diverse and unique student populations. The class sizes are small, which allows for more interaction with the professors and students.
The Inter Professional Projects Programmr encourages collaboration among students from different cultural and educational backgrounds, preparing students for real-world situations. And if you’d like to innovate and get involved in new, exciting projects, the Idea Shop is what you’re looking for. You can either join existing projects or if you’d like, create your own and pitch it to a few faculty members and get a team together! In my final year, I was a part of a group of students who designed a system of refrigerated lockers for food storage!
In addition to the rich cultural and extracurricular experiences, IIT offers some of the best opportunities for education and research. In my sophomore year, I applied to and was awarded the Leadership Academy scholarship, which paid for my academic tuition for the rest of my run at IIT.
Thanks to the scholarship, I was finally able to complete the minors I had been hesitating about, attend summer school in Paris, and partake in leadership and professional opportunities that I didn’t think possible. Thanks to some powerful recommendations, I was also nominated for, and awarded the Lincoln Laureate of Illinois award for best student 2011.
My research experience was definitely the highlight of my academic career at IIT. I had the opportunity to be a Research Assistant at four different psychology labs on campus. My favorite was the Psychopathology lab, under the guidance of Dr. Dror Ben – Zeev, where we studied the use of ESM (Experience Sampling Method) in people with Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective disorders. The lab was hands-on, extremely educational, and instrumental in shaping my own research interests. All in all, I had an extremely rewarding experience at IIT. It’s a unique school, and I really believe that no matter what kind of a college experience you’re looking for, you’re sure to find it at IIT. All of this coupled with the fact that we’re located in the beautiful city of Chicago makes this an irresistible university to attend!