Krishna Balaji: Flying High with ICAS

Krishna Balaji, a second-year Chemical Engineering student at International Centre for Applied Sciences (ICAS) will soon be transferring to a reputed foreign university to pursue the next two years of his program.

We recently spoke to him about this big move, his future and a lot more. Here are some excerpts from the conversation:

1. You must be having mixed feelings right now. How excited, nervous or ecstatic are you about studying abroad for two years?

Krishna: ICAS started as an unexpected journey for me because I hadn’t planned on getting enrolled in this course, initially. However, as fate would have it, I joined the course and eventually understood the diversity of the program and how unique it is from other engineering courses.

The nervousness was, of course, there. I won’t deny it, but it was in the beginning of the course when I was not clear about how to shape my future. Now that I have comfortably settled for two years and have started receiving several offers from various foreign universities, I am more excited than nervous.

2.How are you preparing for it?

Krishna: I think the biggest challenge for me is to get acquainted with the culture of the country I choose. Though I have the experience of staying in a foreign land (I have stayed in the Middle East for a few years), I do not expect the culture to be the same in the US or Australia. It’s going to be a different environment, where I won’t have my old friends or anything familiar, for that matter. So it’s like starting a new life. It will take some openness and a diverse mind to mix there and get used to the new culture and people.

3.Share your experience at the university, so far.

Krishna: I stayed in the Middle East for 9 years before coming to India. So when I came here, I had to get used to a lot of changes starting from the driving rules to the way of living. It did take me some time to get accustomed to these changes, but the good thing is that ICAS – Manipal Academy of Higher Education has been built in a way that it caters to international students as well. So I did not face a lot of problems at ICAS when adjusting to my new environment.

Once I made friends it was easy to explore the place and learn more about it. Also, what really helped me was the proximity of the International Hostel (where I was housed) to the Kasturba Medical College (KMC) campus. So I never missed even a single fest from the surrounding campuses, which helped me learn a lot both academically and culturally.

Again the support I received from my professors at ICAS also helped me immensely with my academics, which helped me with a smooth transition from school to college. So now that it is time for me to leave ICAS, I am certainly sad, but overall it has been a good experience and I only have fond memories to look back at!

4.Can you tell us which universities have offered you to join them?

Krishna: I had applied at Stanford University, California and the University of Queensland in Brisbane. My application has been selected by both the universities.

5.Which university do you plan to pick and why?

Krishna: I have to weigh the pros and cons of both the universities before I make the final call. However, I am more inclined towards joining the University of Queensland as I think it will help me constructively in shaping my career ahead.

6.What do you think made you stand out from the rest of the students and get noticed by these foreign universities?

Krishna: Three factors have a pivotal role to play in ensuring that you get selected by your preferred university. First is your academic performance, second is your participation in co-curricular activities and third is your extra-curricular performance.

Now, there is a huge misconception that you have to excel in all the three separately to get into foreign universities. The truth is, when you are writing your ‘statement of purpose’ explaining why you should be selected by the university, these three factors should blend together to write your story. Your statement of purpose signifies your journey and why you should continue it with the university in question.

A lot of students tend to be a part of social service activities only to display them in their application. Honestly, it does not matter, because most people may not even get a certificate for their social work. However, they still get to join some of the best universities because it’s the story that matters – you should have a good CGPA, anything above 3.2 helps.

Your co-curriculum performance plays an important role because it supports your interest in your chosen branch of study. Lastly, your extra-curricular activities reveal how well you can blend into a new environment. At Manipal, I got the opportunity to be a part of financial clubs, science clubs, debate clubs, public speaking clubs etc, which helped me gain a wider perspective of the subject (going beyond the knowledge in the textbooks) while polishing my personality.

7.Why and how is a credit transfer program better than taking a regular course at a foreign university?

Krishna: When you take a regular 4-year course, you do not have much flexibility to step outside the set path, especially in India where the course structure is quite rigid. Normally, you can take up 12 electives during your entire course duration in India. However, in a foreign university, you get to select 12 electives in one year alone.

Now, in India, we place a lot of emphasis on academics. So when an Indian student starts studying at a foreign university, you will hardly see him/her failing at it. That’s because the education system in India trains you well in academics. Whatever is missing in terms of personality development, the foreign university will take care of it. So you become an all-round individual.

I think as a transfer student, you are always on your toes and you develop the adaptability to change. As you stand out from the crowd, it also becomes important for you to make friends and get to know people.

8.How do you think this experience will shape your life ahead?

Krishna: Like I said earlier, I haven’t had a permanent place of residence, so I have always been open to change and developed the ability to adapt to changes quickly. Relocating to a different country is indeed a life-changing event, and it teaches you a lot of things. So I am aware that if I can survive such a situation, I can overcome any hurdle in life.

9.What are your future plans? Do you wish to start your career in India or do you prefer working abroad?

Krishna: My interest lies in Law, Finance and Engineering. So I want to do something related to energy policies and energy structures as per World Energy Corporation guidelines. So I aim to opt for a combined course in MBA and MS, which I will be pursuing later. Once I finish my studies, I would love to go back to the Middle East because that’s where I grew up, but I certainly won’t stay in the country I studied. So I will come back either to India or move to the Middle East.

10.Any suggestions for credit transfer program students on how to make the most of this unique arrangement?

Krishna: Yes, the first thing is to pursue your interest. I say that because when you are a part of a credit transfer program, you meet people from diverse backgrounds. I have seen a lot of people change their interest just to continue studying with their friends. That’s not the right attitude if you want to learn and grow.

The second thing is students always want to know the formula to get good marks. Well, the secret is ‘consistency’. You can study for 15-20 minutes a day, but make sure you do it every day, with complete concentration. It is important to be focussed and regular.

We thank Krishna Balaji for taking out time and talking to us. We wish him the best for his future endeavours!

About ICAS:

Established in 1994, the International Centre for Applied Sciences (ICAS), Manipal Academy of Higher Education – a premier engineering institution has a mechanism of credit transfer for a smooth transition of a student to a foreign university. The student spends two years in India, where ICAS prepares the students for pursuing a global program and then helps the students transfer to a foreign institution of his choice based on the credits he earns for the remaining two years of his course tenure. Over the years, the institution has collaborated with more than 100 colleges across the globe where ICAS credits are accepted. ICAS as an institution encourages and facilitates mobility of engineering graduates at an international level.


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