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Rochester Institute of Tech Graduate (Packaging Science) speaks on #StudyingAbroad

Updated: Oct 5, 2020

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Nikita Prabhu

Undergrad -SIES Graduate School of Technology (Mumbai), Packaging Technology

Postgrad-Rochester Institute of Technology (New York, USA), Packaging Science

Current Role- Senior Packaging Engineer at 3M

"An effusive, evasive, or non-responsive answer will inevitably result in rejection. Be absolutely clear what the application instructions ask of you and tailor your statement accordingly."

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your Educational and Professional Background? Which college, company, and role did you work in to get you where you are today?

My name is Nikita Prabhu and completed my B.Tech in Printing and Packaging Technology from SIES Graduate School of Technology (Mumbai) in 2013. After graduation, I came directly to Rochester (Newyork, USA) to do my masters in Packaging Science from Rochester Institute of Technology (2013-2016). All my time in the States, I have worked in various medical device companies like Acell Inc., Boston Scientific, Zimmer Biomet, and 3M as a Packaging Development Engineer.

2. What was your undergraduate Major? What prompted you towards it?

Printing and Packaging Technology was my undergraduate Major. Whenever I went shopping with my mother to various supermarkets, I would always be busy looking at these amazing creative packages on the shelf wondering what this was and how did someone manage to make this look so pretty. I did not even think that there was something called "Packaging Technology!"

After doing some extensive research and coming across some professionals working in this field, did I know about it and decided to do my major in Packaging due to its immense potential. A packaging engineer, “draws on chemical, industrial, materials, and mechanical engineering in order to design and create boxes, cartons, bottles and other packing materials that meet specific criteria.” This is the ideal choice for those who excel in math, chemistry, physics, and technology, but also have an eye for design and a keen sense of industry trends.

It was ideal for me as I would be learning about so many majors in a single one. I have always wanted to do my major in something completely different from the regular and popular ones. The best part is that Packaging is considered a STEM course.

3. When and why did you decide to study abroad?

My favorite words are possibilities, opportunities, and curiosity. I think if you are curious, you create opportunities, and then if you open doors, you create possibilities. Having said that, I have always been curious to learn and my passion for packaging has grown even more since I started my B.Tech in Printing and Packaging Technology. During an Undergraduate Degree (especially in India) you will typically study general aspects of your chosen subject and will specialize only a little bit through your graduation project.

I decided to do my Masters to deep dive into expanding my technical knowledge, get hands-on experience, and acquire skills in new technologies and methods. There are very few packaging colleges in the world and the best ones are in the USA. I wanted to take advantage of the outstanding resources that some of the universities in the States were offering.

4. Did you receive a scholarship? Do you recommend any good organizations/institutions that provide for scholarships or financial aid?

I did receive a 40% scholarship from The Rochester Institute of Technology. Apart from that, I did not separately apply for any scholarships or financial aid.

5. Is it worth taking a loan to study abroad? How does one measure one’s ROI?

In my case, it was totally worth taking a loan to study MS in the USA I knew the USA had many opportunities as compared to India in the field of Packaging. A job was guaranteed as it is a niche field with companies constantly looking for packaging engineers be it consumer, food, medical device, automobile, etc. you name it. However, it really depends on the individual and the major they are planning to pursue. It was always better to do your research in terms of job opportunities and visa related queries.

6. Why did you choose that particular course in this particular university/college for your studies abroad? What was the process you went through while choosing the university/college?

RIT’s packaging science program, established in 1972, is one of the most unique and respected in the country. One of only a handful in the nation to offer the program, the discipline provides students exposure to laboratory experience and real-life problem-solving. Embedded in the program is the required full-time co-op with a company, and RIT is the only institute in the country that requires all packaging science students to experience this opportunity. This allows students to develop their professional skills, expand their real-world experience, and, most importantly, broaden their industry contacts. RIT's relationship with industry leaders and the skills students obtain in development, sales, and purchasing results in professional careers within this multi-billion-dollar industry. This relationship, along with the faculty being packaging professionals, ensures that students acquire the most current technological knowledge base. Having said that, RIT was an obvious choice.

7. Any particular advice you would like to give for the application process from SOP Writing to Academic GPA to other things which you thought were important that helped you get into that course at that university?

The first thing to remember is that each application process for each university is different. That means that the questions asked in the application must be the questions answered and answered directly. An effusive, evasive, or non-responsive answer will inevitably result in rejection. Be absolutely clear what the application instructions ask of you and tailor your statement accordingly.

