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APPLYING FOR FOREIGN

INTERNSHIPS

Soovadeep Bakshi and Pratyush Nalla


Essential Information
How to start?
You want to start by identifying you area of interest. You might be a mechanical engineering
student, but this does not mean that you have to restrict yourself to its dominion.

Once identified, you can scour the web for universities which are listed as leaders in your area of
interest. QS World Rankings, Times Higher Education World University Rankings and Webometrics
are some of the few places you can look up. A note of caution here though: properly study the
methodology used by such institutions before blindly taking the leap of faith. A case in point would
be the entire European fraternity. Many European universities do not feature in the top hundred list
in the world, but can easily match, or even better their American counterparts in some areas of
research.

Start looking up the universities that interest you. Visit department/research area and faculty
homepages. Visit research institute pages and definitely don't forget to check out the summer
projects, summer program and related links which you might be eligible for. Once the universities
have been decide, shortlist faculty whose work interests you. Read up on the group, what sort of
work they do, their recent publications. Look for people who generally have students from IITs as
part of their research group.

A second important point is having some background in the subject or field you are interested in.
Although not a necessary criterion, it certainly puts you in a position of advantage. A project under a
professor in the institute can not only give you incredible insight into the field, a recommendation or
word of appreciation from a professor will certainly provide a major boost to your chances.

Thirdly, create a home page of your own, or a link to your CV. IIT Bombays academic team has now
come up with their indigenous homepage generator, which can be very useful here.

In general, talk with people who already have experience in this field to get a better insight into
matters.

When to start?
The timeframe for applying to foreign universities is pretty spread out. One can secure a foreign
internship even in mid-April, after which visas become difficult to procure.

The best time for sending out your applications would be after September. The month of December
should be utilized to the fullest extent possible, with a lot of time available during the vacations.

How to write the ideal Cover Letter?


The cover letter forms an important part of the entire application procedure, something which can
make or break your opportunity. Hence, it is vital that one has knowledge about the nuances
involved while writing the same.

Some pointers for the same are as follows:

1. Show genuine interest in the Professor's work. Go to his website, read his recently published
research papers. Find some which are related to your field of interest. It is best to have some
ideas of your own about how you could extend that work (by looking at his future work section
of his papers) and matching it to your previous experience. This connect is very important, and
shows the professor that you are serious. However, write about Professors research work only
if you have read about it thoroughly.
This is where a project in the same area of interest might come in handy. Add your project
details, and how it is relevant to the professors field of interest. Also mention relevant courses
or software skills if they are extremely relevant, but be prepared, you might be interviewed on
Skype regarding your projects and software skills.
2. Mention your CPI if you have a good Department Rank. Add impressive scholastic
achievements. Otherwise, you might have to rely on your projects only. PoRs, obviously, dont
work.
3. Dont add your CV as an attachment, create a home page on the IITB server as mentioned
earlier. This is because most email accounts you will be sending mails to will reject mails which
have attachments in them. Append inline in the cover letter the most important points in your
rsum, and do mention any reputed universities/companies you might have interned with.
4. There is no need to mention the need for funding in the initial mail itself. It can be reserved for
once a positive reply is received.
5. The subject of the mail has to be thought out very carefully, since many professors have filters
on keywords.
6. Lastly, DO NOT SPAM. IITs are notorious for spamming foreign university professors. Take care
not to mail professors from the same department in an institute, since this could harm your
reputation.

Points to note
Some other points to note are as follows:

1. Apply for a passport as soon as possible if you dont have one. It takes a lot of time and involves
a lot of red tape and bureaucratic malingering.
2. Be sensible about the time that you send emails - both in terms of time of the year and time of
day. Emails sent on Fridays will be forgotten by Monday morning. You want to be the first to get
noticed so think time-zone wise. Generally September to March is the time when offers are
open.
3. Your best resources are those who have done this before you and those you can speak with
face to face. Speak with final year students, who're heading for higher studies often.
4. It would be a good idea to register with the PT cell for information about internship offers
under their purview. Do not apply separately to such institutes, since it can harm both your and
IIT Bombays reputation.

