Sristi Gautam, final year student of ILNU has been selected for Masters at Cambridge University specialising in International Law. She has been interviewed by Aastha Srivastava, Student Ambassador at SCC Online.
- Tell us a bit about yourself?
I have always believed that I am a part of the larger whole that has so much to give back to the world and beyond. This is because I have always seen myself being shaped by experiences and ideologies, most of which have had a great impact on how I perceive the world. The process begun right from my childhood, being gifted to extremely caring parent, a loving younger sibling and being born in a family that perceives the world through the prism of spirituality, I knew that I will not be a product of limitations but would nurture greater understanding. I am still in the process of ‘being’ and this is what helps me in developing every aspect of my life, as an individual, as a student and as a contributor to the world that I wish to be in the years to come.
- How does it feel to be selected for masters at Cambridge? Did you ever envision it? Details about the programme you are going to pursue?
The stories of Cambridge and Oxford have made their rounds around different corners of the world. I remember vividly, while growing up, I had come across these names while reading about erudite personalities who attended these universities and since then, latently, the name was etched in my memory. When it was time to take major decisions regarding colleges, I took quite a risk by applying only into two universities and one of them was Cambridge. It was quite a trifling battle because I did not know of the outcome and that kept me on a loop for quite a month or so. The day I received my confirmation, I was lucky to witness the happiness on the faces of the three most important people of my life, to me, half the battle was already won, then and there. Cambridge to me is an opportunity that I must utilise for the cause of all. This has been a dream come true and I dearly wish to make the most of this dream to turn others dreams into reality as well with my work and devotion to the field that I chose to pursue.
Talking about my course, I would be specialising in International Law and would take up my written modules on the course of human rights. It has been quite a journey for me to decide the field because I have always wished to work in the field of law and spirituality and there are very few courses all around the world that incorporate such a multi dimensional approach. With Cambridge, I see myself working under the guidance of the learned names who have made their mark in the field and learn from their experiences to follow the legacy.
- How should one go about his/her application, did you try for scholarships, tell us about the intricacies with scholarship?
This is the most interesting part! Strictly speaking by my experience, I believe that one must first figure out what one really aspires to do, it might take quite some time but that must be done. With the burgeoning prospects of law, we have a variety of options open for all sorts of multi disciplinary studies. Given that, the only focus should be to look for a good module and a course that serves your purpose and the recognition of faculty members under whom you are going to pursue the course. These two prospects are quintessential in deciding upon a good college. Once this is done, you are good to go.
Regarding scholarships, I believe that it depends on a variety of factors like the country where you’re applying to, the college, your academic and extracurricular potentials etc. If you are really aiming for a good scholarship, you must give it equal preference to that of the application that you filled in for your college. Frankly, there are different areas (academic, financial status, background etc.) that each scholarship might demand from you so kindly look into the process a little early. Keep a track of the scholarships offered both, by the university as well as from external sources, the age of digitalisation has really made it handy for us.
- What do you plan to do at Cambridge, what are your future plans after completing your masters?
Cambridge has certainly opened up a lot of prospects for me and I am equally excited and nervous to take up the course. It is a big opportunity for me and all that I am sure of is to make the most out of it and build a life learning experience for myself that will strengthen my pursuit to be of quite some use to the world that requires attention to the tiniest of details. I wish to be associated with the United Nations Human Rights Council and work at ground level for every cause and concern that requires honing of skills to bring about peace and empathy in a world that requires more of it. I have always been an optimist and it might sound hypothetical to talk about peace given the concurrent demands of the nation states but the only thing that I know is that there is one uniting factor for the entire generation of people and that is humanity, it has certainly not been realised to its maximum potential and unless we bow down to the basic tenets of humanity, of love, compassion, remove the veil and take a step forward, we would never achieve it.
- What role did ILNU play in shaping, honing your skills?
Institute of Law has made me the person that I am today. It has taught me that there is nothing that you can’t achieve if you have the dedication and the correct motivation. There may be a lot of times when you might fail to achieve things that you wished for the most but what is more important is that you must never fail yourself, never leave the foundation that has kept you rooted over the years, all you must do is to build upon it and keep refining yourself. I have realised that you must strive to maintain a balance and it could be possible by being certain of what you’re doing and keep fulfilling your ambition. The place, the people and the experiences for over half a decade is what I am going to take with myself. I am extremely thankful to each member of the Institute. Amidst everything, I would like to take this opportunity to convey my heartiest regards to Prof. Dr. Purvi Ma’am, Nitesh Sir and Nikita Ma’am, who stood as constant pillars of support and motivation throughout.
