Are Fellowships A Good Option?

“What to do after the completion of B.Tech? – This is a very common question that comes to the mind of every final year engineering student. 

While many would be praying and preparing for the campus placements, some would be burning the midnight oil for scoring high in GATE, CAT, GRE or any other such exams. There would be yet some others who would have planned and prepared for their startups and others who would be still thinking of the right choice. 

For all those who have made up their mind with “Whatever I do, this is my area of passion”, there are wonderful opportunities in the form of fellowships and project assistance. 

I am pinpointing the fact that fellowships are for those who are sure about the field which they want to work in. 

Let us say, for example, I wanted to work in the field of social development and I was very sure about that. I could hence look for fellowships in Social Development. In that again there are many I could choose from-  technical, medical, economic development, and many more.

Even today, fellowships are mistaken as internships and many a time it doesn’t receive the recognition which it deserves.

So actually what is a fellowship?

Fellowships are time-bound projects co-ordinated by Government bodies, NGOs or any other organization whose primary motive is research and development. The time duration of fellowships can vary from 6 months to 3 years. And  responsibility of the project lies with the fellows. 

The real importance or benefit of a fellowship can only be understood for those who want to do some work which is challenging as well as requires multiple skills to move forward ( skills that would be honed during the fellowship). 

In India, a majority of fellowships are focused on either development or innovation. Even now, in the newspapers, we can find the call for fellowships in the areas of Bio-Informatics to fight COVID-19.

 

But don’t take it lightly just because there are so many advertisements. It doesn’t make it an easy job. Fellowships always come with certain criteria and with a very limited number of seats. 

 

The selection process is very scrutinizing. Your CV alone decides if you would go for Round 2 or not. Of course, there is an age limit, but what they actually look for is how well you would perform and put in your time and energy, for that amazing end product. They normally keep lower and upper limits for age, just because they want an excellent blend of knowledge, experience, and aptitude.

And yes these are not limited to freshers alone. They also look for your experience. – But it is not about the quantity of work one has done. Rather,  the quality! So for those well-experienced buddies out there, these provide an opportunity for a shift in their careers.

From my personal experience, I can say that fellowships demand a lot of your time, energy, and resources. Once we  selected for a fellowship, there is a huge responsibility  . There would be timely reviews which are obviously killer ones and the required outcome is all that is needed. 

But for some, the stipend and the scope of research itself would turn out to be the most attractive of all.

This is taken during our immersion programme, and the visit was to understand the health and medical challenges faced by the tribal community at Wayanad. A detailed report of our Wayanad visit is available here.

 

One thing we should understand is that these fellowships always bring us under an umbrella, which could open zillion doors.

Once a decision has to be taken, it is always better to think about the long term result of at least 5 years ahead. Let me just put it under two headings: Attractions and Precautions.

Attractions:

  • It provides unique responsibilities and projects.

  • Many employers consider fellowship as an entry-level work experience

  • Would get the opportunity to participate in seminars and conferences across the globe

  • Great chance for pursuing research in your specific field

  • It provides financial support (earn while you learn)

  • It is definitely going to  boost your self-confidence (Being selected for one itself is a big deal).

 

Precautions:

  • Always go through the requirements at a very deep level (do not fake. You will be caught at the first stage itself.)

  • Understand the expectations from the organization (the end goal will always be in favor of the host, so it is better to be prepared.)

For example: If my interest is in sustainable development and suppose there is a fellowship that supports sustainable development but their objective is starting a company (as the outcome of fellowship). While starting a company one has to look into the market focus more on profit-making, which does not coincide with mine.

  • Thoroughly learn about the 1 or 2-year course of the fellowship 

Eg: Most of the fellowships ask for full-time dedication  (you cannot be an employee anywhere) and by accepting the fellowship you are signing a contract for that particular time period.

  • In some fellowships, there would be grants allocated to fellows only on the successful completion of the projects. 

  • Ensure you know about who would be given the authority of the project that the fellows are taking up (this becomes more crucial in technical projects and patenting of them).

 

So, these are some of my learnings as a SIIP fellow, and during the course of 18 months, I had to juggle with technical, social, medical, financial, and managerial skills.

 

Below I am mentioning 10 fellowships which I personally know (application deadlines might be over)

  1. Teach For India –  is an opportunity for India’s brightest and most promising youth, to serve as full-time teachers to children from low-income communities in some of the nation’s most under-resourced schools. 
  1. Young India Fellowship –  is a year-long residential postgraduate diploma programme in liberal studies at Ashoka University. 
  1. Social Innovation Immersion Programme – is BIRAC’s social Innovation fellowship/award program aimed at creating a pool of biotech “Social Innovators” who can identify needs & gaps within communities and then can help bridge the gaps either through innovative product development or services.
  1. SBI Youth for India – to join hands with rural communities, empathize with their struggles, and connect with their aspirations.
  1. Gandhi Fellowship – is designed to develop young change leaders who embody and practice leadership skills that are needed to cause large scale social and public systems to change.
  1. LAMP – The Legislative Assistants to Members of Parliament (LAMP) Fellowship is a unique and exciting opportunity for young Indians to learn law-making and public policy.
  1. India Fellow – Create a learning platform for young Indians who undergo a 13-month long journey of discovering their own leadership potential.
  1. Azim Premji Foundation – an opportunity for working professionals to immerse themselves in the public education system of the country for a period of one year.
  1. Bhumi Fellowship – a two-year program designed to develop educational changemakers to lead the next movement in the public education system.
  1. Start-Up Fellowship – The School for Social Entrepreneurs India provides you with 9 months of essential support as you start up a social enterprise, charity, or business to solve a social or environmental problem in your community.

M GOWRI

Social Innovator

Former SIIP Fellow

Climate Leader (ATREE and SUSTERA NGO)

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