By Vinay Raghhavan
I’ve always known I’ve wanted to study abroad, but I never knew where to start. As an electrical engineering major, I knew that my studying abroad experience would have to be carefully planned to fit with all the coursework and internships that are required and expected. After all, the only way to study abroad during the school year is to take some courses earlier or later and pile on courses during the remaining semesters. To me, that felt like too much of a disruption to the progression of classes, plus I didn’t want to miss Beer Bike! That left the summer.
I knew I wanted a research experience in which I would be challenged to learn and grow as a student while going deeper into signal processing and machine learning, but also in which I could travel and immerse myself in a new culture. I had heard about the DAAD-RISE program from an ELEC who had done it a few years before, so I figured it was worth checking out. Upon going through the program details on the website, I was amazed by the sheer number of research positions available all throughout Germany! There were so many that I knew there had to be one for me. After reading through about a hundred different project descriptions, I found the one.
Even though RISE allows you to apply to up to three different projects, I only applied to this one. The project – Machine Learning Based Musical Instrument Synthesis – was the perfect combination of signal processing and machine learning, and I would get to tap into my passion for music, one that’s been growing since I started playing trombone in fifth grade. The DAAD-RISE program itself also had many selling points: they gave me a monthly stipend, they provided a free two-week language course, and they hosted a conference for all students in the program to meet and present their research. I was absolutely sold, so I applied, interviewed, and eventually was accepted.
Traveling internationally wasn’t new to me: I had taken vacations in Central America and visited family in India; however, this was the first time I had traveled internationally alone. At first, it was really intimidating, being in a new place with a new language and a new culture I knew little about. But as the days went by, I got better at it. I got better at navigating the streets and subways of Munich, I got better at speaking German, and I got better at letting go of the cultural norms I was used to and allowing myself to be immersed in the culture all around me.
As the summer went by, I watched it become everything I had hoped for and more. I contributed to meaningful, interesting, and challenging research, and I traveled to six new countries and learned about the rich history and culture in each one. The whole summer was a whirlwind experience that helped me open my eyes to all the people, places, and cultures that exist in this amazing world and helped shape the way I view the world around me. I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything.
Vinay Raghavan is a senior at Duncan College from Milwaukee, WI majoring in Electrical Engineering with a focus on data science and signal processing. On campus, he is involved with Rice IEEE and works at the IT Help Desk. Next year he plans on attending graduate school. Outside of academics and traveling, he enjoys going to concerts and playing virtual reality games.