Rayal Raj Prasad, Columbia University, M.S. Mechanical Engineering with concentration in Robotics and Control

Rayal-Raj-PrasadFrom Chennai to Columbia.

'In the next two weeks, you will probably have the most free time you will ever have for the next 2 years' - this was how my orientation concluded last August. And boy was it true.

Time has flown by ever since I got accepted into Masters in Robotics at Columbia University in April 2016. I remember being excited at the prospect of living in New York city and checking out all the amazing things the city offers. I started with a list of restaurants to visit every day.

Once classes started, it was intense. It was intense to the point that I slowly lost track of weekdays and weekends and I was studying, writing assignments and working in my lab every day. I was becoming a workaholic. Forget my list - I was eating from the same Chinese food truck every day! Adapting to my new life and living in a high cost city had its challenges like managing my monthly budget and setting up a home in general. With the intensity of my program, I barely had any time to cook or even go to the gym. It really helped to have friends from Chennai who were only a phone call away and brought a little bit of home and India into my life.

The best part of my Columbia experience is the people I met. I joined the Robotics club and met other Robot enthusiasts' who turned out to be some of the smartest students I have ever met in my life. I've learned so much from just random discussions with them, and my mind has really opened.

Another memorable experience was participating in the RoboGames 2017, an annual robot enthusiasts meeting with 50 different events and over 500 people from 70 countries. Our team had 5 people from different majors and it was an awesome experience to work with such an interdisciplinary approach to build a robot from scratch. The University funded the building of our robot and travel to San Francisco. We were the only first timers at the event and were thrilled to have won the 4th place. But, importantly, we beat the Harvard team and had an experience of a lifetime!

Now two semesters in, I'm about to start my summer internship. Robotics is a growing industry and I thought landing an internship would be a cake walk. However, it wasn't so easy. It took attending many job fairs, building my contacts and applying to innumerable number of companies over 5 months to land my internship. It was quite stressful, but it has made me stronger. Now, I resent being lazy and just want to get down to work!

It's been a year since the orientation, and I have one semester to go. Life-changing is a word that can't fully describe my US study experience. Looking back to a year ago, I can't recognize myself, but it's all for the better. I've grown up.


This article was sourced by Education USA and published in The Hindu.

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