- What inspired you to pursue higher studies, what role did your parents and teachers play?
I derive my motivation from my Guruji, who has been the source of light and the epitome of spiritual understanding to me ever since I remember. There are a lot of things today that might alienate us from the ultimate source of truth and to me being firm about finding the truth is very important. To me, it lies in the very nature of humanity and in the essence of reaching out to the other. In every given situation, I was taught to derive the good and move with the rest and this has all been possible because of my Guruji and my parents who have made me into the person that I am today. There is a huge difference in literacy and education and I believe that education is a process that encompasses a way of living where you know how to keep your ‘self’ and your ‘other’ at par. This is where higher education to me becomes important, to be able to explore and engage in a dialogue and new ideas at an international level would certainly help me boost my knowledge and refine me for a better future.
- What advice would you like to give to students aiming to study at Cambridge or pursue masters?
My only piece of encouragement has been to outshine myself and look at myself in the future doing great things across generations and I believe this uniformly works for everyone. The world is more competitive than ever before but never get lost in what the world demands of you, be certain of what do you want from yourself and where do you wish to see yourself in the coming years. Grades are extremely important so make sure you keep a good track on that. Apart from that, work and excel in any field that you are good at, it may be debating, mooting, dancing, sports etc. all of it really helps you in building a good CV that the universities look for. Be certain of the field that you want to pursue and then plan or customise your internships, workshops accordingly as this makes you stand out from the rest. Keeping oneself motivated is extremely important and there is no straight jacket formula to make it to the top universities, it’s only when you’re highly determined, humble and devoted that miracles happen, so make it happen for you too.
- Which other universities did you apply for LLM, on what basis did you choose which university to go for?
I applied to London School of Economics apart from Cambridge and my only criteria for choosing the university was the course module and the faculty members. Considering that I wish to pursue human rights and a lot of theory in addition to the subject, UK was best suited to me because the theory subjects are well taught in this part of the world. Depending on what your field of interest is, you can apply wherever you wish to but look for the course and the opportunities that the college has to offer to you. The best way to go about college hunting is to look into the minute details that are available on their website and match your criteria. For eg. I will be reading about religion, spirituality and law and a lot of literature since Cambridge has a strong hold on literature and the field of arts, this would help me develop at various fronts while being specifically embedded in the field of law. You must also look for the contribution made by the alumni, the considerable research that has taken place in the college over the years and the kind of opportunities that the college offers to you like seminars, workshops etc.
- How did you plan your SOP? Please share some tips for successful applications.
SOP writing is quite an exercise that involves the most of all the work that you will be doing for your application. The thing that will strike you the most is ‘how/what do I write about myself in those two pages’? Well, very few get it right at first instance, otherwise, it often requires you to sit and erase two to three drafts of writing it all. To me, I only kept one thing in mind that this piece of work is going to be assessed by a reader in some far off corner of the world who is going to read around a hundred applications with each of them screaming as to why are each of them the most suitable candidate. Once you have this in mind, you will realise that you want to make it easy for the person who is going to read it. Again, there is no uniform way to go about it but I wrote on my personal experience, for instance I mentioned about how my experience of growing up in a city that provides a dichotomy of life shaped my understanding of human right. So, a few pointers, be specific of what you wish to convey, keep it crisp, look at the standards that the college wants you to adhere to while writing your SOP and get it reviewed not more than two people (who can cross check your grammar, flow of statements etc.). I was thankful to have Nitesh Sir and Nikita ma’am to review my SOP.
- What should one do differently in college if one wants to pursue higher studies?
Each of us has a unique talent that makes us different from the other, it’s good to realise it soon and work for it. The talent need not be certified (like a certified painter or a dancer) but you must know that it is a field you excel at. It can be writing, speaking etc. utilise it to the best, refine it and excel in it. Apart from keeping your academics strong, you must always have at least one thing at hand that serves your strength. Channelize your energy in learning things by any medium that catches your attention the most and you are good to go.