How Chinese teachers are dealing with coronavirus and helping keep its student’s futures alive

400+ people have died because of the coronavirus in Mainland China. To curb the spread and contagion, the government had to shut down the schools. Whole semester are getting delayed and those students who were preparing for college entrance examinations are left in fray and frenzy.

But like always, China has a way out of their biggest viral problem and unsurprisingly, it involves technology. China’s Ministry of Education issued a statement last week to push schools to use internet platforms as an alternative way of teaching students amid the suspension of the new semester.

Schools are now teaching its teachers to live-stream their classes. Alibaba Group’s DingTalk is one such tool that allows them to keep teaching the children who are no longer permitted to attend the schools. Many older teachers are now having a tough time learning the new generation tools as they strive to keep teaching the traditional subjects to the younger generation.

As per South China Morning Post,

Suddenly, the spotlight is on China’s online education market, which grew 25.7% year on year in 2018 to 251.7 billion yuan (US$35.9 billion), according to iResearch Consulting Group. The previous forecast of annual growth of between 16% to 24% in the subsequent three to five years may now need to be revised upwards.

Companies are also stepping up to deal with the crisis.

TAL Education announced free live-streaming courses for all grades to “minimise the influence on study due to the outbreak” while VIPKID, which specialises in teaching English online, said on Weibo it would offer 1.5 million free online courses to children aged from four to 12.

As of Sunday, more than 220 education bureaus in 20 Chinese provinces had joined the free-of-charge DingTalk homeschool programme, covering over 20,000 primary and secondary schools and 12 million students, according to state media Xinhua.

Meanwhile, many Chinese students who are studying abroad may be safe medically but are worrying for their families back home. Recently, a Chinese girl from Wuhan (which is where the coronavirus started) who is now living in HongKong took to Twitter to appeal to the world to be kinder to the people from Wuhan who have been facing wrath from the media worldwide.

Tensions may be fraught between the United States and China, but there are still 370,000 Chinese students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities. My own alma mater, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign houses nearly 6000 of them. They are filled with anxiety as every day brings them news of more deaths of their dear ones or new travel bans.

When such contagion arise at this scale, we suddenly realize how powerless we are. And I believe its only technology and entrepreneurship that can help survive these challenges. No, I am forgetting the important thing – the indefatigable human spirit.

China is not surrendering. Its students & teachers are fighting back one video at a time.

Click to read the referred article on SCMP here.

What is happening with H1B – should I apply for MS?

Ever since Trump was elected, there have been articles that blamed his policies on H1B for Indians being forced to exit US. Let us focus on facts and discuss how it impacts your MS plans.

Relevant Anti H1B Bills proposed so far-

  1. Increase in minimum wage requirement to qualify for H1B
    1. A bill called Protect and Grow American Jobs Act was introduced to amend the original Act that created the H-1B program. It asks to raise the minimum salary requirement for H-1B workers to $100,000 a year, up from $60,000, and remove the Master’s degree exemption that allowed the replacing of American workers with foreign workers with master’s degrees. The House Judiciary Committee approved it in November 2017 but it is far from becoming a law at this point. Tech lobby is so strong, I’ll be surprised if this passes ever.
  2. Revoking work permits of H1B spouses
    1. A rule is proposed to revoke work permits of H1B spouses – popularly called H4 EAD. It is currently in “final clearance and review” process.

Bills approved and made into law so far-


Other impacts of Trump’s anti-immigration stance:

  1. Employers were wary of what rule might be proposed and hence, were more cautious in rolling out H1B applications for new employees. I have heard Amex managers etc thinking twice before hiring internationals.
  2. In October 2017, the USCIS made it so that H1B extension applications are subjected to the same level of scrutiny as on fresh visa applications. Earlier, if anyone made a mistake in the application, they could get an RFE (request for evidence). However, now USCIS can outright right reject with no obligation to send RFE.
    The ground reality is that some people are seeing a tougher time getting their H1B renewed especially if their real day to day work doesn’t justify the reasons for which the H1B was filed in the first place. If they are doing routine mundane tasks and not requiring higher skills, they are likely to be questioned and may even see revoking of H1Bs.

Who will Trump’s bias really impact? – outsourcing firms who are sending people on client side for no real reason. This was also reflected in the fact that the number of approved H1B petitions filed by Indian IT firms (Cognizant, Infosys) declined in 2017 whereas those by leading tech companies such as Apple, Amazon increased (as reported by NFAP).

