Semester Abroad Program at SRMIST

Ever wondered how students of SRM Institute of Science and Technology (formerly known as SRM University) get to spend a semester abroad in any of the partner universities of SRM? Here is a detailed explanation of how that is done, by Naman, a student of SRM, who is now abroad.

Undergoing the Semester Abroad Program (SAP) had been my goal ever since I got admitted to SRM Institute of Science and Technology (abbreviated as SRMIST. Back then, it was SRM University). A little background, I’m an undergraduate student studying at SRMIST, majoring in computer science and engineering. I went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison under the semester abroad program and was the only student from India undertaking the Visiting International Student program in Fall 2017.

The process at SRM

A student can go for SAP only after their fourth semester. What you require is:

1. A good CGPA
2. A background in research (or a research interest)
3. A valid passport
4. TOEFL (for Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a few other universities)
5. The right amount of motivation 

The Office of International Relations (located on the second floor of the University Building) calls for applicants around February-March (for Fall) and August-September (for Spring). There is an information session where students who studied at universities abroad under SAP recount their experience and the members of the Office of International Relations take questions and clarify doubts put forward by potential applicants.

The process, thereon, is fairly straight-forward. After you’ve filled the application form, you attach the following:

1. Your 10th grade mark sheet
2. Your 12th grade mark sheet
3. Every official transcript since the very first semester (including the screenshot of your grades published online for the recently-passed semester)
4. Your passport copy 

Once submitted, you’ll receive a call from the Office of International Relations regarding your interview with your respective department’s SAP coordinator (CSE, ECE, Mechanical, etc.) The interview basically involves the SAP coordinator asking you questions about your background, interests, technical knowledge, etc.

Applying to the host university

Once you’ve been accepted by your department SAP coordinator, you need to apply to the host university. Usually, the host university asks you to fill up a form on their website (may be a subdomain of nondegree seeking students or visiting international student program). The form consists of fields for your details and statement of purpose. Once accepted at the host university, you will be sent a package with your official acceptance with your I-20 document (only for the United States of America) and given your host university email address. Once everything is set, you are supposed to choose your courses (around April for Fall semester and November for Spring semester). For international students to be eligible for an F1 visa in the US, one should be enrolled in a minimum of 12 credits and a maximum of 18 credits (taking more is not recommended due to immense course load). It is recommended that you choose courses in such a way that they conform with courses at SRM so the course mapping process becomes smooth after you come back — but do not let this hinder your enthusiasm to take an out-of-way course like music or psychology since this is the only time you’ll study something different during your undergraduate career. Students should subsequently start looking for housing near the host university (Could be an apartment/sublease or even a dorm room in the university housing).

Visa process

For the United States of America, one should fill up the form online and pay the DS-160 fees. Once that is done, the fingerprinting appointment is to be booked and an interview date and time is to be set. Students from SRMIST prefer to go to the United States Consulate General Chennai on Anna Salai for their interview since it is close-by. The Office of International Relations at SRM will provide applicants with a bonafide certificate stating that the student will come back to SRMIST to complete the rest of their courses to obtain a degree for the visa interview. Read more about the visa process for students here.

Getting there

The Office of International Relations at SRM provides OD (on-duty leave) for students going for SAP from 15 days before the program begins (i.e. 15 days before the reporting day at the host university). It is advised to reach the host university a couple days before classes start so you acclimatise well. The tuition fees is supposed to be paid by the beginning of the semester. While you’re there, I would highly recommend you read ‘Coming to America’ by Lisa Espineli Chinn — a tête-bêche book with ‘Returning to Your Home Country’ at the back. I came across this book at an orientation session at UW-Madison and it had been very relatable during my SAP.

Coming back

Once you come back, the real struggle begins. Get ready to lose all the weight you gained during your SAP. The process for manual course registration begins since SRM does not allow you to register for courses through Academia, their online portal. You are supposed to meet your class in-charge and get a manual course registration form from her/the Head of Department. This form consists of blanks for you to fill all the courses you’ve done at SRMIST since the beginning of your undergraduate career and the courses you’ve done at your host university. It also contains all the courses you wish to undertake in the current semester. Maintain a copy of the filled up form and submit the original to your class-incharge. Once the form is filled, you’re supposed to submit it to your department SAP coordinator. While you’re at it, order your transcript from the host university so that the mapping can be done faster. Once your transcript arrives, submit it with the grading scale to the Office of International Relations (please note that you will not get this transcript back). The Office of International Relations sends the transcript and grading scale to your department SAP coordinator, who then subsequently maps your subjects. Manual course registration is done every semester thereon for SAP students.