Receiving Help Encourages Student To Give Back


Receiving Help Encourages Student To Give Back

An International Citizen Fellow student looks to help incoming international students with new online resources
Sidharth Singh

Sidharth Singh is a 3rd year Ph.D. student in the Mechanical and Aerospace Department at UVA and is working on changing how international students are onboarded. He is hoping that sharing experiences of other graduate student experiences and faculty will be helpful. Singh explains the reasons he is interested in this topic and how he is building the panel.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I come from a middle-class family from India. Soon after I was born, my parents moved to New Delhi, India’s capital city, in hopes of providing better education for me and my sisters.  We are a family of mechanical engineers. My father and both my sisters are mechanical engineers. I finished my M.S.E from the University of Pennsylvania. I applied to engineering school at UVA to work on applied robotics. The most attractive point for me was the Link Lab, which is a consortium of all the research labs focusing on cyber physical systems, accelerating collaboration. Very recently I won a proposal writing competition organized by Link Lab which will help me collaborate with a friend to improve robotic manipulation.   

How has your experience been at UVA?
I specifically work on applied robotics and vision systems. The aim of my research is to help robots better understand their surroundings using visual cues and act accordingly.
So far, my experience has been eventful and amazing. I joined the university in the middle of the pandemic, in Spring ’21. In the beginning it was hard to meet new people and develop relationships. However, since the resumption of the normal activities I have had the chance to be involved in a lot of the university activities and events such as the ISCL Fellowship.

Why did you decide to apply to International Citizen Scholar Fellowship?
I am a shy person and academic performance is very important to me. When I first moved to the U.S. and struggled academically in the first semester, it was very hard for me because I had never faced this before in my life. A TA helped me back them and we became good friends. Today, I can teach those courses in which I got a B-. My biggest learning from that course was not the course material, but the fact that at the end what matters the most is how you treat people. I received help from someone that I cannot pay back, but I can pass it on. I know from my own experience and from that of my friends from different countries, that it is a persistent struggle faced by international students everywhere.

You are working on a workshop for the incoming international students. Tell us a bit more about the workshop and why it is important.
Through this fellowship I have been able to work with Dr. Liz Wittner from CALEC, the leadership of ISO and the other graduate students to propose a new pre-orientation panel and online resources for incoming students. The panel will hope to discuss different aspects and characteristics of the American classroom such as, how to best utilize office hours, how to communicate with TAs, how to collaborate, how to grade assignments etc. And we hope to have this workshop before the students arrive on Grounds.
Another important topic of discussion will be “honor”, since the honor system at UVA is not very conventional at a lot different schools and countries. I hope this panel discussion will answer most of the questions the students have and the ones that they won’t have. My main goal is to make the students aware that struggling in a new classroom culture and having feelings of hesitation or nervousness are common for everyone. Everyone goes through this struggle and eventually, as they spend more time, they get more comfortable and get over them.

The online panel discussion is scheduled to be held on July 14, 2023, at 9:00 AM. This time has been chosen so that people from all over the globe can join in.