Outsourcing IT firms have realized that they cannot bulk file for H1Bs now and there will be tighter scrutiny on applications. As a result, they are also more cautious and not filing too many H1B petitions now.

Quoting verbatim from the above NFAP report-

Emerging technologies, such as driverless vehicles, may also be increasing the demand for people with high levels of technical skill, including foreign-born researchers. Tesla (207 approved new H-1B petitions in FY 2017), Uber (158) and General Motors (179) all employ individuals in H-1B status.

It indicates a shift in preferring to grant H1Bs to direct employers rather requiring more sophisticated knowledge of technology than outsourcing IT firms.

Frankly, these are the only real things happening. I have seen articles claiming that people are leaving USA because of Trump’s policies and they are cherry picking evidence. The height of irresponsible journalism is when they cite reasons such as – H1B is too restrictive, you cannot work for anyone else, I did not get H1B 2 years after graduation. I wrote a big counter article on that which went viral and you must read it.

Let’s be objective. All this was happening before Trump as well. H1B was always restrictive (you could not start your own company on H1B), it was always harder for people graduating with questionable degrees from questionable schools, who did not learn any real skills.

At Scholar Strategy, I have heard from our students who got internships and fulltime employment at Tesla, Facebook, Amazon, Intel, Qualcomm, Google, Microsoft, Apple etc this very year. So, if you want to extrapolate Trump’s frenzy to a doomsday scenario for people who know their shit, all I have for you is ‘I don’t buy that.’

You may say many deserving people on H1B from outsourcing firms are now at risk. I say – yes, they are. But believe me, if you have good skills and are a good developer, Project Manager, Product Manager, software architect – you will never have dearth of opportunities – yes, you may have to work for it.

I advised a 34 year old woman, who was fed up of the IT firms politics and stagnation in career in India, get into MIT SDM program and she interned at Salesforce as a product manager this year. If she can do it, so can you.

But if you are trying to defend skill-less people sitting as managers in middle management layer in so many IT companies – you cannot. They were and are always at risk of being shoved out (even in India) – its nothing to do with H1B. After all, H1B is not a charity, it is a work visa with a specific purpose for its country.

I am not defending Trump by any means, but I am saying that there frankly has not been a damage to prospects of working in USA for good people. In fact, I would argue that going forward, it bodes well for people with advanced degrees from good institutes because they are the ones that will possess the requisite skills.

Updated thoughts after H1B report came out in Feb 2019-

MS in Canada compared to MS in USA

Why apply to MS in Canada?

1. H1B and green card uncertainty in USA due to Trump policies

Trump has hinted that he does not like immigrants (which is the intention of 90%+ internationals who go for MS in USA), H1B caps and OPT rules are constantly under scrutiny and green card processing takes forever.

In comparison, you easily get work permit upon graduation in Canada for 2-4 years in any field to work anywhere you want. The study permit itself allows for taking jobs off campus right from the beginning. Within this time frame, you can easily get your permanent residency. Therefore, studying from Canada means not only getting higher education but a hassle-free option of settling in Canada.

2. The high quality of living and curriculum

Canada’s political stability, tolerant government, super healthcare, natural beauty lends itself to the wonderful quality of living in a peaceful environment. Yes, winters might be an issue for some people.
I saw the ultimate reward of being in Canada in our alumnus’ Rafi’s response –

“I used to weigh 120+ kg in India and had multiple health issues. After coming to Canada and seeing the fitness of people around me, it made me work hard to become healthy myself. Today I weigh 70 kg and have learned swimming and skiing. I love it here.”

While Canada may have a fewer number of schools than the USA, most of them are comparable in quality of coursework and research to the top tier schools of USA.

3. Not so bad job opportunities

Plus, for all the health and wellness benefits it offers, the job scenario is also not bad (we are talking about engineering fields for this post). There are increasing opportunities in growing fields such as Data Science. Plus, most of the bigger tech companies are opening offices in Canada if not already.

In terms of the cost of attendance and living, it may be akin to the USA in total. However, financial aid opportunities seem to be abundant in good Canadian universities.

So, where is the catch?

As is the case we discussed in MS in Germany blog post, downsides of studying in Canada are:

1. Lower job packages

While it is not unheard of to get $100K USD+ packages in the USA in software and technology along with handsome relocation bonuses, Canadian offers are lower with little bonuses.

