The Visiting Student

I wrote this article for NIT Surat’s (my alma mater)  college mag, Renesa. You can download the mag here http://issuu.com/svnit_renesa/docs/renesa_may2010_2011

I can still vividly remember the first time I stepped inside my first year hostel room with luggage in hand, hope in eyes, fear of ragging in mind and stench of urine from the nearby washroom. The room (BF-3, Gajjar Bhavan)was nothing like anyplace I had ever lived in; a decrepit, disheveled, disintegrating excuse for a room that was smaller than my bedroom back home and was somehow supposed to fit 3 living human beings. To say that I was disappointed would be a massive understatement, I was devastated. It is in these times that you really start appreciating your mom and begin to sympathize, even long for, her obsession with cleanliness that always irked you.

First year is probably the most important year in your undergrad life, both academically and personally. You learn to adjust with complete strangers, get used to invasion of your personal space and learn to put up with quirky habits of not just your room mates but also their friends. Some of my very good friends are those my roomies introduced me to. I got introduced to southies (or as I called them Idli, Dosa and Uttapam) through one room mate and Jats and Punjabis by the other. One of these, who should rightly be compared to an Uttapam because of his size went on to become a KVPY scholar and has 2 patents to his name (considering the nature of his patents I am sure the abysmal toilets and latrines in the hostel inspired him to a large extent and the hostel office rightly deserves 40% of royalties from those patents).

 The fear of ragging was obviously there but it turned out to be largely hype and very little substance and seniors soon became friends. I was also introduced to ‘Ginglish’, the Gujju accented version of English, in due course by the faculty and staff – it sure did take some time to figure how a beam could rest on a ‘hole’ (also pronounced as ‘wall’ in Queen’s English) and a boiler could have a ‘cape-city’ of 20 MW, but things soon fell in their own sweet place.

 Seniors played a significant role in shaping me up and I was lucky to meet some awesome seniors through my association with ACM and Drishti. Exams had become unimportant to me in the very first month and I found myself at a ACM Linux workshop the night before the first internal. ACM was like a baby and we nurtured it, we made mistakes, had some triumphs but things worked out eventually. We also started ACM Quest with the intention of having a totally computing oriented event having a ‘no frills, no garbage, minimally sponsored tech-focused event where money is to be spent only on prizes’ policy. I also spent some great time at Drishti labs but never really managed to learn much about electronics (I still remember having shorted the entire 8051 board while soldering in first year and then painstakingly unsoldering it).In retrospect, I really should have learnt more electronics.

Oh yes, the acads bit; well I took the suggestion of two awesome ACM seniors (one of them, a 9 pointer here and a MS from Texas A&M who has written patches for NMap and now works for McAfee; and the other, now a MS student on full scholarship at Carnegie Mellon University Language Technologies Institute, who never gave a damn about pointers) a little too literally and really hoped that you could “easily get a 8 pointer by studying one night before the exam” and ended at the bottom of the academic pecking order – a 6 point someone. Classes were something I scarcely attended and once a teacher remarked “What happened Sandip? How did you enter a class so early in the morning?” when I swayed into her 8:30 class 20 minutes late (I also once entered a class minutes before it was about to end so that I could give my attendance and once I entered the wrong elective class insisting vehemently that this was ‘the right class’ ). You could almost say that I was a visiting student and went to class only when I wanted to meet up friends.

 I got involved with Renesa in 3rd year as I wanted to have some side activity beside tech and Renesa was the perfect opportunity. Working there taught me to put words together to form a decent sentence and it was one of the liveliest and most stimulating interaction there could possibly be. I really miss the team and the people.

Among my batch mates and friends I can count a guy who has made it to a CompSci program at University of Michigan, another who scored AIR-4 in GATE and is now at IISC, another who scored AIR 11 this year while another friend who came 5th worldwide in the Top Coder Studio Collegiate design contest in 2007, chucked a regular engineering job to join a online music magazine as a staff writer. Then there was this CAT phodu who’s doing an internship with Coca Cola and another who is doing her Masters in Germany. There is also this guy who is doing an M.Tech in Rural Technologies at IIT-B and intends to join the Civil Services one day. Have I missed anyone? Hell yes. My batch mates were awesome and it would take an entire article to list down their achievements.

College life is all about making the best of four years, learning new things and building up yourself to face the challenges once you are out of those four walls. Getting an admission at NIT Surat, does not mean you have arrived and are ‘set’ for life; far from it. It only means you have it in you what it takes to become a good engineer and it’s up to you whether you are willing to put the necessary effort to become one. For those in 1st and 2nd year who have already decided that they want to do an MBA, I strongly urge them to give engineering a chance. Engineering is awesome and I you will miss it once you are out of that place.

So here’s wishing my best on behalf of the entire class of 2010. Be awesome. Take risks, be foolish, dare to dream, don’t opt for the ‘safe’ option. No risk, no return. That’s the fact of life. You are young and have very little to worry and the backing of a undergrad degree from a prestigious institution. If you don’t take risks now, you sure can’t take it after you are 30 and have a family to support.

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