The American Dream?

Vivek Kannan graduated from BITS Pilani, Hyderabad Campus, in 2014 with a B.E.(hons.) in Civil Engineering. He is now pursuing his Masters in Structural Engineering in Georgia Tech, Atlanta and was kind enough to agree to write about his experiences at his university. If you ever need a favor too, just promise him a hot dog!

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“Dude! You’re from THE Georgia Tech. You’ve got nothing to worry about!”

“Thope hai re tu… Georgia Tech! Phod diya na!”

“Life will be so much easier for you from now on.”

These are just some of the most common and baseless statements that I have been hearing since the past year. My reaction often varies from curiosity to annoyance and occasionally, pride. It is high time Indian students stop falling for the ridiculously over-hyped image of ‘top’ universities that we have currently been subjected to. Of course, it is not something one can easily let go of..

Let’s start by understanding the system here. Irrespective of what school you belong to, be it MIT, Stanford, Berkeley, Colombia, Purdue or Georgia Tech, you have to fend for yourself. You don’t have a placement cell to make life easier for you (Ah! I love you, BPHC Placement Cell). You will be judged based on your skills and experience, not on GPA (at least in grad school). I have seen people with lower GPAs land amazing internships. My dear 6 pointers, did I just bring a wide smile across your faces?

I admit that the professors are pretty awesome here at GaTech (more popular name of Georgia Tech), with their experience exceeding half a century, but then again, it is your responsibility to extract as much knowledge and insight from them as possible. You need to plan out your schedule and seek appointments to discuss research with them. I often miss those easier days in BITS, where professors are much friendlier, and easily accessible. Trying really hard not to sound too clichéd, but I should say this. I must say this. Value your time. Spending an hour each day on a research topic of your interest will prep you for grad school if you are interested in research.

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Having said that, don’t miss out on campus fun! The four years you spend in BITS will be the best four years of your life. Join the clubs, participate in fests, cheer your teams. I wish the universities here had as colorful and vibrant a culture as BITS. The culture here is mainly based on the rich history of the school. When you have a history of over 130 years, you sure have lots of things to brag about – be it football championships, the cool mascot, Nobel prizes, famous alumni, college anthem and what not. However, nothing can beat the three days of awesomeness during Pearl. Why don’t the universities here have the concept of fests? Why Not! Sigh.

Uh‐oh. I guess I drifted off my original topic. Coming back to point, a mere admit to a ‘top’ school doesn’t necessarily mean you will get everything you desire on a silver platter. In fact it is more difficult to get ahead in the quality competition and prove your worth. Unless you network and market yourself, getting your dream job can be difficult. And BITS is the perfect place for you to start honing these skills. In spite of my pessimistic article, I am very optimistic about your future. After all, “Bhai.. aap BITS se ho! Aapka kya.. sab set hai!”

Vivek Kannan

You can contact him for advice and information at vivekkannan01@gmail.com.

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