Neha Kumari, a graduate of the department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, Amrita School of Engineering, Amritapuri campus, won first place at the 2015 KTH Masters Challenge India competition in the field of Electric Power Engineering. Neha competed against applicants from the IITs, NITs, and other highly ranked universities throughout India and was the only female finalist in the entire competition. As the first place winner, Neha secured a fully funded scholarship for a two year masters degree at the internationally reputed KTH-Royal Institute of Technology (Sweden) sponsored by ABB worth Rs. 23 lakhs, a living allowance sponsored by ABB worth Rs. 12 lakhs, and an opportunity to do a summer internship at ABB in Stockholm, Sweden. The awards ceremony took place at ABB Bangalore on January 22nd, 2016.
When asked about the whole experience, Neha said “it has been an incredible journey” and “if you work hard and do your job, what is yours will come to you.” This sentiment is clearly exemplified in her own life which is nothing short of inspiring.
Neha was born in the village of Maldah in the Sheikhpura district of Bihar where most residents do not have access to higher education and where no girl has ever gone to college. Since Neha’s father was in the Air Force and travelled around India, he heard about Amma and Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham through family friends and encouraged her to write the entrance exam. “I wrote five engineering entrance exams out of which I cleared three. Amma’s college was the best we could select and so we chose Amrita for my engineering.” Neha is now the first girl in her village with a degree in engineering and a scholarship to study abroad.
Neha first heard about KTH from the Amrita Center for International Programs and about the competition from a senior student, Prasanth Korada, who is currently finishing his masters at KTH. Though she was unable to move pass the preliminary round of the competition the first time, Neha entered the competition again in 2015 while she was working at Wipro in Bangalore.
The national competition had three stages. The first required applicants to complete the Sweden Society challenge, answer technical and logical reasoning questions, and write two essays – one addressing a field specific topic and the other a motivational letter. The second stage required applicants to send personal, academic, and professional documents and reference letters for assessment. Finally, after a screening process, selected applicants were called for an interview.
Talking about the competition, Neha said she felt ready for the first and second rounds due to her previous year's experience and her strong academic record. She was extremely surprised, however, when she she was informed she had made it to the third round. “I got an email stating I was selected for the interview. I gave my interview via Skype, and the professor was keen on knowing about India, my background, and my knowledge of Electrical Power Engineering. I had to be myself and be confident of what I should say. I tried to explain what I knew and if I did not know something, I politely smiled and said so. I guess the interviewer liked that.”
In order to prepare for the competition, Neha explained that having a sound foundation in the basics of Electric Power Engineering was very important and helped “keep things simple, clear, and approachable.” Neha also said that her final year project at IIT Bombay, a unique opportunity that was fostered and encouraged by faculty at the Amrita School of Engineering, greatly boosted her chances. “Bala Sir and Manjula Ma'am referred my team and I to work over there [IIT Bombay]. The project I did was very helpful in furthering my knowledge in my field and most of my interview for the competition was based on my final year project.”
Neha greatly credits Amma and Amrita for her success, both of which have had a major impact on her life. “Teachings of Amma made me stay calm even when I was experiencing the downs of life and Her words always encouraged me telling me that my hard work will pay off some day.” Neha also explained that somewhere in the whole journey of applying for the scholarship and winning it, “she felt an external force that was showering blessings.” Neha also expressed gratitude towards Ms. Lata Wadhawani, a professor in the department of Computer Science and Engineering, stating “she was a constant support and the reason I applied for higher studies.”
When asked about what she missed most about Amrita, Neha retorted with a smile and said, “The question should be what do I not miss about Amrita? I miss everything! The approachable teachers, the enthusiastic students, the hostel, the ashram, the teachings of life and living by Amma. The list goes on.”
Though Neha nostalgically reminisces about Amrita and college life, she also looks forward to the next phase in her academic career. She is extremely excited to start her Masters in Electric Power Engineering at KTH in August and is enthusiastic to understand the institution’s engineering pedagogy and discover new ways to assimilate imparted knowledge. Neha is also keen to learn more about Swedish culture, customs, food, and people.
For Amrita students who are interested in studying at KTH or abroad in general, Neha gives the following advice: “Bring knowledge back to our own country. Go fly abroad, learn, and come back home to help and develop India through the skills and knowledge you have gained. "
Finally, an achievement is never due to any one person and Neha is quick to point this out. “Behind every success story, there are hundreds of helping hands working for it. Therefore, I especially thank Amma, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Bala Sir, Manjula Ma'am, Lata Ma’am, my parents, my senior Prasanth, and my junior Akansha. They always knew I could do it!”