Internship. Do it, Don’t do it. Do it, Don’t…
My Perspective on an Internship in the first two years of college life.
Who am I to give an opinion?
I am right now entering my third year. I ended up doing a summer 2014 internship related to UI/UX after my first year at a place called Interface Sense in Mumbai. As a result, I ended up working for many high profile clients like CIPLA, Trendin.com etc. I spent my winter vacation in December 2014 attending the USID Gurukul at IIT Kanpur, which is more of a workshop kind of environment under the mentorship of professors academicians, researchers and experienced practitioners. For the summer of 2015, I landed an industrial internship offer from Data Weave in Bengaluru on Data Visualization. I had an option of going out to Belgium paying for my own travel to work on a project related to Human-Computer Interaction and Data Visualization under a professor. I dropped both the options and chose to spend my summer at my home.
So, you may proceed if you think that my views can give you any insight or carry any importance. It is strictly meant for people who wish to stand out from the crowd, and if you are not one of those people, I again advise you to save the remaining time by not reading this article henceforth.
Why I chose an internship after the first year?
The shortest possible answer is- It is a rare thing even to get an internship after your first year, and I got lucky. Secondly, summer breaks in IIT’s are pretty much a waste of 3 months if you have not planned anything properly. I at that point of the time believed it would give me an edge.
How I fared in the Internship?
They say that the first two weeks of an internship are the hardest and if they don’t say this, I am saying it now! I freaked out for the first 10–15 days with the thoughts of running away coming to me every second hour. I was obviously very new to UI/UX, and I had clarified the same with my company before accepting the internship, and I was doing very well in terms of my work, but the pressure and the timing is something that baffled me. I used to leave my room in IIT Bombay where I was staying at 8:00 in the morning to catch a packed local bus for an hour to reach my office, and the clock would always show 10:30 pm or past it by the time I reached back. I first thought positively about it, but the scoldings and the never-ending work that you get from the supervisors often force even the best to think otherwise. Gradually my friends and room mates started sympathizing. Still, it all gets pretty normal after 2 weeks. You obtain an inertness. I survived for 2 months.
Still, I benefited a lot as I got to know how the industry works, what the scenario is and how are clients dealt with, what exactly does the magic and that the theoretical knowledge imparted in the course hardly helps. The people in the office are generally very cool if you are not very bad when it comes to getting picked up by God(Yes! I believe in God) as the Lucky person of the day, you make good friends. It becomes a habit to not work in shifts, take the scolding together and hanging out at weekends. The exposure that I got through them was equally good and in fact, better. Then you have your batch mates with their own tragic stories, and you end up learning a lot from their experiences as well. Weekends are enjoyable, and you live some of the most memorable days of your life.
Winter 2014 Gurukul Experience.
I will keep it short though it was an amazing experience in itself. The work methodology followed while coming up with the solutions, was extremely effective. So much so, that I try replicating the same strategy almost in everything thereafter. Then there was the chilly Kanpur weather and the bonfires, catching up with your chaddi-buddies(childhood friends) in IITK(almost everyone in IIT ends up having one good friend in three or four other IITs as well plus my friends fall in that special category of people who go home for a concise duration and stay up in the campus itself in vacations also). I made an entirely different family here and finished by getting a unique experience which freshened up my memories of my gurukul based schooling (I am talking about the Ramakrishna Mission Vidyapith, Deoghar, my Alma mater which believes in a gurukul style of learning).
What about the second year Internship?
The dreams were all high, and the mindset was to land a foreign internship obviously for the sake of visiting other countries but more so because of the experience they provide. You may add the learning as well if you want. Also, over my first year, I had gained some interest in Data Visualization, and that is something which very less number of people follow in my department. So I started with the applications and got both an international offer (after a lot of efforts) and an Indian confirmation(in the very first mail that I sent). For those of you, who are wondering as to how to get an international confirmation, the key is mailing to as many places as you can at the right moment. It may easily cross a hundred emails without even one positive reply as the probability of your getting an international offer and even a reply, to be frank, is way too low because of the low expertise you carry in your second year. Things change significantly in the third year, and you get funding also, but in the first two years, you should mostly be content with an internship where you get the accommodation but pay yourself for the travel.
I had made up my mind to go to Belgium and had discussed the hostel and mess details with my prof. as well. I am fortunate enough, and I was ready to spend for the entire travel to Belgium. However, my interactions with a lot of people and self-thoughts gave me the courage to drop both of them. I was lucky enough to have settled for a remote project with the same prof from Belgium and an offer to go for a research intern in my third year if I wanted to at the same place (how this happened is just a humble request and the kind gesture shown in return by the prof.).
Why I dropped the Internship?
People over the years have come to give undue importance to Internships. Definitely, the experience part and all is an important aspect. Still, the third-year internship is always there and probably the only internship that actually counts in your placements(if you are a placement freak). Internship at the cost of something that you have wanted to learn for a long time is bad. My experience with the MIT Media Lab Workshops gave me the idea that IIT is just a false tag. Geniuses are sitting out who are simply following their passion and learning on their own. There is a lot that I had on my mind, and I didn't see any opportunity to do the same with an internship in summer of 2015 after the summer of 2015 internship. This indicated I had to drop the internship, and I usually take decisions confidentially and howsoever it works, I do not look back upon it.
Shall I stop writing crap now and conclude?
Hence, I put the summary as follows. Internship, especially in the first two years, hardly matters. It is better than nothing, but you always will have to weigh the other option that you have if not doing the internship. If you have nothing in hand or do not have a definite plan, go for the internship. I just believed in myself, and confidently dropped the internship. I have no regrets about that, and in fact, I am utilizing my break in the best manner I could have. I decided on taking the plunge. You will have to for yourself.
Belief in yourself after reasoning is the key.