Resources
Below is a list of students of the Mechanical Engineering Department who did a research internship
in Summer 2013 at a foreign university not under the purview of PT cell. You may contact any of
these students through social networking media and get to know about their experience or clear
your doubts.
NAME BATCH UNIVERSITY COUNTRY
th
Akshit Markan 4 Year (DD TFE) Karlsruhe Institute of Germany
Technology
Amitosh Dash 4th Year (B.Tech) Karlsruhe Institute of Germany
Technology
Bharat Monga 4th Year (B.Tech) Karlsruhe Institute of Germany
Technology
Piyush Agarwal 4th Year (B.Tech) Imperial College of UK
London
Sanditi Khandelwal 4th Year (B.Tech) Imperial College of UK
London
Harshit Mallick 4th Year (B.Tech) University of Germany
Paderborn
Aatish Goyal 3rd Year (B.Tech) Leibniz University Germany
Ananya 3rd Year (B.Tech) Juelich Germany
Forschungszentrum
Chinmay Kulkarni 3rd Year (B.Tech) Virginia Tech USA
Krishna Agarwal 3rd Year (DD) Karlsruhe Institute of Germany
Technology
Matcha Deepak 3rd Year (B.Tech) Max Planck Institute Germany
Nikhil Gupta 3rd Year (B.Tech) University of Alberta Canada
Sachin Kumar 3rd Year (DD) Warsaw University of Poland
Technology

Senior Speak
Nikhil Gupta, Third Year Undergraduate Student, Mechanical Engineering
University of Alberta, Canada

Q1) How and when to start?

Make a list of Professors from different countries. I googled for lists of universities (usually found in
Wikipedia) and visited each individual universitys website. However, it would be advisable to
directly visit the faculty or mechanical department webpage, or if possible, the webpage of the
research group you are interested in. It will save you a lot of time.

There is no time restriction for apping. You can get university interns till mid-April, so its never too
late to start.

I personally sent about 50 mails and had two offers, one from Alberta, and the other from the
University of Southampton. I selected Alberta because I had more accompanying students from IIT
Bombay going there.

The first step is to complete a project under a professor in the institute. However, projects should be
taken up according to interest only, because if you mention these projects on you cover letter, an
interested professor might ask for Skype interviews as well. Know the objective of your project
properly. Approach seniors if you have doubts regarding which professor to approach in the institute
according to your field of interest.
Q2) Cover Letter Dos and Donts

Mention your CPI if you have a good Department Rank. Add impressive scholastic achievements.
Otherwise, you might have to rely on your projects only. PoRs, obviously, dont work. Write about
Professors research work only if you have read about it thoroughly. Dont add CV as an attachment,
create a home page on the IITB server. Add your project details, and how it is relevant to the
professors field of interest. Also mention relevant courses or software skills, but be prepared, you
might be questioned on them.

Contact seniors who have already completed foreign internships for more details.

Chinmay Kulkarni, Third Year Undergraduate Student, Mechanical Engineering


Virginia Tech, USA

Q1) How and when to start?

First, I made an excel sheet of professors. Then, I chose universities from the top universities list
from Google. Keeping in mind my interests. What happens is, outside India, all the universities have
research groups under the department working on specific subjects. So, I made excel sheet of all
such groups I was interested in. I mailed a total of about 100 professors. Received ~20 neutral replies
(no guarantee of any funds) and 2 positive ones, one from Canada and another from the USA. I
chose the one from USA because the work in both the places was similar but the university from the
USA was much better ranked.

Q2) Could you provide more insight into funding for such internships?

Initially, the professor agreed to pay me 2000$, which would have barely covered my expenses, but
he ended up paying 3500$. Most professors are very liberal about financial situation. If they are
satisfied with the work, they will surely pay you a bonus. In general, even if the prof agrees to a
partial funding, one should go ahead with it. Directly asking initially about more money can be
detrimental. Once fixed, writing a polite mail regarding accommodation et al should be okay. Asking
for more money is not a very good idea. Rather, ask for travel tickets or accommodation in dorms at
the university, since the main expenditure is the cost of living there and the flight charges.

Q3) How was the entire internship experience at Virginia Tech?