2. Lower possibilities of working in the USA

It is hard to get placement in US offices from Canada. So, if you graduate from Canada, you are best positioned to work in Canada only. I still believe that the USA offers the best job market and growth opportunities in most of the engineering fields.

To summarize, those looking for long-term settlement, relocation to a foreign country and peaceful living, Canada offers you a wonderful opportunity. But if you are studying abroad to earn as much as possible and might want to come back to India, USA is still a better bet.

The comparison is more clear from this interview with Rafi Alam. He shares insights about studying and working in Canada.

Hear it from someone who pursued CS from Waterloo

That’s it, hope it helps you make a more informed choice for your study abroad plans!

We have now covered MS in Germany and MS in Canada. Which other country are you considering and would like to know more about?

Should you consider doing an MS in Germany?

MS in Germany can be lucrative

Did you know that Hyperloop competition by Elon Musk was won by TU Minich students for a second time! That is not all, pursuing MS in Germany can nearly be free in technical streams. German schools further help all students in getting co-ops kind of internships for practical training. However, there is still a catch when you compare it to USA. Read on to find out…

In an interview with Sangram Gupta, we chat about his experience of pursuing an MS in CS from TU Munich, Germany. He is parallelly interning with a Business Intelligence startup called where he is earning 15 euros per hour. Best thing – he did not spend a single penny in his MS.

Interview covers

  • How helpful is the curriculum like?
  • How long does it take to do an MS?
  • How much does one spend on graduate school in Germany? (Its almost free!)
  • Who should apply to German schools (which kind of programs are best)?
  • What is the process to apply to programs in Germany?
  • What is the internship process and ease of doing internships in Germany?
  • What is the employment scenario in Europe?
  • Why you should or should not consider MS in Germany? (Conclusive comparison with USA)


Let us find out more directly from him in this video-


Here is the list of top German schools that Sangram considered while applying.

We have now covered MS in Germany and MS in Canada. Which other country are you considering and would like to know more about?

20 Secrets to Successful Dating in Grad School

The time in Grad School (equally relevant to college) is not just critical for your career but also for personal relationships. Many a time, school life does not derail because of the decisions of mind but that of the heart.

A healthy approach to relationships is a must have. Here are 20 tips to keep you emotionally sane-

1. Enjoy dating with an open mindset

Meeting multiple people gives you a better idea of your own preferences before you start seeing someone more seriously. And no, you are not supposed to be dating many people at the same time (glad you clarified).

2. A successful relationship is about compatibility and that goes beyond how cute someone is

I know, I know. Hormones. After a while, you will stop noticing the cuteness but if the person has a habit that annoys you (not making their bed, bad at losing in board games), it will become hard to ignore.

3. Break up is not the end of the world

For whatever reason, if you have to break up (or your partner initiates it), it is okay. No, seriously. You would think that it is the end of the world and you will never find anyone so good again. But usually, your mind is just reacting to the insecurity of ending up alone. Breaking up sucks but being stuck with a wrong person is a torture beyond comprehension.

4. Don’t date assholes, narcissists and control freaks

Self explanatory. Quit if the person is abusive, tries to make you feel bad for his/her problems, feels manipulative, does not pay attention to your needs or talks down to you. There is no reason big enough to justify staying with such people.

5. Kindness is the most important trait to look for

Yes, it is shocking but in the end, if your partner cannot be kind to you when you behave differently from what they expect, you will run crazy trying to please them. It is not a battle you can ever win. Romance will cool down, you have to pay bills and do unpleasant chores when you live together. There will be days when the world seems wrong. You need a kind partner to get through those days.

6. Don’t chase anyone, move on

If someone is breaking up again and again with you and coming back, stop. If they don’t value you, they are not worth keeping.

The longest relationship in your life is the one you have with yourself. You are the most important person in your life. Have some self-esteem.

7. Career and relationships are equally important

No amount of wealth can fill in for loneliness and no amount of company can fill in for emptiness. You can have a balanced family and professional life. Go for it. Don’t compromise on your dreams and always be there for your partner. Find that delicate balance — it is hard but it is so worth it.

8. Don’t try to change anyone

Everyone holds some beliefs and values in life. Some of those are non-negotiable. Unless you understand what you can and cannot live without, how can you find the ‘one’ for yourself? If your plan depends on changing your partner so adjust to your values, think again. Can you change for them?

