The first and foremost step is to secure an internship offer letter from a German professor. How should one go about shortlisting professors?
One should first identify their domain of interest in which they aspire to work. It might be difficult for many to identify the areas even at the time of application. Take some time to reflect on your past academic work and work experiences and contemplate. Explore the work being done by different German researchers working in your area of interest. Generally, TUs are the most celebrated universities in Germany. However, any university is fine as long as it’s a public-funded institute. Followed by this, the host’s research publications can be looked at to know more about their history of research works and their current workings. Generally, the publications are not understandable at first glance; but that should still be fine. This task will give you a better picture of the professors’ background. In the end, maintaining a proper MS excel sheet to have a database of the desired information would prove to be beneficial.
Do you have any guidelines for sending emails to professors?
The DAAD – WISE application deadlines by November 1 in most cases. So, it’s safe to get a confirmation from the host professor at least a week before so that other aspects of the application can be processed. One will also have to send a physical post to the DAAD regional office in Delhi attaching the complete application apart from the online submission. So one should start emailing the professors from late August/early September. The email should comprise of two essential objects: the cover letter and CV. The cover letter must be as personal as possible. The style of contacting the host professor may vary between persons. Some tips for drafting a cover letter include:
- Start with a warm introduction mentioning your study program, the university and probably about its status in India.
- Crisply quote your areas of interests along with your academic performances (along with CGPA).
- Ask them about any vacancies in research work positions. Also, specify your period of internship. If possible, ask for a specific project, if mentioned on the host’s webpage.
- Explain your previous research experiences and current projects which can add more weight to your application (but don’t overflow with too much content). Write on how you have contributed to these projects.
- You might also want to mention some of the host’s recent publications and inform them how your interests resonate with this.
- Finally, don’t forget to mention that you will be funded by DAAD if selected for the program, because many times, the professor may not be willing to offer a position, though your application meets their expectations, because of financial expenses.
Gently send weekly reminder emails if there’s no reply. Do not send more than 2-3 such emails to the same person.
Other possible strategies could be to send emails such that the professors receive the letters by 8.00 am CEST, and they have a fresh mind to look at your mail. Also, generally, your CV remains unchanged, and only the cover letter keeps changing while mailing different professors. Avoid emailing multiple professors in the same department at the same time because people there might spend their leisure time together and if this matter pops up in their discussion, it may lead to a negative opinion about your candidature. Finally, have patience, because professors may read your mail multiple times before replying.
After the initial mail, did the professor contact you for further rounds? If so, would any prior preparation of concepts be needed (for an interview)?
In my case, yes. I had to attend an online interview call through skype, which lasted for an hour or so. This conversation is for the professor to clarify things such as details about you as listed in your CV and cover letter and perhaps some miscellaneous information. You can also ask them for clarifications on their research work. Be prepared with good explanations for all details listed in your CV and cover letter. You can also research more about the professor before the call.
Did you have any past research experience, at the time of applying for DAAD-WISE?
Yes, I did have one. I had prior experience of interning at IIT Madras in the Electrical Engineering department.
Do you think one must choose a professor based on one’s previous research experience?
I will not wholly agree on choosing a professor based on previous experiences because it may happen that the student may lose their flair for those fields they have worked in. Hence, working again in the same area may not amuse them even after selection. One must also bear in mind that we are still in our undergraduate studies and hence should be open-minded to choose any field which amuses us. However, there’s more probability of getting accepted by the host if the student has had previous experience in the areas of the host’s interests.
What do you think is the biggest criteria that DAAD-WISE uses for the selection of scholars?
There are various factors which determine your selection at the end of the day. The application for the DAAD – WISE by itself is lengthy with different assessing columns. However, a good CGPA will have the most influence on the selection panel to select your application. Just based on the observation of the trends until last year, anyone who has a CGPA of 9.0 + is probable to get selected. In any case, an incomplete application may lead to cancellation of the application.
Which university did you work at? Could you briefly describe your project? Did you learn any new skill (research-wise) upon completing your internship?
I worked at Ruhr – Universität Bochum (RUB), Bochum, Germany. I worked in the Adaptive Signal Processing lab, Department of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology at RUB. I specifically worked on speech enhancement techniques for multi-channel acoustic environments. I carried out detailed investigations of various algorithms with more focus on beamforming for array signals with a slight tinge of machine learning concepts.
I learned many things from my internship. One aspect of it was that I learned the right method to do documentation of complete scientific research work through LATEX forum, which can later be published in a scientific community. I also learned a variety of tricks to implement any already published research works in conferences/journals to study further.
Could you explain the procedure one must follow after he/she has landed a DAAD-WISE scholarship?
After getting the confirmation from DAAD for funding, one must inform their host professor in Germany. The results will be out around the middle of January. It is also important to look for accommodation. Sometimes the professor will help you in looking for one (which at least happened in my case). One can also consider the cost of living in the city where they are going to reside, to choose between on-campus and off-campus stay. Then one must look to book flight tickets and book slots for VISA. Since the Schengen VISA typically takes less time (at least for the DAAD fellowship holders), one can conveniently book slots in late March or early April.
Was the stipend provided by DAAD sufficient to cover all your expenses?
Yes, DAAD gives the right amount of money to cover expenses. They will take care of both travel charges and living expenses pertaining to the period of your stay.
How will you rate your research experience in Germany?
Research quality in Germany is stupendous. Extraordinary research facilities are available at one’s hand to carry out their work conveniently. There were no strict timing rules though everyone usually works between 8.00 am and 4.30 pm. Researchers in Germany are very scholarly and solve every problem elegantly. I also had ample flexibility to carry out my work from home, use the department library and printers till late at night. One can also perfectly balance between leisure hours and working hours without any stress. On the whole, the working experience with such ingenious people and with the supplements of ambient weather and hospitality made my working environment very active and productive.
What are some things students should keep in mind when staying in Germany during the internship period?
Try to register yourself as a student at your university to avail various benefits. They will come handy at times when you travel across the country and also on other occasions. Student status in Germany waives various expenses. If you choose not to enroll it would still be fine and you can manage costs. Next thing, is to try to learn some spoken words in German as many shop vendors don’t know English. Keep some essential documents in printed form as they may become useful under some unanticipated circumstances. Otherwise, a perfect relationship with the professor will generally help in solving any problem/clarification during the stay.
Would you consider studying in Germany in the future? If so, does being a scholar help you get admission over there quickly?
Yes, I would consider it as one of the most viable choices to pursue my graduate studies or probably even for doctoral programs. But, I’m not sure if I will have an edge over others. Chances of getting admitted to my host university might be higher though because the professor could possibly give a good recommendation to the selection panel. I also know some of my friends who got direct Ph.D. offers at their host universities (or with its alliance) right after the successful completion of their internship.
For students who did not get the DAAD-WISE scholarship, but have gotten an acceptance from a professor, would you recommend them to do the internship, albeit funded by themselves?
I would appeal to the students to make sure that they are financially stable enough before they opt to go to Germany without external funding. The entire expense may range between 1.5 and 2 lakhs.
For more information, please visit http://daad.de/go/en/stipa50015295.