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Alumni Watch: Story of Subigya Nepal

19-Oct-2020

By Shreya Sapkota

‘The Macist’, ‘TechLekh’, ‘Dartmouth’, these are a few of the words that bring the name Subigya Nepal in our head. He managed to juggle so many roles and responsibilities during the four years of college that we had to know more about his amazing journey.

College life is a whole new experience for everyone from meeting new people to trying out and learning new things. Subigya had the same experience-“It has been a fun journey. Made great friends. Met awesome people. It was a good undergrad experience.”  According to him, this is the time of your life that you are most free so he urges everyone to make the most of it and have fun.

Like the saying goes ‘Preach what you practice’, Subigya did make the most of it.  He started as an Analyst Intern, moved on to start a technical media - TechLekh, worked as a Teaching Assistant and managed to secure a seat at an Ivy League college in the USA. 

“I was just fond of computers from an early age so when I came to Deerwalk, I already had developed a passion for it. I enjoyed spending time on the computer, learning new things or developing new things. If you're interested in what you're studying, it should all come naturally to you I think. Since I was fond of it, I never thought of it as work. I guess that's what provided motivation towards doing several things.”


Internship Journey

During the freshman year while people are just getting the hang of things in college Subigya started as an Analyst Intern in Deerwalk Inc.  “I used to blog so I had a sort of idea about search engine optimization and how it worked. So, it was not that difficult to get the internship.”

He efficiently managed his time as an intern and as a student. He used to work for a couple of hours in the workplace and remain in his home.  When we asked how he managed his time between college and internship he revealed - "If you're asking from the perspective of managing time to study vs time to work, as it is with most of us, I only studied during the exams so like I said, not a problem.”

He added  “I spent time learning out of the course rather than spending time on materials covered in the course. An internship is mostly like 10-20 hours a week, if you can work on weekends (which was possible for me as I also used to work from home), you can make time for it easily. If you've got a programming internship, you should make that a priority and set your other events around that. As a student naturally, you are supposed to do good in your studies but it is the internship or extra stuff that you do that will count later in life. Being good in studies goes without saying. But that's something everybody does. What more can you do?“


TechLekh: How it all began!

Image may contain: 6 people, people smiling

TechLekh, Nepal’s growing technical media was established in 2015 by Subigya Nepal and Abhishekh Gupta. The two tech enthusiasts were concerned about the lack of platforms to cover technology news or entrepreneurial efforts and bring them in the limelight and thus came TechLekh. “The idea originally came from Abhishek dai and I think it's safe to say that it's his brainchild. I just happened to be the person he shared his idea with.”

He revealed that like any other startup journey it was not a smooth path. “The journey had its ups and downs as we bootstrapped the funding ourselves. But it's been great and it's going strong to date. You can see the growth if you go through our old articles, old videos vs. current state of articles and videos.”

He also went on expressing gratitude to his team members - “I had the fortune of working with a great team. I can't name them all since we've had many members come and go since the initiation. But I'm thankful to everyone.”


The Teaching Assistantship Experience

While students in foreign countries often get the opportunity of becoming a Teaching Assistant, the concept is quite new in Nepal. It was quite strange when we first heard about his TAship during his Senior year. When questioning about his TAship, he opened up about his love for teaching and how it brought him one step closer to his future goal.

“TAship not only provided me my first experience with an official teaching position but also helped to make my CV look better as it's a plus to have TA experience when you're applying for grad school abroad. This helps because you'd be asked to TA at least once during your Ph.D. or you'll have to TA for a stipend in some colleges. So yes, I was motivated towards it by a) the love for it and b) to make my CV shine when I apply to grad school. As a matter of fact, I had to work as a TA immediately after I got in the US. “

When we asked about his experience as TA, he said that it was a fun experience and he believes that the students enjoyed his class. "It was fun. The class used to be pretty friendly since everybody knew everybody and there was no ‘power dynamics’ involved. It was sort of peer teaching and that makes things a lot better, you know. When students can joke and ask questions at the same time, it makes them more open to asking questions or interacting. I don't know how the results turned out to be for the classes but anyway, I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did.” 

He further added “There had been no other TA before me in Deerwalk and I don't know what it's like now -- whether it was given continuity. But one thing is sure, it does help you, even more so, if you're planning to go to grad school or pursue an academic career. Anyway, I'm thankful to Ritu Sir for the opportunity.”

Image may contain: 3 people, including Ritu Raj Lamsal

He also revealed that TA in the US is different. “You may have to spend hours and hours with the students -- you have your own office hours, lab hours where you help the students code if its a coding class, section hours where you explain assignments. You don't get to lecture unless the professor specifically asks you to (but again like many things different universities/departments have their own way of doing things), but usually the duties associated with a TA include handling grades, helping students during office/section/lab hours and answering queries in the learning management system. So you need to be on top of pretty much everything -- professor only does lectures, everything else is upon you. So it's a lot more responsibility in the US.” 


Road to Dartmouth 

Another huge milestone in the life of Subigya is getting accepted to Dartmouth College, an Ivy League college in the USA with an acceptance rate of 10.6%.

