Internship Diaries: MITACS Globalink Research Internship, Canada




University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Internships are the opportunities for getting some first-hand work experience in some institute or company for a short time to get a handy exposure to the real world for the career. Apart from this careeristic point of view, it's a lot of fun, new place, new people, a much-needed break from the mundane college life. Anyway, here I'll share the necessary information about MITACS Globalink Research Internship, Canada and some of my invaluable experiences, which I cherish from my heart. I was selected for this internship in 2018 and worked at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

So, what is MITACS?

Mitacs is a non-profit research and training organization of Canada focused on collaborations between industry, academia and government in Canada, and they try to foster international research networks between Canadian Universities and the world. The Mitacs Globalink Research Internship is one of their schemes; a highly competitive and prestigious research internship around the globe. International undergraduates from around 12 countries including India get a chance to work at one of the excellent Canadian universities with a state of the art facilities from May to October of each year. Twelve weeks stay is the ideal case for this internship and I'll say it's pretty perfect to finish at least some significant research work. Anyway, you can extend or shorten this period according to your availability by emailing Mitacs.
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How it works?

Now I'm giving a rough outline of the time-span of the yearly activities of Mitacs. Exact dates and curriculum change from year to year, so stay tuned with their announcements. For more information like eligibility criteria, application procedure, deadline etc. please go through the official website
  1. May to June 
    Professors from different Canadian Universities submit their research proposals to Mitacs. The research proposals are screened and selected by Mitacs and they become available to the applicants on an online portal. When I applied (2017), there were more than 2500 projects available.
  2. July to September 
    You need to select research projects of their interest from the online portal and submit your applications along with a statement of purpose, CV, transcripts, recommendation letter(s), educational information etc. You can apply to a minimum of three, maximum of seven, projects and ensure selections are from at least 3 different Canadian provinces.
  3. October to December
    This is the main phase when you have nothing to do other than routine checking of your mail. Firstly, you'll get an eligibility update whether you're eligible or not. After that, Mitacs and the Professors shortlist applicants based on their profiles and research interests. If you are in, you get a 'Candidate under Consideration' update. Otherwise, a 'Waitlist' update will keep you wait. If you get the first one, you're lucky and that's fast. And if you get the second one, don't worry; they select the applicants in two phases, and you still have enough chance. Around mid-December, both the phases are completed and the waitlisted guys get another update (3rd) of either 'Candidate under Consideration' or 'Waitlist'. Now, the candidates under consideration are in the hand of their respective professors. If more than one candidates get considered, the professors take online interview. That's kinda pandemonium, huh! Just check your mail and follow accordingly.
  4. January to April 
    The new year starts with a bang! The selected candidates get their acceptance letter. Now, you have lots to do. After getting it, mail your professor regarding your project details, joining date etc. Stay in touch with him/her. Mitacs coordinates with the host universities, and you'll receive detailed instructions about everything you need to do. Filling up the online portal, applying for Visa, finding accommodation, booking flight etc. all these are very important things you have to manage very carefully one by one. Mitacs helps with their best possible way, but remember that you need to do all these things by yourselves. So, you need to plan, keeping everything in mind and don't hesitate to contact Mitacs helpdesk regarding any confusion.
  5. May to September 
    Welcome to Canada! Now you have a lot of time to explore the beautiful country, sweet people and many more. You'll definitely learn and enjoy a lot. 

Some points to remember!

  • Although Mitacs strongly discourage applicants to mail the Professors before the final selection, you can always mail the professors whom you have selected in your preference list as it is not prohibited. There is a very minor chance of Mitacs getting informed. On the other hand, if you can contact your professor beforehand with some positive discussion, the chance of getting selected certainly increase. Yeah, you can take chance.
  • If you really want to increase the chance of getting selected, fill your preferences with both top rank universities and mediocre universities. Because getting selected in top universities like the University of British Columbia or the University of Toronto is not quite easy. It's just an option to play safe.
  • Don't just blindly chase Universities with high QS rank. Before giving the preferences, do some background study on the profiles of the respective professors of your research interest. Remember, sometimes esteemed professors exist in mediocre universities and some terrible professors also survive in renowned universities. And believe me, almost all the universities in Canada have state of the art research facilities and cutting edge instruments.
    My working area at the University of Victoria

  • Routine Undergraduate Chemistry lab at UVic. Stunning, right?

CANADA!  

