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I have a couple of offers for my bachelors thesis in computer science (machine learning, to be precise). The options are such that one is interesting work at a not-so-well-known institute (in my home country), while the other is at a better institute (foreign university) with less interesting work. What is more important given that I want to pursue research in future in terms of masters / PhD?

Please note that I have only provided the information below to give context, so that if someone is interested in having more information before answering he/she can do so by reading below. This is NOT meant to be a "shopping" question where one asks others to make the choice. The information exists only to provide context for those interested.

Some context in this regard (optional details):

In my final year, my university allows me to pursue my undergrad thesis at any university / research institute where I can find a professor willing to advise me.

I have a couple of offers for my thesis in this regard. One is at a not-so-well-respected institute in my home country (India) with a great professor. I call him "great" based on his publications – most of them are in top notch conferences, and his projects also seem very interesting to me.

The second is in Germany, at a slightly better known institute (again, not very well known). The professor and my potential supervisor seem to do good research, but their publication record is not as good as the first professor mentioned above. And while their project is interesting, I don't find it as interesting as the project above.

So I seem to be faced with the question of choosing between quality of work and the reputation of the university. On the one hand, option India provides me with interesting work and the recommendation from a professor who has a strong publication record. On the other hand, option Germany provides me with foreign experience on my resume and a potentially bigger name to throw around, along with a recommendation from the same.

What should the relative importance of reputation versus quality of work be?

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    The only judgement, in my opinion, should be your interests. Nothing stops you from moving abroad for a masters/PhD after you finish your bachelors. Working on a topic that you find really appealing will most likely result in broadening your knowledge more than working on a less interesting project. – user68958 Feb 4 '18 at 21:57
  • I appreciate your comment, and see what you're getting at. But I am not really concerned about moving abroad right now. As I mentioned in the question, I was more concerned about the trade-off between quality of work and reputation of the institute. – James Bond Feb 5 '18 at 13:38
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All other things being equal I'd take the Germany option. Reasons:

  1. You can't be sure if you want to do research yet. I know you said you do, but if your undergraduate was anything like mine then this thesis work is your first real contact with research. Research is nothing like coursework, and it's possible you decide afterwards that you don't actually want to do a Masters / PhD. I would therefore try to hedge a little, and in my experience with job searches, the institute's brand name is more significant a factor than the identity of your supervisor or the topic of your thesis (this assumes you'll complete regardless). Exception: if it's likely you'll work in India and the Indian professor is well-known in the country, then consider staying.
  2. You can't be sure which project is more interesting. Yes, you can say that the ultimate aim of one project is more interesting than the other, but the actual research work is different. For example you might start the project and then find that the best way to proceed is to make your code more efficient. If you dislike figuring out how to vectorize code, then the ultimate aim matters less than the fact that you still have to do something you dislike to get there. Taken together with #1, this means I would not place much importance on first impressions of which project is more interesting.
  3. Exposure. Assuming you did your undergraduate studies in India, then going to a different country gives you experience you cannot get by staying. You'll see a different culture, different way of life, different people, different currency, and so on. This can't be quantified, but it's valuable.
  4. Networking. You will reach a different group of machine learning specialists by going to Germany. The wider your personal network is, the better.

Other things to think about:

  • Timezone. Going to Germany puts you in a very different timezone from India. You'll also be able to visit home less often. Will you still be able to socialize with your friends / family / significant other?
  • Finances. Germany is more expensive than India. Can you afford it?
  • Personal happiness. Will you be happy in Germany? For example my mother, if she went to India, would probably be eating at McDonald's every day because she can't stand Indian food. If something similar may happen to you - stay in India.
  • Very comprehensive answer. I am accepting this answer because you have discussed all the relevant points (and more) I had in mind. I can connect with points 1 & 2, and 3 & 4 make sense too. Regarding the concerns you pointed out – it's a funded position, time difference is just 4 hours and I guess I'll find out about personal happiness only after going there! – James Bond Feb 5 '18 at 13:43

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