A headway into Rochester vibes!

by Abhisek Dey, Computer Engineering MS student

There are a few things in life that are ever elusive right? Well, I beg to differ. Coming to Rochester gave me the whole enchilada of seasons, cuisines, history and everything in between. From intense summers to blistering winters, from beach parks to mountain resorts and from museums to vineyards, this city has something in it for everyone and more.

Summer in all it’s glory

Most students start off in the Fall semester which is the latter half of summer. Incidentally, it is one of the most pleasant times of the year. I would recommend most people to make the most of their time before classes start. This is the best time to visit the nearby beaches and go out camping with your buddies. The closest beach would be Ontario beach nearby downtown and some notable parks nearby would be the Genesee Valley Park and the Letchworth State Park an hour away which is also great for camping. There are also a lot events in and around town which you can be a part of and share the excitement. The Rochester Fringe festival is held in the month of September and is a musical and a theatrical extravaganza. If you are more a food connoisseur you should definitely give the Rochester public market a visit. Consisting of fresh farmer’s produce from nearby areas you can find at least something akin to your tastes.

As September passes and Fall begins, brace yourselves for a roller coaster ride of rain and sun. But let it not stop you from enjoying what this city has to offer. But always keep

Wet and wonderful! Fall scenes on campus.

an umbrella handy with you. I personally just enjoy a lazy stroll in and around the campus and bask in the shades of fall and find it quite de-stressing. The temperature starts dropping and you would generally need to start wearing sweatshirts outdoors. It is also a good time to get started buying winter apparels. If you are coming in from a warm place, probably a good place to start would be by buying a fleece jacket and a pair of snow boots and figure out what else you need as you go.

As Fall gives way to the dreaded winter, most people start staying indoors enjoying their favorite TV shows while sipping on a hot cup of brew. But where’s the fun in that right? Rochester also offers lots of opportunities for winter sports. Some skiing resorts near Rochester are the Bristol Mountain and Swain resorts. You can enjoy a day of fun-filled skiing regardless of your skill level. The other major event would be RIT’s own Freeze Fest. There are also inter varsity ice-hockey games held every other Friday which is a spectacle of the Tiger spirit! If you are lucky enough, you could snatch a free ticket to the game too!

I think what defines Rochester and the RIT community is its people and its own unique vibe. It may not be the largest or the most cosmopolitan city by any means but it has just right mix of everything to pack a mean punch. Don’t let the size deceive you because you will most likely be blown away by it’s alluring charm and everglowing spirit of oneness and harmony.

Five Reasons Why: US Education

by Abhisek Dey, Computer Engineering MS student

If you are expecting this blog to be another clichéd post raving about how advanced, revolutionary, and state-of-the-art higher education in the US is – it is not. It is meant to be a dissection of my experiences outside the classroom for the better part of a year that has led me to morph into a better person. Most international students come here for a world-class education and some want to stay back for the proverbial cherry-picked life and the fat paychecks. I came here for the same reasons too but if I do decide to stay here, it would be for the great people around me, diversity in ideas, freedom to express myself in every way and the opportunity to make a noteworthy difference in the lives of everyday people. Now, let’s dive in.

Decisiveness – In my opinion, the most important quality that I could acquire. It taught me to always be open to a new train of thought and never be afraid to try new things. We are only limited by our fears and tactless indecision. Try out a new sport – something you have never seen before. Try out an exotic cuisine. If you like it, try to make it yourself. See how far you can push yourself.

Break those walls – Appreciating everyone for who they are and acknowledging that there is always a bigger picture to everything. If you really want to be a well-rounded person, understanding why some people or somethings work differently than you are accustomed to would be the first step. Never be afraid to initiate a conversation with someone totally different from you. You might find you have so many things to talk about over a nice cold beer! The only thing worse than failure is never trying.