That may mean that each application requires that you write a somewhat, if not entirely, different Statement of Purpose since each Statement must answer a particular question. "As a general rule, the two generic questions that need answering, at least inferentially, in most Statements of Purpose are: "Why are you interested in this program?", and "What makes you special?" This is where applicants can demonstrate that they did their homework about the program and that they thought seriously about the strengths and weaknesses they bring to graduate study. Universities take a very close look at your GPA, SOP, and LOR (Letter of Recommendations). In my case, they also took a very close look at my extracurriculars because the expectation is for you to be an all-rounder. Do your research thoroughly and reach out to the staff if you have any questions.

8. Were you satisfied with your choice of university? What is your most and least favorite thing about the university experience?

I was very satisfied with my choice of university. My most favorite thing was meeting lots of different and interesting people, both professors and students. Least favorite was the weather as Rochester has the most harrowing winters.

9. How was the Indian fraternity over there? How was the overall campus diversity?

RIT has a huge Indian Association that takes pride in hosting multiple events around the year such as Republic Day, Holi, Independence Day, Diwali, and many more. They have supported many freshers/incoming students over the years to help them make a smooth transition to graduate student life in Rochester. Overall campus diversity was diverse as there were many international studies from different countries.

10. Tell us something about the faculty and resources which were there on campus

Faculty belongs to the industry and has immense technical knowledge and connections. RIT has state-of-the-art laboratories and tutoring services that all students should check out.

11. Tell us about your journey from the first semester to the last both academically and non-academically? What was campus life like? What were the extracurricular activities on campus?

Having sleepless nights doing my homework submissions, running around my department premises to successfully survive 4 semesters, Rochester winters, and sacrificing time being away from family and friends back at home. Campus life is definitely very tough but once finished is completely worth all the hard work and efforts.

I have learned a lot and made lifelong friends. RIT is home to an abundance of student clubs and organizations and serves as an excellent opportunity to get involved in the campus community while you're an RIT student. Whether you're a first-year or a senior, it's never too late to consider joining a club or organization. Anyone interested should check out their website for more information.

12. What did you learn and what were your most dear experiences? Any suggestions or recommendations for freshers starting out?

My recommendation for freshers would be to keep an open mind, ask questions, and don’t miss a chance to make new friends as they are your family away from home. Studying abroad really makes one independent and teaches the value of time, money, and relationships. Cherish and value them as these are amazing life lessons. 

Try to go to the library and form study groups with course mates – this is a good way to bond with your course mates and can help you to learn topics that you are finding particularly difficult. While it is important to join societies and clubs, make sure that you don’t let studying fall by the wayside.

13. How is the quality of education compared to Indian institutes? What were the gaps in both systems? How did you manage to cope?

In the US, people think of education as a medium to learn something new, become a better individual, grow up in life, and become a better version of themselves. Whereas in India, people think of education as a medium to grab a high-profile job with a hefty pay package. Indian universities and colleges emphasize more on theoretical knowledge and classroom lectures, whereas American universities mainly focus on practical approach, case studies, real-world projects, critical and logical thinking, and at last the theory. The American education system is definitely advanced and unique.

14. What were the career opportunities available? How does one manage to grab them?

The Annual Packaging Science Career Fair brings together students from the packaging science program and industry professionals. The fair is designed to offer employers and students a forum to meet and discuss the packaging field and career opportunities.

Employers have the opportunity to present their company and meet students in the packaging science program who are looking for co-op and full-time job opportunities. Attending these career fairs and networking with as many individuals as possible is the key. Apart from that, I used to also do my research and apply to open positions on company websites.

15.Tell us a little bit about your current job profile and work.

I currently work as a senior packaging engineer at 3M's Health Care Division in San Antonio, Texas. As part of my job responsibilities, I am a recognized SME who provides technical expertise and serves as a technical resource to address product packaging, quality, and supply chain/corporate procurement issues as needed across the globe. I work with Engineering, Manufacturing, Quality, and Validation to qualified internal and external packaging equipment, processes, and materials. I have also designed, developed, and commercialized innovative and robust packaging designs for new and existing medical device products.

16. Any other suggestions or pieces of advice you would like to give students who are starting out the study abroad process?

Same as what I mentioned above- Keep an open mind, ask questions, and don’t miss a chance to make new friends as they are your family away from home. Studying abroad is a great experience and will give you many life lessons, so enjoy it!!

17. How did a study abroad help you?

Studying abroad has made me a different person. I am more open-minded, confident, and independent. I have gained amazing life experiences, lifelong friends, and become more adventurous which I wasn’t before. Have learned to appreciate the smaller things in life more. Study wise, it has been an amazing experience as I have learned so much from my professors and gained a lot of hands-on experience.


We hope that you have found this interview insightful. Do let us know how in the comments section below!

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