Ashoka student talks about how the right opportunity helped him pursue his dreams
They say a little help goes a long way, and this is true for Saurabh Sharma - a first-year undergraduate student at Ashoka University.
Coming from an economically underprivileged background, Saurabh’s story is an ode to his sheer courage and shows how if help is given at the right time, a person can flourish.
Saurabh was in class 3 when his mother passed away and his father left him and his brother to fend for themselves. Growing up in a small shack in South-East Delhi with his grandmother as their sole guardian, Saurabh tried his best in various ways to support his family, seeing many difficult days. Yet, his quest for learning is contagious! Studying in a government school, he self-taught to appear for SAT exams, spending almost all his free time in a nearby government library to eventually receive a full scholarship to pursue his undergraduate degree in Computer Science at Ashoka University.
What drove him to Computer Science, we asked. Saurabh replied, “I have always been fascinated with computers. As part of a government scheme, I used to get a small remuneration to buy new school uniforms and stationeries but instead of spending it on those things, I went to cyber cafe and learned programming, web designing, and the basics of android development. Slowly and over time, I grew a knack for artificial intelligence and machine learning and when I had the opportunity to pursue that at an institution like Ashoka, I grabbed it with both hands!”
What worked as motivation was Saurabh’s zeal to learn and grow. He wanted to better himself. He feels that there is no end to learning and he wants to acquire as much knowledge as he can.
His knack for knowledge drove him to contact as many universities as possible and from there he got to know about the Global Alliance Programme of which Ashoka is a part. When the results came out, he received a list of universities where he would receive a full scholarship. Without delaying any further, he applied to Ashoka. Humble, as he always is, Saurabh was all praise for Ashoka’s admission process, saying, “The Admissions Team helped me through the whole process including grooming me for the interview and I am indebted to them. At first, I had a lot of inhibitions about adapting to this new life, system and curriculum but the Academic Bridge Programme helped me a lot.”
The Academic Bridge Programme is a 2-week planned programme created and hosted by the Office of Admissions in collaboration with the Office of Student Affairs for Indian and International incoming students who require assistance in the English language and academic reading and writing. Planned sessions are organised with a strong focus on academic learning and support to ease their transition into Ashoka University’s residential life.
The academic focus of the programme is taught by the Centre for Writing and Communication with the objective to act as a bridge for students to be acclimatized to the academic culture of Ashoka. A specially designed course on the introduction to the foundations of critical reading and writing is taught to the students. Activities are designed to develop reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills, to make students familiar with methods to think critically and articulate their ideas with precision and without hesitation.
In the beginning, Saurabh felt quite out of place. He said, “I did not want to be included in anything. I was timid. I did not have an opinion but with Ashoka came stability and I have grown as a person in the last many months. While scrolling through Ashoka’s website, I got to know about different centres on campus like the Ashoka Centre for Well Being (ACWB) and the Office of Learning Support (OLS). I went to the OLS and shared my story. I was initially scared of being judged but the people in OLS listened to me. You know how they say that every person needs an ear to tell their stories? Thanks to OLS, I became more social than I was. Although I still am not entirely comfortable in sharing my opinions publicly, I am sure I will get there someday.”
Saurabh is also a member of NEEV which is a community engagement club aiming to create a space for engagement between Ashoka and its immediate surroundings. As part of the club, he teaches basic computer science to children from the Asawarpur village.
When asked about his future plans, Saurabh replied, “I just want to learn and immerse myself in research. I also want to find students like me and give them the help that I was given at Ashoka. Right now, my father has also come back to my life for good. He is working as a security guard and trying hard to lead a normal life. So I want to grow and support my family. My quest for learning helped me develop myself. Ashoka has provided me with the resources I wouldn’t have gotten elsewhere, along with global exposure and definitely all other logistical help. I feel like there is so much to learn here that even 24-hours is not enough. I cannot really put into words the help I have received from Ashoka and all I can say is thank you for believing in me.”
Saurabh has recently been selected for the Japanese Government (MEXT) Scholarship, funded by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to pursue his education in Computer Science in Japan.