The day I graduated

That’s right! I successfully graduated from my master’s program and with this last post, I want to share all about the experience of my thesis defense and how I prepared for it.

Before I begin, I want you to know that the process is different for everyone depending on their field of study and further, each person has their own style of preparation that works best for them. With this post, I am just sharing my own experience.

The process went like this: First I gave a public presentation, then there was a question-answer session with the audience. After that, I had a closed session of question-answer with my committee. Then, after some deliberating amongst themselves in private, the committee decided my grade. Here’s how I prepared for my defense.

The presentation
I had about 30 minutes to present my work of about 8 and a half months. I had to think very hard about what I wanted to present and how. Some tips I followed were:
1. While making my slides, I started by putting in the most important results first and then building my story to support those results using the methodology, objective, etc.
2. I tried to use as little words as possible in the slides. I used pictures and flowcharts to substitute sentences.
3. I got feedback from my supervisor, which was extremely helpful in improving my presentation and boosting my confidence.

The public question-answer session
After presenting, I received some questions from the audience present about my project. Some examples of the questions that I noticed can be asked are:
1. Regarding some assumptions that I might have used in my project.
2. Regarding some issues/scenarios that they feel might affect the work.
3. Regarding some practical aspects like cost, etc.

The closed question-answer session
After the short public question-answer session, I had a closed question-answer session with my committee where they further investigated the work by asking me questions about my assumptions, my logic behind some execution steps, the results, etc.

For both these question-answer sessions, my preparation involved critically reviewing my report, acknowledging some areas that might need more explanation and meeting my committee members in advance to discuss my work and getting to know their perspective beforehand.

Grade announcement
After the closed question-answer session with my committee, the committee deliberated my work and my performance in private, and then called me in to tell me my grade and give me some more precious feedback. After that, I called in the rest of the audience and I was given my degree certificate! We ended the session with some pictures and a lot of good wishes.

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That’s how it went, folks! With that, I bid you farewell and wish you the best in life.
Bye!

Master’s studies – A hard knock life?

“But Sindhura! Is it hard being a master’s student at TU Delft? You are always about deadlines and exams. Do you not get to peace out at times?”
Hmm. Interesting question, my friend. How do I answer this without looking like my life is entirely out of control? I would say, yes and no. Let me paint a glimpse for you. My track, (Electrical Power Engineering) is divided into eight quarters. Most of my courses are one quarter long. Depending on what combination of courses are available for me in a quarter, I may end up having three project based assignments plus practicums and regular assignments, or maybe just one project plus regular assignments.

But it’s all in the scheduling, really. Even the busiest of quarters starts off with a lot of free time for me to laze about. The first few weeks, when I am learning the concepts and getting started on the project ideas, I find a lot of evenings free to cook with friends or travel in the weekends, hang at X (sports and culture center of TU Delft), etc.

Then, as things start to progress, I usually have busy patches of time working for the courses and have fewer evenings and weekends free. I find myself savoring the free time more then (my precioussss). Trundling along toward the end of the quarter, facing exams preceded by submission deadlines and presentations, well, relaxation is just a happy memory. Yikes!
But! This signals the home stretch, people! This is the time I keep my eyes on the prize and try to give my best because soon, the quarter will end.

Does this look exhausting to you? Maybe. It is and it isn’t. See, dear reader, can you recall when you play a sport you like or engage in a gaming or movie marathon where, you only realize you are exhausted after you finish the game or the movie? Because you were so into the activity that you are not aware of how much energy you are expending during the activity. Yeap! It’s like that. The course work is something that I am learning and building methodically, on my own or in a team, and the process is engaging. Especially because I know that the goal (the degree and the knowledge and opportunities that it entails) is worth nothing less.

To conclude, it does get demanding sometimes. Then there are times when it is breezy. But there is never a time that it is boring. Thank the gods for that, me thinks! So, dear reader, here I will let you off, to your own lazy days and busy lives.
Until next time!