Respect and equality – Treat others the way you want to be treated. Everyday out here reinforces this idea in me. You will never be singled out for what you decide to wear, eat, talk about or who you love. Race, age, occupation, sexual orientation, special challenges are a way to divide us rather than bring us together. I have had the privilege to meet and interact with deaf and blind students at RIT and they are without a doubt some of the toughest nuts I have ever seen and a great company.

Circle of life – We are merely travelers passing through this realm and this world is what we make out of it. I always try to stand out, take on new roles and do not shy away from challenges. The fact that I’m an engineering grad student and penning this piece is enough to prove it! Being a go-getter is much more rewarding than it seems and this place has instilled the belief in me.

Humility – Ever wondered what the creator of a facial detection algorithm in our phone cameras is like in real life? Just like any of us – loves listening to 80’s music, enjoys Chinese food and owns a 2014 Honda Civic. Being humble is truly a virtue that does not take a lot of effort to master. It makes people instantly like us and this kind of also stems from the fact that everyone here is deemed to be on the same pedestal.

If you have made it this far, I am grateful and hope you could relate to some of your own experiences reading it. If not, there’s no better time to start a new journey! Visit an art museum, learn rock climbing, dive into a crazy research problem. Knock yourself out. Make some headway in the circle of life. We miss a 100% of the shots we don’t take!

 

Between the Hours: Dealing with graduate school

by Abhisek Dey, Computer Engineering MS student

Whether you are contemplating grad school, about to begin a new program, or already there, this post is for you. It is about the place where one discovers his true self through an exhausting journey of successes and failures which often brings many to their tipping points. But, in the words of Nelson Mandela, “A winner is a dreamer who never gives up”.

Deciding to pursue a graduate education is an important step as we have to ask ourselves many questions – is it really the best way forward for me, am I ready to spend the next 2 years or more working on really specific problems? Does the research track enthuse me to work tirelessly on it? Is the advisor I am looking to work under a good fit? Even after we plan ahead, enter grad school and take the beast head on, it does become overwhelming and impossible sometimes to break off the vicious circle. During these times, it is important to remember subtle things like staying focused and time management which prove as invaluable tools to tame the beast.

Just one of those days…

The worst enemy of any grad student is procrastination. Time and again, we find ourselves in a position where we have to complete our thesis proposal, devote hours for teaching assistant duties, complete assignments and projects for the courses, and work on publishing a paper for a research conference all together. Though sometimes, it is not entirely a student’s lackluster work ethic, most times it invariably is. We love to live under a delusion that our responsibilities are trivial and can be done in no time. Closer to our deadlines, we come to terms with reality and make our lives a mess. Eating at regular intervals, maintaining personal hygiene and completing daily chores go out the window!

Appreciating baby steps is a proven motivator!

Having said that, a grad life is rigorous and challenging. Managing a healthy work-life balance becomes increasingly complicated, more so for PhD’s. Discovering a favorite past-time or hobby becomes more essential than ever, just to blow off some steam. Be it watching Netflix or playing a random instrument – trust me, you would need  it. Also, never hesitate to ask for help/advice when you need some. You have to always find solace and encouragement from the fact that many around you have endured the same phase that you are going through. At least at RIT, help is always one email away!

 

#myRITstory – Ishan Guliani

Program: Computer Science MS, incoming Fall 2018

From: New Delhi, India

“I always feel that it is important for individuals to specialize in the discipline that drives their curiosity. It not only satiates one’s hunger for a deeper understanding of the subject, but also qualifies a person as a reliable resource for that particular field of work.” – Ishan

Having amassed a wealth of experience in the tech startup scene back home, it was time for Ishan to explore further and delve deeper into what he loved doing – using technology to improve the lives of everyday people. Ishan passed on lucrative job offers from multinational companies to spend 4 years as an entrepreneur. During that time he played a significant role in building up several startups from ground zero.

