Vaidehi Srinivas, who recently graduated with a bachelor's degree in computer science, will head to Austria as one of seven Carnegie Mellon University students selected as 2020-2021 Fulbright Student Grantees.
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program is intended to "increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries" by enabling grantees to live, work and learn with people of a host country. Winners are selected based on a number of factors, including their proposal, academic record and personal qualifications.
Srinivas and other members of the latest Fulbright cohort would typically begin this fall, but the pandemic has pushed start dates back to at least Jan. 1, 2021. The Fulbright program for 2019-2020 grantees was suspended in March.
"I had toyed with the idea of finding a job abroad for a year or two after graduation, but I wasn't sure how I would find one," Srinivas said of her decision to pursue a Fulbright grant. "My dream job was either doing research or teaching, since I want to go to graduate school, and I've loved being a teaching assistant at CMU. In the fall, I asked my advisors if there was some way I could do research abroad for a year, and they suggested I apply to the Fulbright.
"When I found out Austria had a joint English teaching assistant and research program, I was so excited. It was exactly what I was looking for," said Srinivas, who minored in German studies.
Srinivas said she will be teaching English in a secondary classroom part-time and working on a research project in the algorithms group at the University of Vienna's Computer Science Department.
Carnegie Mellon provides resources for students to pursue nationally competitive scholarships and fellowships, like the Fulbright program offerings. Experiences like these can help them develop skills in research, teaching and cross-cultural communication skills valuable to employers.
"We are sending some of our top students out into the world, which raises CMU's profile internationally," said Stephanie Wallach, assistant vice provost for undergraduate education and head of undergraduate research and national fellowships in CMU's Fellowships and Scholarships Office.
As a first-year student in the School of Computer Science, Srinivas said she wasn't sure where studying computer science would take her.
"I wanted to study computer science, but I wasn't sure of anything beyond that: what area, what career or where I saw myself in four years. I was intimidated by all the brilliant people around me, and not sure if I could live up to their example," she said. "But in addition to being brilliant, the community here has been really supportive. I am always amazed by the professors who go out of their way to get to know you, the TAs and fellow students you meet in office hours who help you when you are struggling, and other staff and community members who go the extra mile to help you out, even if they didn't know you before."