Subigya mentioned that he had applied to many universities and he got accepted to only a few, among which Dartmouth was the best option.  “Funny thing is, of all the universities I had applied to, Dartmouth's application was the one I filled in most lazily. I was skipping many optional fields even though I could've answered them. I just felt as if it's not worth putting as much effort into it since I won't get in anyway. I had high hopes from other universities which were ranked lower and I was pretty sure I was not getting into Dartmouth, but I applied anyway just for the sake of it (my brother had suggested me a list of universities -- Dartmouth was on the list, I thought I might as well give it a try since I was applying to lots of top places anyway).  As it happened, I got into Dartmouth and got rejected from many lowly ranked universities.”

He even provided a few pointers based on his personal experience --  “So, if you make the cut to apply to good colleges, do it. And by cut, I mean the minimum requirement. Mostly: if you have 70% and above, have a GRE of 315 or higher, apply to top 50 CS colleges. If you don't try, you'll never know. You may just make it. Like I did. But do take note that unlike undergrad applications, grad schools don't usually provide you a fee waiver -- you've got to pay for most of your applications. The cost will likely be high if you apply to too many places. Have top places but some safeties on your list too, in case you don't make it to the top ones.”

Subigya revealed that he started preparing for grad school during his senior year.   “I think I started looking at GRE Vocabs a bit early but I started preparing for GRE 'seriously' from October I think. My GRE Exam was scheduled around the time when the college took the final year students for their final trip so I had to give up on that and had to keep on preparing for GRE instead.”

He suggested that the students should start their preparations early, during the third or last year, and take GRE as soon as possible.  “That way, if you get bad scores, you'll have plenty of time to retake it. When I had applied to colleges, I had only received 5 semester's result. So that was an obstacle -- some colleges asked me for at least 6 semester's results but thanks to TU, I couldn't provide it. Thankfully, the Sixth semester's results arrived a week or two later after I applied, so I just sent the result to the colleges as soon as I got it. Here's another thing: colleges are very accommodating to your situation so if you can explain it, they'll be OK with it. Getting recommendations from professors involves some patience and work on your part as well -- they're busy so request for a recommendation early and remind them timely. I'm very thankful to my recommenders Ritu sir, Sanjeeb sir and Awanish sir for all their help.”

He also explained how this all could have been a big obstacle for most of the students but since Subigya had previously applied to colleges abroad for his undergrad study, it made it easier. He also suggested that DWIT provide college application help, guidance counseling services and TOEFL/GRE preparation classes to the students in order to help them prepare for it.  

Subigya even gave us some insights on Dartmouth. He informed that it is the smallest ivy league in terms of the number of students. There are only a couple thousand students and within those, only a thousand or so are grad students. “It heavily focuses on undergrad education but for me, I think it's a perfect fit because I prefer a small student population. I am not a very outgoing person, I've always been pretty much busy with computers and spending time indoors (well geek some might say ) so it doesn't matter to me that much, but for someone who is into the social scene, this might not be the best place to be as the grad student population is pretty low. But if you are into adventure sports, it has a lot to offer. Its very cold during the winter though. But not all things about winter is bad -- you can enjoy winter sports such as Skiing (which I did) or snowboarding or ice skating, making ice sculptures, etc.”

He went on “Hanover is quite a lovely town and people here are so friendly -- it's a very nice place to be for your Ph.D. As a Ph.D. student, funding is guaranteed so you never have to worry about not having money or anything. And the stipend is more than enough to live or fulfill your cravings. Professors are understanding and nice. But the thing with coming to a place like this is that you'll always be challenged. Everyone here holds you to high standards no matter your background. So even if I have 0 research experience, I am seen on the same level as every other Ph.D. student, even those who have had previous research experience. That makes it stressful at times because the thing is if you made it through the admission process, you are expected to be as good as others. Professors will always want you to aim for top conferences and writing top papers so just about anything won't do. But that only makes you come out of your comfort zone. All in all, it's a very challenging process which if you can make through, then you're set for life.“

Image may contain: 3 people, including Abhishek Gupta, people smiling, people standing and suit


Motivation Behind Everything

Achieving so much and balancing so many roles is a very difficult thing to do, so we went on to ask about his motivation.  He revealed that interest, passion, and curiosity are his greatest motivators  “I learned stuff out of the course because I was curious about them. I did several other things because I was interested in them as well -- not all the things that I did turn out to be good or of interest to me in the long term, however.”

He recommends that we learn things out of the course rather than doing only assignments. He stresses that doing assignments for grades is not the only thing you should be doing with your time. “Think like this: once you graduate, nobody is going to look at your CV and see how many assignments you did. They're going to look at what else you have to offer because everybody applying to grad school has good scores and everybody applying to the job has at least a completed degree. People like to see self-motivated students and employees, so work towards that. If you're going to apply for grad school, look for some local research opportunities. Research experience has the #1 weightage to get accepted.”

However, he also adds that just because nobody is going to look at the grades doesn’t mean that you completely neglect your studies. “As a student, studying should be your primary thing -- you should be good at it no matter how much time you spend doing it. So at least aim for an average grade. You don't need to have the highest scores. Just enough to show that you are good at it.”

 
Quick Facts

Name: Subigya Nepal
Batch: 2018
Originally From: Palpa, Nepal
High School : Trinity International College
Currently: Ph.D. Student in Dartmouth, New Hampshire, USA
One fondest memory of Deewalk: "Is this a joke?" 
Motivating Factors: Interest, passion, and curiosity

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