Ishan knew he’d be able to advance to a central role in technology entrepreneurship if he could expand his technical knowledge. He ultimately had two options before him – an M.Tech from India or an MS from the US. After spending time with his mentors and asking for advice from seniors from his undergraduate days, choosing to go for an MS and get valuable international experience abroad was the obvious choice.

After an extensive search process Ishan chose RIT’s Computer Science program. Says Ishan, “the primary factor for me in choosing RIT was my specialization itself. Coming from a startup background where I’ve seen apps scale rampantly and crash servers overnight, I have been fascinated with highly scalable and distributed systems. This is one of the fields I want to specialize in and RIT’s research and course work in this area is extremely promising and challenging.”

Other factors in his decision to attend RIT included the promptness and openness of both faculty and admission counselors. Ishan had a series of email conversations with professors from the CS department during the application process itself. He also had numerous phone and email interactions with the graduate enrollment office to assist anytime he hit a hurdle. Of course, the scholarship Ishan received as a part of his acceptance package also went a long way in cementing his decision.

Ishan is a people person and loves spending quality time with people who matter to him. At RIT, Ishan hopes to take things one day at a time, breathing in the new experiences and savoring them. Ishan wants to meet new people, get new ideas and learn as much as he can during his time in the US.

Ishan, we look forward to welcoming you to campus!

RIT: Transcending boundaries and making great minds meet

by Abhisek Dey, Computer Engineering MS student

Ever wondered what kinds of engineering goes into making of a run-of-the-mill cellphone? Well, there is no definite answer. In fact, in the deeply interconnected world that we live in, every engineering marvel that is seemingly so obvious is the result of people from various parts of the spectrum coming together, sharing ideas and putting all the pieces where they belong. RIT recognizes this and has been trying to instill the same spirit in research as well as in the coursework that students take.

Being a graduate student in the Computer Engineering department, I can vouch for the broad base of courses that I am allowed to take as a part of my degree. I have already decided to take a course from the Electrical Engineering department and hopefully another from the Computing Security department. Taking relevant courses from outside our department not only broadens our knowledge base but also brings about an interdisciplinary area of expertise which both the research community and the industry requires.

Much like this bridge which connects the College of Computing (left) with the College of Engineering (right), RIT students go beyond disciplines to innovate and collaborate!

RIT also encourages you to mix with faculty and student researchers from other disciplines. It is not mandatory for you to pick a graduate advisor from your department. I have personally known many graduate students to align with an advisor outside their department because they either had common research interests or some relevant background which made him a good fit. For instance, a friend of mine from Computer Engineering chose a Professor from Computing Security to be his advisor because he was looking for security as his focus area and his communications background made him a good fit for the Professor who was working on wireless security for IOT devices and vehicular communications.

This approach has been very well-admired by companies that come to hire RIT students during the career fair. Companies across the board, from Amazon and Google to Microsoft, as well as numerous local industries based in the Rochester area are impressed by the talent and preparation of RIT students. Our graduates are well-prepared to hit the ground running. Alumni return to their alma mater and further encourage students to participate in cross-disciplinary projects and research collaborations.

The greatest piece of advice from myself to other students considering RIT is to never be afraid to ask questions – to others and to yourself. It is going to be your greatest asset and a tool not only in your time as a graduate student trying to explore a research problem but also in the later stages of your career!

 

 

Bird’s eye view of on-campus employment opportunities

by Abhisek Dey, Computer Engineering MS student

As a student, managing your finances can be an arduous task at the very least. International students have their work cut out when it comes to this. To be honest, we all love that little extra inflow of cash to help pay for housing or just simply to buy that fancy pair of shoes which all our friends rave about. Whatever the case maybe – RIT has got you covered!

RIT is unique in a way that students essentially are one of the most important cogs in the wheel that they paid for. Almost all departments and offices employ student workers to ensure smooth operation. There are over 9,000 on-campus jobs to be found and anyone who wants one does not have to look far. One of biggest department that is run almost entirely by student employees is the dining services department. RIT has a plethora of on-campus dining options and all of them require student workers. Just some of the dining options include Gracies, Salsaritas, Crossroads, Ritz, Ctrl-Alt-Deli and so on.

