Riya Talati is an undergraduate in the Department of Chemical Engineering from the Y14 batch. She has been placed in Auctus Advisors, a management consulting firm. She served as the Head, Public Relations for Techkriti’17 in her pre-final year.
Life in IIT Kanpur has been very dynamic for me. If I were to list what made my stay in the campus memorable, it would be friends, dance and Techkriti in no particular order.
Like most people, I was the stereotypical, studious IIT aspirant when I came to IIT Kanpur. Having heard about the hallowed academic rigour that IIT Kanpur was famous for, I wanted to prove myself in this environment with a ‘dassa’, branch change and what not. But like most stories that start this way, it did not end like I had imagined. The multitude of opportunities that I was exposed excited me so much that I forgot about all the rest.
I participated in as many campus activities as I could in my first year. I actively participated in all the competitions of the General Championship, whether it was Takneek or Galaxy, and also had table tennis on the side. But the most memorable involvement of my first year has to be the Antaragni ‘14 performance. It required so much investment of time and effort but in the end, it was worth it because of all the memories we created.
In short, I tried to explore as much as I could in the first year and that is how I believe one should ideally spend the first year. The seniors here were a major influence as they were the ones who acquainted me with all these things that happen around in IIT Kanpur. This brings me to something that I have realised over my four years on the campus. I believe that second-year students, who happen to be the first influence on the first year students as their baapus or ammas, sometimes give advice which isn’t entirely accurate. This is not their fault but their lack of experience which prevents honest and well-meaning advice from being helpful. What I am trying to say is that as juniors, one should try to take advice from multiple seniors and not just the immediate ones.
Summers in IIT Kanpur is a very confusing time because, on one hand, you are trying to relax but there is also the pressure of making ‘efficient’ use of your time. I spent my first year summers trying to do what I love, dance. I stayed on the campus and did sports camp and dance workshops. In the vacation following my second year I went to Canada for a research internship, and after that for a month, I was in IIM Bangalore where I worked on a project under a professor. I believe that after the second year everyone should definitely try and take up some project or internship, either on or off campus. It not just helps one build some experience but is also important for the coming internship season. In the third summer break, I went to Hindustan Unilever Limited, Mumbai for an internship.
Like many students on campus, I had different and often non-intersecting groups of friends and every group has unique memories attached to it. The friends in my hostel could never get over first world problems like where to go for dinner or what to wear for a photoshoot. The only thing that we discussed in the dance group was how and when to shoot dance videos. Then there was our Cafe Coffee Day (CCD) group. We used to sit there for hours without ordering anything. Now when I look back at it all it seems so funny and stupid that we would spend hours on activities like these. Our transition from sincere, civilized kids in the first year to an uncivilized lot in the fourth year has truly been dramatic. Drunk calls and messages made life more interesting than it already was. The proximity and the bonding we had amongst ourselves here is unique, something I never had before IIT Kanpur and probably never will.
IIT Kanpur, just like any home, is not perfect and neither am I. The various situations and opportunities life at IIT Kanpur provided me with have moulded me into the confident and outgoing person I am today. While I have changed, IIT Kanpur also needs improvement in both student-run bodies as well as the administrative bodies and there needs to be improved coordination between them. There needs to be a change in mentality on many issues. An immediate menace that needs to be dealt with is drug abuse, which is ruining many lives.
If I were to give one advice, it would be doing the right thing at the right time. Every year in one’s college life has a specific purpose in the larger scheme of things. I believe the first year is meant to explore things. It sets the tempo for the remaining three years and while academics definitely need to be focused on, extracurriculars should not be ignored. You do not have as much freedom later because every following year brings its own pressures like internships, placements, etc. It is also a myth that the one’s CPI cannot improve or worsen after the first year. On an average, every semester holds about fifty credits and every semester you have an equal chance of working on your CPI. Attending classes should also be a priority of any student in IIT Kanpur as it helps you utilise time that you would invariably waste away otherwise.
The second year is ideal for consolidating your position in both academics and in clubs or festivals as it is the last opportunity to actually explore these things without being burdened with significant responsibility. The third year is important as it is the first opportunity to hold important positions of responsibility (PoRs). Then there are the internships. I believe that us IIT Kanpur students are severely underprepared and need to work hard to attain a particular level before appearing for internships or placements.
Finally, there will be times when everything seems to be going against you. In my case, one such moment was the infamous Hall Day incident which happened right in my first year. During these low points in life, it is best to use the support systems at one’s disposal like friends and family. Talking about it always helps. At every point in time, it is important to realise what you are doing and keep correcting the course you are on. We have a great campus with a number of opportunities. Just maintain your sanity, keep doing the right things and you’ll be fine.