Exchange Diaries  

By International Relations Cell

Outbound Diaries 2020

Varun Garg | Architecture and Regional Planning

Todd Jersey Architecture Inc., USA

Research Area: Residential projects and mix-use development projects

1. Which firm did you get in? What did you work on?
My firm’s name was Todd Jersey Architecture Inc. in Berkley, California. I worked on residential projects and mix-use development projects, in which I had to do project management and draft.

2. How did you choose the firm? What was the applying process?
I applied to a lot of firms in different countries through their websites. The firm liked my portfolio and the assignments I had worked on. The LORs from my professors, which I had sent in and my previous internships, also added to my credibility. Also, I was interviewed through a skype call and then selected.

3. What is the significant difference between an Indian firm and a foreign firm? Why did you choose the latter?
In India, not everyone goes to an architect when constructing a building, while in the US, it’s mandatory to have an approval document signed by an architect before any construction. So, my professors advised me to choose a foreign firm as it would improve my future career prospects.

4. What was the role of CG? What other criteria played a role?
The architectural portfolio, consisting of all the major projects done in the past four years, is the primary selection criteria. The CGPA is playing a validatory role.

5. Did you have any prior experience?
I had done two internships before this. One was in Pune while the other was a remote internship in an alumni’s firm. They appreciated my work and hence gave me a letter of recommendation as well.

6. How did your firm manage everything in this confusion of Covid-19?
I had gone to the firm in December, and the first three months were fine. In the latter months, we had to work from home. My accommodation was close to the firm, and so I went there whenever necessary. The interaction with the head architect also switched to virtual.

7. What were the difficulties you faced during the entire process?
The significant difficulty was getting the VISA issued. It took about two months, and there were a lot of documents to be submitted. Also, the interview was scheduled during the mid-semester examination, which was also quite stressful.

8. What was the process of obtaining a visa and a work permit?
The visa is called the J-1 visa, and the first step is to search for a sponsor. I reached to the alumni and seniors who had done internships in the past, and they advised me to reach out to Cultural Vistas. They run a background check and then give you the DS form, which is later utilized while applying through the US embassy website. It takes around ten days to be verified, after which you ask for the interview. There is a waiting time of approximately 21 days. The interview round has biometric scans in the first phase, followed by the question-answer session.

9. How would you describe your overall experience?
It was an invigorating experience. I became a better version of myself professionally. I learned to apply whatever I had learned during my stay at Kharagpur. Also, it felt amazing to know that your creation has a significant value in society. I also made friends and went exploring the nearby places. I went to Silicon Valley, San Francisco, etc.

10. What advice would you like to give to our fellow KGPins?
The first thing is to have a good portfolio showcasing a variety and mastery of skills. You should reach out to seniors and plan out in advance. It is better to start early as the process becomes difficult to manage with an ongoing semester. Especially since there is a 12 hour time difference, and so office-timings need to be timed in.