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From India to New York: A Story of Resilience

We often underestimate the power of support in helping us reach our goals. Today’s scholar understands that the secret to success is support. From India, Aishwarya tells her story of resilience and community support in shaping her dreams into reality.

For Aishwarya, her journey to study abroad started in 2019 after receiving her bachelor's degree in Life sciences from the University of Delhi. Like many others, she joined the applicant pool, sending applications to numerous schools globally. “I tried to get into a master's degree program in 2019, applying to a few schools in Germany, Japan, and the Erasmus scholarship but did not get into any. I eventually got into a Masters program in Bioinformatics at Central University of Punjab, India”.

One random day, as she walked on the streets of Twitter, she stumbled on a live session hosted by GetIn on Twitter on how to edit your CV and SOP. She got interested and decided to join in.

“The Bootcamp was a new approach for me. We have educational consulting companies in India, but no one teaches you how to do it yourself. You have to pay someone to do it for you. I, however, think there is a time to learn to do things for yourself. I think the a-ha moment was the CV writing class. I realized some of the details I had in my CV were not required. I also saw the SOP samples and how the scholars tied their childhood stories to their ambitions and goals. I had to dig deep to find something that motivated me. I shared how my parent's careers as doctors influenced my interest in biology, immunology, etc., as a starter for my essays.’’

By the time application season opened in 2021, Aishwarya felt better prepared for another application cycle. She sent out applications to Universities like Purdue University, Wageningen University, Pennsylvania State University, Michigan State University, Stony Brook University and the University of Louisville. However, she was met again with rejections, this time even more painful than the last. “I felt I was not good enough for a Ph.D. and decided to maybe apply instead for a second master's.”

Good things indeed come to those who wait. Just as she was losing hope, her golden opportunity came 41 days after interviewing for a Ph.D. program at Stony Brook University. “It was 12:02 am on the 27th of March in India when the offer came. I was on top of the world, hooting and went to my parents really excited. I received a teaching assistantship role covering my tuition and living expenses for five years”.

Aishwarya, a first-class graduate, didn’t just get lucky. She took intentional steps toward building a solid profile. For one, she worked on a team project exploring the quality of water delivered to the college during her undergraduate days. Aside from her thesis, this helped her present a strong case for research experience. In addition, she wrote the IELTS while skipping out on GRE as many schools had waived it for the application season.

Many people do not speak of the emotional roller coaster that is the application and admissions season. There were many days when our scholar thought she would fail. Her support system was the fuel that kept her going. “I was able to keep going because of the Bootcamp community on telegram. People were so supportive. The waiting period was tough, but I could rant and get support from other applicants. I wanted to go to Michigan State University because my friend was there. I applied to two programs there but was rejected, which hurt a lot. I had some days when I would lie down depressed. My mother kept encouraging me that I was good enough to get in. She also helped me a lot with my applications as she has experience in administration”.

In securing her dreams, she was no stranger to difficult recommenders. “There was a professor who had written letters for me in the past. When I hit her up again, she was okay, but suddenly, she got upset that she was repeatedly receiving requests. I was so confused and scared. She later told me to draft another and, within a few hours, submitted new ones. The others were quite nice, one was my supervisor in my Bachelor's project, and the other was my Master's dissertation supervisor. My boss from work knew I was applying and was very happy for me when I got in ”.

Aishwarya’s story reminds us that each person must work towards achieving their dreams. There will be days when the world seems bleak and other days when hope is lost, but nothing is really out of reach. To you, our readers, she leaves a word of encouragement. “Keep trying; apply to multiple places. One or two rejections do not mean you are not ready. I used to make my friends who were already in graduate school review my documents, and even though they would say it was good, it wasn’t always great. There was a difference when I got help from more senior people. You should get help from professors or those in your field who know more about what the admissions committee needs from you. I am a person who was very afraid of rejection. I did not apply to all the schools I wanted to because I had started to get rejections. I felt terrible whenever I had to ask my parents to pay for the application fees, which went from $65 to $100. Don’t give up. Just because one place rejected you does not mean all will reject you. One will see you are worthy of getting a place. Finally, have a support system for people who are also applying. That way, you can vent and get advice from people who can relate to you”.

While working to secure her student visa, Aishwarya was interning as a biological data curator at Elucidata. Here, she was helping to explore useful data sets from disease and gene research. In grad school, she looks forward to making real-life friends who are outgoing and will push her to be more adventurous. Now enjoying the land of cheesecakes and Broadway, Aishwarya can say it was worth it. Her research is focused on preventing the aggregation of Amylin, which causes type 2 diabetes. After her program, Aishwarya is ready to take on the world and find work opportunities globally.

If you are a student who is scared of rejection, take a step back today to see yourself in Aishwarya, and know that there is nothing you cannot achieve when you work hard.

The Sun will shine.

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