Enough of this selection procedure. It's time to enjoy and explore Canada. Now I'll tell my experiences along with some life-hacks which will hopefully help you to foresee the life-style and enjoy your internship to the fullest. 

Mentor:

Mitacs assign a mentor for each of the interns and they pay a sufficient amount to the mentors for taking the responsibility of the interns and helping them. So, don't hesitate to ask for help for genuine reasons. Try to contact him/her before your journey to Canada so that he/she can come to the airport to pick you up and help you to reach your place on the very first day. Generally, they help to open a bank account there in Canada, set up the first meeting with your supervisor,  guide you to the University campus, conduct some social event(s) with other interns etc. Basically, they help you out to settle in a new country in a completely new culture. I got a Chinese girl named Xiwen Wang as my mentor, who was pretty nice and helpful.

Honeymoon phase:

First few days were really dreamy for me. It was my first time outside India. Neither I had any experience of travelling all alone to a place 11000 km away from home, nor I got any relatives or known faces there. So, I was more than excited and nervous too. It was the 'foreign' which I used to watch in Hollywood movies. I captured around a thousand photos and hundreds of videos in my first week. Believe me, it was sweet.   

The spectacular view when my flight was about to land at Vancouver

Culture Shock:

You are in an uncrowded, roomy Northern American Country from a country of billions. What do you expect? Everything looks fancy and photographed to you. The right-oriented traffic will confuse you, 15 CAD dinner (750 INR) will make you feel like no way. Complete strangers will say you 'hi', 'hello' from nowhere, bus-drivers will thank you for getting in. Yes, they are so sweet and polite. Pedestrians always get priorities over the vehicles. Try to learn all these cultures from them; these are worth learning and never forget to hold the doors for others. You can see a lot of people from different cultures and all they are mixed in a convivial manner. On Canada Day, you can see a lot of cross-cultural activities in downtown. 

  
Cultural Diversity on Canada Day

Food does not become a great issue for non-vegetarians. If you're not okay with pork and beef, always mention chicken during order. It's wise to take spices from India as they are not easily available. As I'm omnivorous, I really enjoyed the diverse food options. 

Diverse choices, huh?

Stipend:

The most alluring part about this internship is the stipend. They pay more than sufficient for this 3 months duration. I received a total of 7000 CAD (3,60000 INR ). The expenses vary from place to place and if you spend your money frugally, you can save a lot. My monthly rent was 600 CAD and other household expenses barely touched 300-400 CAD per month. We cooked at home on the weekdays to save some expenditure and we bought our groceries from Walmart. Walmart is really cheap and Indian foods like roti, nun, spices are all available there. Mitacs cover your health insurance so that you don't need to pay extra for health problems.  

Weekends:

Canada has awestruck natural beauties and landscapes. That's why we utilised our weekends in best possible ways. I was in Victoria which is one of the best locations in the world. There is a beautiful bay named Cadboro Bay, which is 15 minutes walk from my University and a small hill named Mount Tolmie, half an hour walk from the University. 
  
Cadboro Bay
Soothing View from Mount Tolmie

I got a great group to roam here and there in the weekends. We tried to save our expenses and never withheld ourselves to spend on travelling and doing all the fun activities. I made some great friends, whom I can both adore and insult with all my potential. They were all my partners in crime. I did sky-diving, whale-watching, kayaking, travelled each and every nooks and corner of Victoria and why not?


Literally, I was flying!

I have so many photos to share that I'm confused to select the best ones, haha! You should and you should explore Canada.

What I learnt?

  • I learnt to work independently in the lab. Unlike India, there was no one to guide everything in my laboratory. It was my work and the onus of success or failure was all on me.
  • I gained the confidence to survive anywhere in the world irrespective of the language and culture difference.
  • I learnt to cook from scratch, not up to the mark. At least I can feed myself with a considerable variety of dishes.
  • I don't feel nervous about my next foreign trips and I can manage everything with a cool attitude. I'm not prone to lose my temper in adverse situations.
All these were apart from the laboratory techniques and concepts I learnt from my project purpose. I'm sure that the story is more or less the same for each intern. These significantly help to develop the personality and the confidence you build up, remain with you forever.

Conclusion:

Always remember, you'll represent your country throughout this internship. So, work hard to get a fruitful result because at the end of the day, your work matters. Besides, try to behave properly, follow the rules, be respectful to different cultures. Finally, you're going to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience which will be blissful.

Cheers! 







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