Postcard from... Washington Education

A slice of freedom

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Academic life in the U.S. taught Arun to be independent and responsible

I distinctly remember my orientation day, Mr. Cody, the International Advisor said, “America is all about independence and choice”. As I enter the last semester of my Master of Electrical Engineering thesis programme, with a specialisation in power systems at Washington State University (WSU), I realise how much the statement has resonated with me and stayed on, over the course of the last 18 months.

Located in the Pacific Northwest region of the U.S. and set in a small town called Pullman, WSU offered me a wonderful opportunity to experience the American slice of life. The city is sparsely populated with just about 30,000 people.

Far away from the hustle and bustle, there are times in summer on campus when you are the only person in the building. Additionally, since the Indian student population is in the order of few hundreds, it provided me with a truly international experience. I have also tried cuisines from different countries including the Middle East, China, Taiwan and Europe, and have developed a sweet tooth, especially for doughnuts.

Independence and self-reliance

One major difference I perceived in the academic life in the U.S. is that a student is expected to be independent and responsible for their own course work and performance. Research experiences also vary depending on the faculty background and seniority. The courses are outcome-based and in some of them, there is a flexibility of deciding end-goals as well. In general, the programme involves a lot of self-reading and is quite intensive.

Following my sterling academic performance in the first semester, I was advised by my faculty to switch to thesis, though research had not been on my radar during the application process. As a thesis student, I got the opportunity to be a part of the department’s research work and also received a full tuition waiver and a generous monthly stipend.

Intensive

The power systems courses that I am pursuing involve actual case studies including those which the professors have worked on, guest lectures from industry experts, use of actual industrial software and discussion of recent events within the domain. The programme also sponsored my travel and stay expenses for IEEE Power and Energy general meeting and other power-related conferences.

In addition to the coursework, there are a lot of on-campus resources such as free Professional Development Initiative (PDI) events for communication, leadership skills, a robust career services office, numerous student organisations (close to 300) and recreation centre.

Leading up to my application process, I sought advice from the Education USA centre in Chennai. My adviser’s support and feedback on shortlisting universities, writing the statement of purpose (SOP) and the application process at large, was of great help. The U.S. has made me self-reliant, confident, and provided me with an insight into my academic purpose and career goals.

Arun Abhishek Imayakumar is a second year student of MS in Electrical Engineering at Washington State University, Pullman, the U.S.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 10:35:46 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/a-slice-of-freedom/article30541895.ece

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