Examples are known where deep incompatibility in religious beliefs, political beliefs, financial values corroded the relationship over time. If you are a spiritual person and that is core to your existence, you won’t be able to thrive easily with someone who is agnostic, materialistic and contrarian to your values. People usually don’t change when it comes to such core values. Exceptions may occur but you don’t want to hold your breath on it.

9. Backpack test

My favorite advice came from Richard Muller on Quora, “Take a week long backpack trip together. Before you get married, you want to experience stress together, ideally over an extended time.” How do you hold together in stressful moments will tell you if you are right for eachother or not.

10. Never cheat

Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is looking. Don’t cheat — not because someone will find it out but because you are much better than that. One never sleeps peacefully when one is worrying about being caught.

11. Read relationship books before you fuck it up

You will fuck it up, trust me. But to avoid making it a catastrophe, educate yourself. Relationships can be understood by reading about human psychology and communication. I know 20 something people think it ludicrous to be reading about relationships. But you will be thankful later when you end up not losing a great person because of your ego. Or, when you get rid of a toxic person. Despite how smart you feel you are, you are naive and books can help.

Here are the three books I can recommend to start off with-

1. “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie — Because you need to learn how to be a likable person to be in a relationship
2. “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” by John Gray — Because it helps to understand different mindset of men and women (avoid generalizing too much though)
3. “Nonviolent Communication” by Marshall Rosenberg — Hands down the best material I have found on how to avoid miscommunication that kills so many relationships

12. Long distance is hard, not impossible

Any relationship needs investing time. If you can do that, distances may matter less. But don’t overtly romanticize the notion of making long distance work. As you move to a different country/place to study or start a job, you are going to change — whether you like it or not. You should take time to decide if that old relationship of yours is still the right one for you. In a good relationship, both people grow simultaneously.

And if you can grow from distances apart and keep the commitment and integrity alive, you can have a relationship that will truly stand the test of time. And if not, it is better to let go.

13. Don’t commit before you feel ready

This is an extension of point 3. If things are not great, quit. A right relationship is not supposed to be okayish, or just-good-enough; it is supposed to be great. It should make you feel not starry-eyed but calm from inside. ‘Yes, this is the person for me!’

So, if you are not feeling this way, don’t feel an obligation to commit just because you have dated each other long enough.

14. Discuss important things instead of sexting

Do you want to live abroad or in your home country? Do you want kids? Do you want to keep working after the marriage? Would you wish to take care of parents together after marriage? These are the questions that matter and yet most couples never discuss it until after the wedding.

15. Interracial relationships face extra challenges, are you prepared?

Asian cultures are ultra-conservative and a western person may find many of the customs strange. While Anglo-Indian, Jewish-Muslim marriages are not unheard of (and I personally know successful couples), they require that much stronger foundation to withstand the extra complications.

16. The only good reason to marry someone is love and compatibility

Definitely not peer or family pressure.

17. Best friend may not make best spouse

Intimate relationships need more than friendship to thrive. Read point 16.

18. Keep a good circle of friends and don’t let your life revolve solely around your partner

Grad School is a perfect place to meet super intelligent and interesting people. There are awesome things to do academically and socially. The worst thing to do is to miss out on this chance because you and your partner isolated yourselves socially.

What seems very intimate in the beginning can seem like an extra burden of expectations on each other. If your whole life revolves around your partner, there is more probability of getting disappointed when the other person cannot give what you want. It is not fair on either of you.

19. Nothing good will get away, don’t be desperate

Don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens. The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away — John Steinbeck

Read this wonderful letter containing relationship advice by John Steinbeck to his son.

20. Do not carry on if you know it isn’t going to work

Respect your partner’s time and break up gracefully and let them move on. Never hurt anyone with your careless attitude. Whatever you throw out to the universe will come back to you. Karma never forgets.

I have seen brilliant people dropping courses and grades and barely managing to study because they were involved in dramatic relationships. While there is no algorithm to find the right person (wouldn’t OKCupid pay billions for that?), the right relationship will feel right. And the right person will elevate you instead of letting you drown in the dungeons of insecurity and longing.

A long life lies ahead. Take time to study well, make the career that you dreamt. Attract a person that enjoys same things as you do and live happily ever after 🙂