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University West, Sweden: Study Experience of Satyapal

Satyapal is currently pursuing his PhD degree in Thermal Barrier Coatings for Aerospace Application at University West. He found this programme and enrolled via StudyPortals. We asked Satyapal about his experience of searching and applying to a university abroad.

Satyapal Mahade studying at University West.jpg

About you

Tell us a bit about yourself. What is your name? How old are you? Where are you from?

My name is Satyapal Mahade. I am 28 years old. I come from Hyderabad, India. I did my Bachelor’s from IIT Roorkee with a specialization in Metallurgical & Materials Engineering. Later on I did my Master’s in Corrosion Science & Engineering from IIT Bombay, 2012. Also, at the very same time, I had two publications from my Master’s research work. Then I worked for a business consultancy in Mumbai, India, for two years.

After graduating from two of the most reputed universities of my country, I wanted to resume my student life, but this time with an international exposure and hence I was looking for a doctoral program abroad in a reputed university with a good scholarship as well.

Where are/were you studying and what programme? What degree and how long is your programme?

Currently I’m doing my PhD in the field of ‘Thermal Barrier Coatings for Aerospace Application’ at University West, Trollhattan, Sweden. This programme lasts for four years. I am also involved in teaching and supervising Master’s students from Manufacturing Engineering specialization for their thesis work.

Why did you want to study abroad?

I wanted to contribute and be a part of an international research group where I could utilize my technical knowledge and analytical skills. In my opinion, research abroad seemed to be the ideal way to make a good name for myself and also for my country.

Deciding for a university

What were your main priorities when choosing your university and your programme (e.g. academics, accommodation, university services & facilities, personal & professional development, city & culture, cost & funding, practicalities, social life)?

I had two priorities in mind:

  1. First priority was that the university should have the best research facilities (Labs & equipment) along with reputed & well known research group all over the world.
  2. Second priority were the scholarship opportunities to fund my studies.

Was this your first study choice? What other universities did you consider? What was the main reason of your final choice?

This university was my second choice, to be frank. I had an offer from University of Poitiers for a doctoral position in the field of Composite Materials. But they put me on the waiting list as they chose another candidate for that position. If the candidate had rejected it, then I would have gotten the position.

I was fortunate that the candidate did not reject the offer and hence I ended up getting a very nice PhD position here in Sweden which has the best facility in the thermal spray world with the state of the art ‘suspension plasma spray’ equipment. This equipment is owned by only four research groups all over the world which makes us a very special group with an edge over our competing researchers. Also, the university works in close collaboration with important industries here in Sweden. This means that the research we do here aims at solving the industry’s problems along with commercialization.

Did you know from the start that you wanted to study in that particular country and city? Why did you choose for this particular location?

Frankly speaking, I was not certain about the country and city. I was determined to pursue my PhD in the field of Surface Engineering irrespective of the country. But my preferred Europe as my destination. There were two reasons for selecting University West for my PhD studies.

  1. The recent advanced equipment ‘Axial Suspension Plasma Spray’ which is owned by only four or five research groups across the world
  2. The research we do here at university west is mostly keeping in mind the challenges faced by industries (GKN, Siemens). So the research I would be doing will not be kept in the shelves but instead implemented by the industries.

How did StudyPortals help you in your decision process?

StudyPortals regularly updates the user with vacancies for various positions across the world and I benefitted the most from this website. I would recommend StudyPortals to continue the good work and help many other aspiring students to find their respective courses abroad.

Did you take a language test (e.g. TOEFL, IELTS) when applying for the programme? If yes, which one did you choose, why and how was your experience with it?

I took TOEFL test and got a score of 102/120. But the university did not ask me for the score as they had a Skype interview in English for an hour and also they were a little bit impressed by the two publications from Master’s work which made them think that I can communicate my results better than my competitors for the same PhD position.

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Recommendations

What would be your advice for students from your country that consider to study abroad?

My advice would be to choose the university based on its reputation in that respective area of specialization. Getting a degree from a good university helps in finding a job. Also, some university degrees might not be recognized some countries, so it is better to do some research before finally choosing your university.

How did you finance your stay abroad and what financial advice would you give to future students?

The best part of a being doctoral student in Sweden is that you are employed by the university where you study. The employment is for four years. The salary you get is the best in the entire Europe & USA as well. If you take up teaching, then the contract of employment is extended for more than four years.

It is always good to have a scholarship, funding or a salary while you study. I would suggest the students to prioritize this part as it is very expensive to study abroad on your own money.

Why would you (not) recommend this particular city / university? How would you rate your experience on a scale from zero to ten (0 – It was a total disaster, 10 – I had the time of my life)?

I would recommend this university as it has a good collaborations with most of the reputed industries. The student can take up the project directly with the industry which would otherwise be difficult if you are not a part of this university. The rest of the universities around are not very actively involved in industry-university collaborations. Also, in future, the student might end up getting a job at one of the industry he worked for to complete his/her thesis work.

I would rate the experience as 10/10. I could not have asked for a better place than this for my PhD studies.

Is there anything that you would do differently if you could do it over again?

I should have taken some Swedish language classes in my country before coming here. I would have enjoyed my stay even more. Though many people here speak English fluently and are very helpful but you can make friends easily if you speak Swedish.

What was the biggest surprise in your study abroad adventure?

The biggest surprise was that in this country they treat the PhD student as a full time employee instead of a student. So we get the benefit of both employee and student at the same time. We get the student discounts by being employed.

Also, the teachers and professors here like to be called by their names instead of Dr. or Prof etc. which was quite surprising. This makes us feel more comfortable to speak with the professors as they treat us as a colleague or a friend.
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