Goalpost Colleges

Getting into the system

Joshua Padeti (Centre)  

I studied mechanical engineering at an engineering college in Hyderabad. I had thoughts of pursuing higher education but was not too sure. Therefore, I embarked on a software career. One month into training, I realised I was in strange waters and the banality of computing tasks choked me. I quit, not knowing what next, but realising what not to do.

Though there was no remuneration, I found a job as research assistant at a university. Six months spent there was not sufficient to churn out a research paper as expected, but I could understand the nuances of research which later helped me develop my capabilities. I applied for a master’s programme in Canada and in the U.S. at select universities which I was convinced was the best. Everyone applying would have good grades, high scores in GRE and TOEFL. But what would make a difference in such a situation was the essay one wrote. I spent lots of time drafting my essay with utmost care. At last my prayers were answered and my perseverance paid. I got admission at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, U.S., and it was far more than what I had expected. The first semester was a rough road. I made the mistake of taking five courses (three is full-time). I did not fare well in one course. A third of it was due to the early morning class hour during which I was barely awake, a third due to the uninteresting topic I had chosen in my eagerness to complete the programme and a third due to my idea of saving finances by course overload. At the end of it I realised that this was a bad strategy.

Taking a cue from this experience, I decided to act wise in the second semester and took up two regular courses and the third was an independent research course. The research I did for my third course would not pay me but I in turn would have to pay the university. This seemed ridiculous to me at first but did me immense good and opened new vistas. My research adviser put me up as part-time research assistant at the Industrial Assessment Center (IAC) of which he was co-director. This allowed me to visit industries in Michigan, participate in energy audits and prepare reports. Now, I was involved in the work that I loved — in Energy and Environment.

The good luck did not end there. The director of the IAC noticed my work and offered me a summer job as research assistant. During my days at Michigan, I have learnt that getting into the system is more important than looking for a great opening.

The university itself has wonderful programmes across all schools. The programme that I opted for is ranked fifth in the world by US News. The city has much to offer with its museums, arboretum, observatory, historical landmarks and not to forget, sports. Go Blue!

The writer is pursuing his master’s in mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Email: padeti@umich.edu

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Printable version | May 19, 2021 5:42:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/education/college-and-university/getting-into-the-system/article5642480.ece

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