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Life in a foreign University | How Australia’s University of Wollongong is shaping my leadership skills

(This letter is part of a series by The Indian Express where we bring to you the experiences of students at different foreign universities. From scholarships and loans to food and cultural experiences — students tell us how life is different in those countries and things they are learning other than academics)

—Shaurya Kansal

I was born into a humble family in Meerut. My father was a medical representative and my mother was a teacher at the nearby school. Today, my father works as an IT consultant and my mother works in a US consultancy firm. Over the years, we have shifted our base to many Indian cities and foreign countries.

I did my pre-schooling from Sydney and life has come to a full circle with me moving to Australia for my bachelor’s in Computer Science at the University of Wollongong.

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During my short stay in Auckland, New Zealand, I studied at Westlake Boys High School from October 2018 to April 2019. During that time, though I was really young, I understood what kind of growth and self-discovery can come from studying abroad. And, I harboured this dream of studying at the best universities regardless of the location.

How I applied to the University of Wollongong

After Class 12, I registered with IDP Education to guide me in applying to various universities. Soon, I started getting acceptance letters from various universities. I applied for a scholarship because I didn’t have enough capital to pay for the tuition fee of the college.

I applied to the Vice-Chancellor’s Leadership Scholarship at the University of Wollongong (UOW). This year, I was the only international student, out of the total 10 students selected for the scholarship. The scholarship covered my full tuition fees and provided me with opportunities to develop my personality from seminars to dining with the Vice Chancellor.

UoW Vice Chancellor’s leadership scholarship

In order to apply for this scholarship, you need all documents, grades, acceptance letters and more. It really helps if you have given exams such as IELTS. I got a band 8. Even clearing JEE would be a great addition. I also participated in national and international competitions as it adds up to your CV. I scored 11 points on the conversion scale and my grade was B. I was also involved in the NASA and Boeing-sponsored year-long Asian Regional Space Settlement Design Competition project.

Once I met the basic requirements, I had to submit two essays on leadership and a three-part interview. My first essay was on ‘how do you define strong leadership and how do you embody it with the community’ and the second essay was on ‘how my traits and my experiences add up to a perfect leadership role’. In the interview, first I was given some prompts which I had to read out and then I was interviewed by the panel. They asked me questions about who am I, what are my goals and how I will help society and make a difference.

Life in a Foreign University: Shaurya Kansal from University of Wollongong Life in a Foreign University: Shaurya Kansal with the Vice Chancellor Patricia Davidson

During the interview, the panel also asked me one idea on how I would solve a real world problem. My idea is to build a malaria detector which would function with the help of AI and solve the problem in rural India and Africa.

I feel the essays make up for a critical and imperative aspect of your application. It embodies who you are, what your ideas are and how you plan to impact the world. I want to be a tech entrepreneur. I want to empower people with ideas and act as a catalyst for change. I don’t see myself as an innovator. I believe that entrepreneurship is important as it empowers so many people and helps in solving real world problems. One of the great people I have been influenced by is Peter Thiel who invested in so many companies (Facebook to Fortune 500) that are bringing a revolution in the world.

Life in Australia

Australia has been a magical experience for me. Coming from a landlocked region in India, I enjoy the serene landscapes of Wollongong and the vibrant, lush campus surroundings. Plus, the curriculum and facilities provided here are top-notch. It is not about rote learning but about experiences and learning from the best of tools. We have weekly sessions where we are asked to explain what did we understand last week. There are projects and assignments that help us understand what we learn in a better way. The professors are helpful and we use technology used by industry experts. We have exposure to software used by top companies.

Unlike India, college and real world are not separate entities. Here what you do in college is reflective of what will happen in the real world.

Life in a Foreign University: Shaurya Kansal from University of Wollongong Shaurya with his friends

Since I have my tuition fees covered I decided to live alone at least for the first semester till I get acquainted with people and get adjusted to the new environment. I live in a studio apartment. The rent of the place is slightly on the higher side, AUD 340 per week. However, I am hoping to move out after the first semester with a friend or so.

As I just moved from India, I am not working anywhere but I will also look for a part time job after three months. I cook by myself and try to prepare a variety of dishes — from Indian to Japanese.

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I have made quite a few friends over here with diverse backgrounds. Many are from Europe— Germany, Belgium, the UK and more. My closest friends are from France and the US.

Carrying India wherever I go

Since I have moved around a lot, I don’t tend to feel homesick. I believe I carry India and my culture everywhere I go. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t talk to my friends and family. I am always in touch with my family and do not like being alone. My family is my biggest support system.

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Stay true to yourself, do not try to be something else. Focus on things you love and do what you’re passionate about and how will it create an impact on the world.

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