Lessons about the bike

The Netherlands is famous for its culture of biking. When I got here I thought, “When in Rome…..”. Off I went, intent on buying a bike and pedaling happily into the sunset. It turns out, it’s not such a straight path.
First, I hit the second (or third or higher order)-hand bike sale arranged during the Introduction Programme on campus. There was a bit of a supply-less-than-demand situation and it didn’t work out very well. Next up, Swapfiets. They are a rental agency and they have impressive service. The supply-demand situation surfaced again and foiled my attempt at renting a bike.
Lesson learned (too late): Try to be the earliest people at the bike sale if you want a good pick of bikes or a chance to rent.

Onwards to Facebook sales groups where many people are trying to sell off their bikes. That’s where I hit jackpot (I thought) and after testing out the bike and judging it using my very limited knowledge about bikes, I bought it.
Within a few months though, it started to give up the ghost, one part at a time. While nursing my heartburn caused by repair costs, I learned my second lesson (also too late): When buying a second- hand bike, add at least 50 euros repair cost to the price and then judge if it is worth it.

What’s more, during one of my rants about my bike troubles, someone pointed out to that since I didn’t get the original receipt of the bike, it could be a stolen bike that was sold to me. Face. Palm. Here comes another lesson for me: Always make sure to get the original receipt of the bike when buying second-hand!

Then I heard that Decathlon had released a new range of bikes at cheap prices. I jumped right on that. Immediately. Got me a cheap new bike, tested AND consulted with the staff at Decathlon who have better knowledge of bikes than me. Complete with the receipt. Plus, I received valuable advice like, “you should get mudguards or you’re going to be covered in mud after each ride”. Best decision ever.
The new bike from Decathlon
While enjoying my new ride, I conveniently forgot about my old bike for a long while. One day, when I went to check on it, it was gone. That was the next lesson for me: Bike theft is quite frequent. Don’t just leave it unattended for weeks! Most importantly, never leave it unlocked.

Such were the lessons on bikes that I wish I had known earlier. Oh well, at least I have a sweet ride now. Here I drop you off, dear reader, to ride into the sunset if you please.
Until next time!

At the office

You know how it is said that your environment shapes you? A while ago, I had a substantial change of environment, one of the most radical changes ever. I did an internship. Now, you may (or may not) be thinking, ‘Eh, that is a bit of an exaggeration, don’t you think, lady? Internships are pretty common!’. But imagine this. This girl is twenty-something years old and for about 90 percent of her life, she’s been at school. Do you relate? Or remember? I am discounting the experiences of social activities and part-time jobs here because I want to focus on the place where most of the day is spent in the majority of our life.

Then, as part of my graduation programme at TU Delft, I was given an opportunity to do an internship with a company to earn a portion of my required credits. Now, for the first time, I was spending the biggest chunk of my time in an environment completely different from school. I was at an office, with a desk of my own where I was expected to be for the entire day. That. Was. Such a challenge. To be honest, I believe I still cannot spend most of my day at my desk, even though it’s been about 6 months since I first started doing it. Naturally, this being at the office business sneakily brought about some changes in me.

Here are a few:
1. Saying hello. That’s right! I now say hello to people! Now, now, I used to say hello before, of course. But now, my day has a lot more hellos in it, with a lot less context for it. At the university, you go in, go to class or lab, say hello to the ones next to you and your friends and professors and so. At the office? You say about 15 hellos and have a nice day before you even reach your floor. The people at the entrance desk, the people who wait with you at the elevator, everyone who gets in or out of the elevator you are in, when passing someone by at the stairs, greetings are tossed about everywhere.

2. Idle chats at the coffee machine. When the time comes to pray at the holy caffeine machine, at the university, we queue up in silent anticipation of our next hit, if we’re not there with friends. At the office, everybody is your chat partner. Many short conversations occur during the wait. They are usually just fillers, like, “Gosh I’m so sleepy”, or “Hey how’s it going today?” or “Hey, you new here?” and so on. It’s quite comfy.