Gracies Dining Hall

Roles may involve cutting and slicing of meat and veggies, servicing the dishwasher, cooking, maintenance and upkeep or that of a cashier. FMS or Facilities Management Services is another department that hires a lot of student workers. Responsibilities here include mostly everything related to building maintenance like inspecting doors and windows, replacing faulty light bulbs or checking if locks work the way they should. There are loads of other jobs like lab assistants, front desk assistants and so on. The list is endless.

How do you find such jobs? While you can look and apply for jobs on the RIT job portal

Crossroads

Handshake (which is obviously a great source), there are many jobs which are not explicitly advertised. The mantra to find that job is really simple enough – go and ask in person! I have seen so many of my friends getting a job from the unlikeliest of places on campus because they went ahead and asked about it directly.

 

Graduate Assistantships are also a great way to earn money which is more technically and academically oriented. While these positions are not as many as the other options many students do get offered the positions of a Research or a Teaching Assistant. A paid RA position depends upon your graduate advisor, his funding status and your area of interest. TA positions are always paid and they require you to be in the right place at the right time. In all the engineering departments, you can TA an undergraduate course if there is an availability and you have a sufficient background in that area. Talking to a Professor of a course you would like to TA for would be a good idea in this case. The other way to grab a TA position is having taken a course prior, building a solid background in it and informing the instructor you are interested if there is an availability.

All in all, RIT is a place where you can always earn a little pocket money if you need to and is one of things I admire about my University. So buckle in and enjoy your time here – it is a great place to be!

The ‘American’ life: In the eyes of an international student

by Abhisek Dey, Computer Engineering MS Student 

What is the American life? I used to think it was utopia on Earth – the ever illusive ‘good life’. The kind of place where you turn off the lights and wake up to a perfect morning where all your problems have magically disappeared. Wading through the deceptively clear waters of a semester here has led me to realize how wrong I was. Stick around till the end while I describe an intriguing process of self-discovery and introspection.

It was on a freakishly cold day when I arrived in the land of the free and home of the brave. Being used to the other extreme of the temperature scale it was a surreal experience for someone who had never seen snow before. A 5 minute wait for a cab out in the open to take me to my apartment felt like ages. But I was still completely oblivious to what was in store for me. My heart kept telling me that the proverbial bling life was still to come.

Reaching my apartment, I was excited to meet the new roommates with whom I would be spending the winter with. I was starving after an exhausting journey but they said it would be another couple hours before food would be made. Without knowing how to get around town, I snacked on leftovers from my journey. Tired as I was, I had to clean up my room before I could get any kind of respite as the the guy from whom I subleased it left it in a mess. In a few days, reality dawned on me. Pampered since childhood with never having to worry about my own well-being for a second, I had to look after everything now. Some days were bearable while some days were not. Coming home weary-eyed and zoned out after a long day, you suddenly remember that it was your day to cook or do the dishes and you have an assignment due the next day which is still incomplete.

A picture worth a thousand words.

But as all dark clouds have a silver-lining, my story had one too. I had some of the most wonderful professors who guided me through every step of the way. Sometimes, we would engage in enriching conversations about my progress that not only helped me to focus on areas I was weak in but also develop a new perspective of the course. At times when I needed to blow off some steam, I would just drive off into the pristine countryside. Life is way different in smaller towns and ranches and feeling those vibes were just what I needed to recharge my batteries.

So, what exactly is the American life? Is it having all you ever wanted at your fingertips? Is it the peace of mind to never break a sweat about anything? To me it is the freedom to carve your own fate and be the master of your own destiny. The power to make your own choices and the undying spirit to see it through no matter the sacrifices. The unwavering grit to hold on to the values of mutual respect and inclusiveness despite the threats. As the Statue of Liberty says – “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”.