Ashima Suvarna, Computer Engineering, Class of 2020, shares her experience of interning at the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton through the Mitacs Globalink Research Internship (GRI) Program.
Internship experiences abroad are always amazing. And, when you have the opportunity to work in a lovely country like Canada, it becomes an unforgettable memory. I got an exceptional opportunity to work at the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton through the Mitacs Globalink Research Internship (GRI) Program. The GRI program is a competitive initiative for international undergraduates from 8 nations including India. Students participate in a 12-week research internship under the supervision of Canadian university faculty members in a variety of academic disciplines, from science, engineering and mathematics to the humanities and social sciences. The internship is completely funded by the organization itself.
Application and Selection
It was the beginning of my 5th semester and I set forth for the typical routine of applications and rejections for these highly coveted internship programs all over the world. As a part of it, I applied to Mitacs towards the end of September. The most attractive and unique feature of this program is the exhaustive range of projects it offers in every field and the matching rather than selection procedure to choose the best-suited interns for each project. But earlier it had a CGPA cutoff of 9 which was later lowered to 8 and had it not been for my crazy friend Shreya, I wouldn’t have applied or managed my LoRs two days before the deadline. I interviewed for my project in November (during my semester exams). My professor was incredibly sweet and supportive during the interview and in the first week of January, I woke up to my selection mail. It was a day of incredibly complicated emotions for I was selected for one of my favourite projects and suddenly I realised Canada is very, very far away!
Canada - the receptive host
Canada’s famed politeness and kindness are apparent in daily life. People hold the door for the next person out of sheer kindness, they welcome every weird, quaint individual with open arms and go to extreme lengths to help the immigrants. One time, the person in front of me at the concessions counter of a theatre paid for my popcorn simply because he wanted to make someone happy that day. The amount of trust and faith they have in every individual is incredible and one of the major reasons why it is such a lovely country to live in. Summers in New Brunswick are pretty unpredictable with snowfall till early May and scorching heat in July.
Work in Fredericton
They have world-class research facilities and present a nurturing environment for new researchers like us in terms of funding and support. My project focused on the preservation of East Algonquian Languages by furthering their research in deep learning. I worked on the project alone while other interns had PhD partners, this made my work a little daunting at first but my professor always insisted on a decent work-life balance. He always said that “Work is secondary to life!”. With good mentorship and encouragement, I have learnt incredible things here, not just limited to my project but also from my fellow interns’ projects.
My University was in Fredericton a quaint little town on the east coast, not one of the popular big cities like Vancouver or Toronto, in fact, one of my fellow interns told me it sounds like a boring place that people go to after they have lived their life. In retrospect, that was an ill-informed comment, this boring place has the most interesting people I have ever met in my life and given me the best 11 weeks of my life so far.
Living on my own
As I enthusiastically got on the plane to Canada, I never realised what living on my own actually meant. Cooking, cleaning dishes (my least favourite), laundry, grocery shopping were activities that took up most of my time apart from working. I travelled extensively during my weekends. My friends and I went to Halifax (Nova Scotia) and Quebec City on road trips and Canadian Highways are the most comfortable due to the multiple rest-stops and the interesting people you meet there. I met a little sparrow named Stuart that flew with our car from Halifax to Fredericton. Fredericton is considerably far from all the popular places but it has great connectivity to other maritime provinces (all east coast province are called maritimes) via bus. It is said that Prince Edward Island has Cavendish, the best beach in the world. The backpacking experience to the island was pretty amazing. And, pretty recently I hopped on the bus to visit Montreal, a lovely busy city, a stark contrast to my quiet Fredericton and attended a Hozier concert, one of my favourite artists.
Being far away from home with a 9-hour time difference is difficult but I think this lovely country makes it very easy. Fredericton feels like home now. Research is amazing primarily due to the creative environment and encouragement of your peers. Random acts of kindness will make you happy every day and the independence is addictive. Mitacs is a great addition to your CV and an incredible experience for you as a person. In the end, I do want to proclaim that Indian food is the best, our spices are worth dying for.
Some Important Takeaways:
No internship or project is too ambitious to apply for, you never know what might be a perfect fit for you and you have to be comfortable with the rejections. A good CGPA will open doors easily for you but a low CGPA would not necessarily close all of them. You just need to take that leap of faith.
Never send your professor emails on a weekend, he will force you to have fun and chill on weekends if he gets to know you have been working.
Learn how to cook. Food is so important. We take Aloo Parathas for granted.
Mitacs is one of the applications that have a very early deadline and a very long application form. The call for interns for Summer 2020 is open now with a CGPA cutoff of 8 and the deadline is 13 September 2019.