I am currently pursuing a Master’s in Communications Systems at EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland. I graduated from Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering. For high school, I attended UWC-USA in Montezuma, New Mexico and Bellarmine College Prep in San Jose, California.
I have been truly lucky to attend incredible academic institutions. Living and studying in each place has had a significant role in forming the person I am today. Below I will reflect on each of these four experiences: growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area; attending an international boarding school; studying abroad in Germany; and now forming my career in Switzerland. The following serves more as a blog post as I share my personal thoughts and experiences at each of these places.
Growing up in the Bay Area is tough as the pressure of the Silicon Valley disseminates to high school and even as early as pre-school. I faced competition, disappointment, and betrayal from a young age. I learned that your connections were as important as how well you performed (sometimes even more important). However, the constant pressure of competition instilled in me perseverance and resilience. Not having those backdoors taught me the importance of hard work.
Studying at Bellarmine was the most demanding period of my life. While balancing piano lessons, playing in a competitive soccer team, and volunteering at local schools and community centers, I strove to get the best possible grades. A serious soccer injury, however, curtailed my plans of playing college soccer and presented uncertainty. Uncertainty because in the US, we are predominantly presented a single path to success as a high school student: get good grades, dedicate a lot of time to a few extracurriculars, and then attend an American university. However, this injury led me into another direction. My parents suggested I apply to the United World College program. I did and was offered an opportunity to attend UWC-USA in Montezuma, New Mexico. Even though my parents did not have the connections to guarantee a stress-free path to the commonly-perceived success, they stretched my horizon and awareness outside the bubble of the Bay Area and even beyond the US.
At UWC-USA, I lived and studied with 200 students from over 70 countries. I felt a true sense of belonging in such a diverse community. I myself have roots in Argentina, Italy, and India but never felt that I could properly express this internal melting pot of cultures in the US (i.e. in an American community as I was still technically in the US). Back in California, people classified me as Indian because of my appearance and it was difficult for me to come to terms with this over-simplification of my identity. Which “group” did I belong to? The ever so studious children of Asian and Indian immigrants or the predominantly non-Asian “jocks” with whom I interacted frequently in soccer. However, when I arrived to UWC-USA, I realized that my diverse background, with regards to cultures and interests, could find its proper place without the need of
devaluing any aspect.
When it came down to selecting which university to attend, I knew that I had to continue living and studying in such an international community as it would be the best for my personal growth. So I decided to attend Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany.
At Jacobs, I decided to study Electrical and Computer Engineering. I had initially avoided anything engineering-related as my father is an Electrical Engineer and my mother is a Computer Scientist. However, during my time at UWC-USA, I came to realize that the objective tasks in math and science truly excited me.
During my second year at Jacobs, I developed a keen interest in signal processing. I was quickly drawn to this area due to my many years with music (playing the piano and DJing). I also enjoyed being able to quickly analyze and experiment with signals in MATLAB.
One more key factor would lock me into this field and eventually play a significant role in my career. I’m really addicted to learning new things and during my time at Jacobs, I was frequently on Coursera. One course particularly drew my attention: Digital Signal Processing offered by EPFL and taught by Paolo Prandoni and Professor Martin Vetterli. Unfortunately, I could not complete the course as it required considerable effort and conflicted with my regular Bachelor courses (excuses, excuses). However, from the eloquence in which the instructors explained signal processing mathematically and the manner in which they linked theory to real-life scenarios, I became excited by the possibilities of this widely-applicable field.
During my third and final year at Jacobs, I applied to EPFL and a number of universities in the US for graduate school. The decision process was not was an easy one, but after being offered a research position at Professor Vetterli’s lab – LCAV – the choice became clear(er). Nonetheless, just as when I transferred to UWC against the wishes of my Bellarmine peers and administration and when I chose the unfamiliar Jacobs University over following the standard path to study in the US: I followed my gut. What an amazing decision that turned out to be. At EPFL, I have been able to work on a myriad of topics in audio signal processing, medical ultrasound, and machine learning. As well as appealing to my affinity in interacting with various cultures, Switzerland has also instilled in me an immense appreciation for natural beauty. In the past year, Switzerland, despite its flaws, and EPFL have had a tremendous impact on my personal and professional mindset, and I look forward to the new experiences that are to come.
A look back
The past few years of living and learning in various parts around the world have been hectic but have also been essential in forming my identity and look on life. I’ve come to realize that when living in a bubble (a term that has come up in each of the places) that one should not let the boundaries of the surrounding community or the thoughts of others limit one’s reach. It is important to keep an open mind and look at different opportunities, even though they may not be the most popular ones. Moreover, moving out of one’s comfort zone requires trusting others and accepting vulnerability. Both admissions have allowed me to pave new paths in different countries and meet amazing people from all over the world. In reality, it has been the people, more so than the places, that have shaped the person I am today.
In this description about myself, I have integrated more personal thoughts than in a typical About section for a someone in the tech-field. It is rather uncanny but after spending hours behind a computer screen, we tend to forget about the human experience and this is equally important. If you would like to learn more about me (professionally or personally), please do not hesitate to contact me at ebezzam[at]gmail[dot]com.