3. Conversation perspectives. University is filled with our peers who are mostly of the same age group. The young, age group. The young, new to this world, age group. In the sense that, at the office, when talking about something, especially social issues, and especially with people who are about a decade or so older, they have a better grasp of the history on such issues. They can precisely connect how an issue happening now arises out of something that’s been going on for a few decades now. Sure, we at the university talk about the history behind stuff, but in our perspective, it feels further away. That is something that now I try to keep in mind when thinking or reading about something.

These are some of the highlights that I’ve noticed have influenced how I interact with people. Now, whenever I’m at the university, I’m that person who calls out hellos and smiles at people at the coffee machine and at the loo. Yeah, it’s not going too well. Sometimes I get stared at in return. Yeesh.
Anyway, I’ll leave you now to ponder your own life changes while I navigate my way out of these awkward situations.
Until next time!

Lectures and perspective

Technical education consists of endless hours of lectures. The information given to you can be extremely focused and intense, more so in master’s education. For a while there, I was going through all these lectures about electromagnetics, microgrids and so on, and I was constantly thinking to myself, ‘I’m learning a lot here! I understand a lot of things and I know so many details about how things work and how they can be made better’.

But then I realized, I’m not quite thinking of the bigger picture! ‘What do I do with all this knowledge? Where can I apply it such that I make the maximum positive impact to the present, and to the future? What are other people doing and how can I collaborate with them to create something bigger than my knowledge? What is the current scenario? Why is it so different from an ideal scenario?’ Such were the questions that led to the opening of more windows to the world, I found out.

How did this realization come about in this girl, you might wonder. ‘Tis quite simple. I attended a few more lectures. But this time, I made sure they gave free lunch. Oh, and that the lectures were given by people who are currently muddling through the crises of the field and while doing a good job at it, they want to tell us all about it.

These are called ‘Lunch Lectures’. They are a regular and popular thing in TU Delft and are organized by different associations, like this one, with different themes and fields. Here is an example. Attending these lectures every now and then gives me an opening to widen my perspective, or sometimes, tears through my whole perception leaving me shocked silly. Lectures can be exciting. Huh.

With that, my reader, I leave you to ponder about the lectures.
Until next time!

All the girls

Once upon a time (last year), in a land far far away (India), lived a bachelor’s student (me!). After great consideration, hesitation, and determination, she travelled a mighty distance and started studying in TU Delft to “Challenge the future”, as they say around here. In case you haven’t deduced this on your own, that girl is me, Sindhura Sirige, a master’s student in the Electrical Power Engineering (EPE) track.
It has been over a year since I moved to The Netherlands and it has been fascinating so far. I have amassed a treasure trove of enlightening experiences here, about the old and new, about here and there and many things in between. Through my posts, I intend to share every bauble with you, my reader.

One of the very first things that I had someone say to me when I came here was, “Electrical power? Oh! It’s nice to see a woman pursue that course!” That statement was to be repeated, in various forms, through various conversations, and in different backdrops, throughout the year. All of them were received with happy surprise. This is also reflected within the university. The ratio of women to men in my track is around 1:5 in my batch. I’ve had a course where I was the only female registered, even. Delft, as a whole, has low women to men ratio in The Netherlands. Check it out here.

The EPE group last year at the High Voltage Lab

The reason for this, I think, has vanished in the stereotype. There is a tremendous opportunity for personal development and career enhancement here and the environment is quite enabling. I enjoy living and studying here immensely, as do my colleagues, guys and girls, equally. There is a lot to enjoy. Challenging courses, fun nights out, nights in, biking, group work, running, chess, rowing, famous days/nights in the library, dancing, something for everyone. It’s the perfect mix, for those who challenge the future!

Biking in The Netherlands

Of course, the ratio is steadily flattening out as time passes. Guy or girl, if you are considering TU Delft, or are already a student here, that is a matter of pride in itself! With that fuel for hope, I end this tale here.
Until next time!