Raghav Behl works as a software developer with PaGaLGuY, India. Attending college abroad did not deter this guy’s Indian roots and thus, he came back to be a part of the start-up culture. His constant urge to do something unconventional and noteworthy helps him to own a truly inspirational story. Read on ..
Tell us a bit about yourself..
I was born and brought up in Delhi. After attending school in the capital, I went to Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to study Electrical and Computer Engineering. I also interned with MakeMyTrip and finally completed my graduation in 2014. I even planned to attend the Master’s program at CMU but decided against it. Instead, I came back to India as I wanted to understand the ‘startup-culture‘ growing in my country.
Why Carnegie Mellon University?
I always wanted to study Computer Engineering or Electrical & Computer Engineering. After doing thorough research on the universities offering this discipline, I figured out that CMU was a good choice. It ranked second.In fact, Carnegie Mellon was the only university I filed my application for.
What triggered the idea of studying Abroad?
I took up Science as my stream in grades 11-12. I used to see my friends studying hard to get into India’s top institutes like IITs,NITs etc. I somehow felt, that it was pointless to slog for two years and then expect myself to compete with them because frankly, I really couldn’t. Instead, I looked for other alternatives. As I was certain about studying engineering, CMU was a good choice as it promised both professional and creative growth.
Does this mean that it is easier to get into the top colleges abroad ,than in India?
Yes. I guess that is because the competition in India is based entirely on one exam. It is more like a do-or-die situation for students here. Whereas in America, a more holistic approach is followed. Colleges abroad take into consideration, not only your academic credentials, but also give due weightage to the extracurricular activities a student indulges into. Like, I was a part of a debating society, badminton team etc. , all these things counted.They do not consider ONLY academics for judging the worth of a human being.
Let us talk about your experience of studying abroad..
Initially it was rough, but eventually I got used to it. In India, we have a culture of studying right before the exams and scoring good. But in America, the culture of continuous evaluation is followed which adds up to your grades and working is required on a daily basis and not just a night/day before. Studying computer engineering was really tough in Carnegie Mellon. I wish I knew this fact beforehand. What I saw before applying to CMU was the fact that it is a great college and has a reputation, but what I didn’t realize was, that it is great because of the high and exacting standards it has established for itself. Studying abroad was like an eye opener but yes, slowly I got used to it.
Were there any other difficulties you faced ?
Oh yes ! A lot! I was only 18 when I went there, fresh out out of high school. Essentially, the idea of hard work is very different there. People are more relaxed with respect to work ethics and for them hard work has to do more with desire and passion. Also, moving away from family and managing everything on my own was a huge thing and was pretty hard too.But these experiences actually made me more attuned to living alone.
How was your hostel life? Tell us about the kind of people you met there ?
For undergraduates, it is compulsory to live in the dorm for the first year. This is prevalent in most universities abroad. Living in the dorm was a fun filled experience. You get to meet such unique and interesting people from all over the world. You get to learn a lot from them-about managing life, work, different cultures, rituals etc. It was an enriching experience as I picked up the best of things which helped me grow as an individual.
What did you miss the most about India?
Rajma Chawal. I made several attempts at cooking it, but it tasted nothing like what it use do be at home. Sigh!
Do you think that the Indian Education System could borrow something from the Western Education System? If yes, what do you think it should be ?
I don’t think that the Indian Education system has a problem .The difference lies in the areas of focus. I feel Indian Education System should bring about a change in the evaluation process, by making it more continuous and not exam-centric. Also, it should adopt stricter rules regarding plagiarism, like in the West , where technological methods are used to detect and prevent plagiarism among students.
What were your plans after completing your education from CMU ? You wanted to take up a job there or come back to India?
I always wanted to come back to India. I wanted to b a part of the startup culture, which was booming here.In fact, most of my friends studied in the U.S and returned to India to start up their own companies. I had no intention of starting my company ,instead I really wanted to work with a good start up and gain valuable experience.
Talking about jobs, did you take up any part time jobs when you were studying abroad?
Yes, and mostly academically related. There were TAs and RAs – structures which are in place in most of the universities abroad. It enables students to do whatever they want and essentially earn money or credits, either way, it results in money, so yeah, it is a good thing (laughs).
Tell us about your first full-time job .
My first job was at PaGaLGuy, India. I interviewed with some more companies and got a lot of offers too, but finally chose to work with Pagalguy as the company’s viewpoints regarding education and technology in India were very impressive. I am currently working as a developer for the company’s product-Prepathon.
Kindly rate these parameters with respect to your experience in CMU on a scale of 1(minimum) to 10(maximum).
Value for Money- 8