Experience was brilliant. Once you get there, it is all very different. The people, i.e. your colleagues
and the professors of the research group are usually very friendly. It is not at all as you would expect
it to be, nothing like a formal workplace. The professor also usually knows that you would like to
roam around in the country, and so the work hours are pretty flexible. I was given weekly tasks. It
didnt matter when and from where I worked. It wont be always like this, but usually is. The
universities are so much better in terms of facilities. You enjoy just being there. During summers,
very few people actually are on campus. So dorm accommodation can be easily obtained. Also, all
the major universities have Indian student associations. You can easily get accommodation and
general idea of what is to be carried along from their Facebook pages.
Sample Cover Letters
1) The following cover letter was provided by Nikhil:

Respected Prof. <Name>,

I, <Name>, am currently in my second undergraduate year and pursuing a Bachelor of Technology


Degree Course in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Indian Institute of Technology
Bombay, India. My current CPI is <> on a scale of ten and I have Department Rank <> in a batch of
147 students, including both B-Tech and Dual Degree students.

During my studies in IIT, I have developed keen interest in the various aspects of <Enter Subject> and
it fascinates me deeply. While searching for ongoing development and research in this field, I came
across ongoing research in your institute that immensely matches my area of research interests. I
have also had a look at your research interests in <Relevant>. This field suits my area of interest and
highly appeals to me. I would therefore like to enhance my knowledge in this field.

I am presently working on an academic project titled <>, under the guidance of Prof. <>,
Mechanical Engineering Department, IIT Bombay. My main objective includes<>. I am also
proficient in simulation and modeling using MATLAB and virtual modelling SOLIDWORKS. I am
currently pursuing courses on Numerical Analysis, Solid Mechanics, Strength of Materials,
Thermodynamics and Fluid Mechanics.

I, therefore, would like to undertake an undergraduate research position during May-July


2013 under your guidance, to expand my horizons and to develop my ability of merging concepts
with applications in your research interest field. I believe my academic profile and interests suit the
task profile.

I would be very grateful if you could offer me an undergraduate research position under your
esteemed guidance. I believe I can make a worthwhile contribution to this field, while also giving
myself a good exposure to help me pursue doctoral studies after my graduation. In case you are
busy please let me know if I can do a project under any other faculty member of your institute with
similar interests. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Looking forward to your earliest reply,

Thanking you,

Yours sincerely,

____________

2) Chinmay provided us the following cover letter:

Professor <name>,

I, <Name>, am a second year undergraduate student at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay,
India. I am pursuing a 4-year Bachelor of Technology course in Mechanical Engineering.

Along with my major, I am also pursuing a minor in Electrical Engineering.

I am looking for an opportunity to work as an intern in a premier <region> technical institute. I am


deeply interested in the subject of <subject>. To gain a better understanding of the fundamentals
and application of these subjects, I wish to procure a summer internship under your mentorship and
guidance during the period of May to July 2013.

I am currently ranked <Rank> out of 140 students in the department, with a CPI of <CPI> out of 10. I
have undertaken courses in the fields of Solid Mechanics, Engineering Thermodynamics, Fluid
Mechanics and Engineering Metallurgy. I am currently working on a project on <Project Details>.

I am proficient with micro-controllers, specifically the AVR family. I am an advanced level


programmer in C/C++ and am also proficient with design & analysis software such as SolidWorks,
ANSYS and numerical analysis software like MATLAB.

My motivation to apply for an intern stems from the desire to gain more practical knowledge and to
get an opportunity to apply the concepts learnt in the classroom. Also, an intern in your University
will help me in making an informed decision regarding my future academic course of action.

I shall be very grateful if you could spare a few minutes of your precious time to consider my
application. To further elaborate my qualifications and skills, my CV can be found at <Link>.

Looking forward to a positive response from you.

Yours sincerely,

_____________

Department of Mechanical Engineering

IIT Bombay

Mumbai, India

Acknowledgements
Students who have already completed their internships abroad have helped us immensely. We
would like to thank Nikhil Gupta and Chinmay Kulkarni for their inputs and resources. Quora has also
been quite useful, being the compendium of ready information that it is.