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Team Careers360|May 29, 2023
By Nikhil Tandel
NEW DELHI: I hail from a lower-middle-class family. My father worked as a salesman for a vodka brand till 2012. My mother tutors small children at home. I completed my schooling in Mumbai and studied in Marathi medium. I have a BTech in civil engineering from Sardar Patel College of Engineering (SPCE) Mumbai.
My parents did not have savings. But they worked hard to provide for us – my younger sister and me – and we had what we needed.
Just after completing my engineering 2017, I got a job with Larson & Turbo (L&T). That was a huge respite. The payment was decent. Our work used to extend for more than 12 hours a day. I worked on a construction site which spiked my interest in design. I could see a lot of architects, structural designers, and mechanical designers and I was the one implementing their plans on site.
I thought that if I got into design, that is, pursued a postgraduate degree in design studies, I would be able to implement that knowledge into my design and we'd be able to produce more practical designs and more consistent, constructible designs and be able to understand construction issues from that perspective.
I always wanted to study more. That is when I decided to go for a master's. During those four years, I loved working. I loved going into the details of the projects. I had no time to prepare for anything other than gaining construction knowledge.
In India, admissions are very entrance-exam centric which is a huge issue.
I knew that I would have to appear for the GRE [Graduate Record Examinations]. That was the only exam I had to give. The colleges in the US would consider my undergraduate results and transcripts, and they would also consider my experience in L&T, I thought.
I had to create a cushion for myself to fall back on if nothing worked out. That was also the reason I worked for four years. I had to cover my initial costs plus my family's regular costs for two-and-a-half years when I would not be able to send any money back home. After the COVID-19 pandemic, they were completely dependent on me.
When I was applying for an education loan for studies abroad, I faced a lot of rejections. I think Prodigy Finance was the only sponsor or lender who approved my loan application at no cost, no cosigner and no collateral policy. Other lenders rejected my application or offered very small amounts.
Every bank and every lender advertises that they will give study abroad loans with no collateral and no cosigner policy. But if you require $100,000, they will give you $20,000. That doesn't make any sense. That is one reason rich students go abroad for studies.
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I applied to seven colleges and I got calls from all and scholarship offers from four. I selected Texas A&M because that was one of the best and my scholarship was 50 percent of the tuition cost, which is a huge amount. It was about $10,000 for each semester.
Also, in my university, you can complete your degree as early as you can. I completed my degree in three semesters, taking extra credits and extra subjects and completed my degree faster because I did not want to continue for two years. I completed his Texas A&M course in 2022.
I was facing problems getting a visa because of financial reasons. They wouldn't believe that I would make it so I faced two visa rejections. I waited for my passport which arrived at the last minute. I bought what I needed in two days and left the country on the last day.
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I was seven days late so everyone was already on board. They had already attended the onboarding orientations. I knew three students as I had connected with them before reaching. Because I am a little extrovert, it was not difficult for me to adjust and I made friends. I think we're going to stay friends for long.
In the first semester, I did not get any chance to work with any professors. So, I worked in restaurants, managing football games, hockey, and baseball games at my university.
I also worked for events and banquet services and at a recreation centre. In the second semester, I worked as a graduate assistant for a professor and then I went for a summer internship in Mississippi.
I worked with them for three months designing mobile towers and electrical lines. After that, I continued working with them, working from home, for the next six months.
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I want to get my professional engineer’s license as soon as possible, which, again, takes three years, minimum. I'll be working with the design industry for at least four-five years.
Then, I will decide on studying management and getting into a managerial position. That's what my broad vision is right now. I am not thinking about studying further, but if given a chance, if I feel a particular course is going to help me progress, I would not think twice before applying for that.
(As narrated to Pritha Roy Choudhury)
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