- Nirali M
Oxford Scholarship Holder & St.Andrews Alum, France-based Strategy Manager speaks on #StudyAbroad
Updated: Sep 17, 2020
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Under Grad: St Xaviers Mumbai, Economics
Post Grad: University of St. Andrews - Master of Science (MSc) Field Of Study International Strategy & Economics
Post Grad 2: University of Oxford - Foundations in Diplomacy
Current Role – Strategy manager for the Amadeus IT group in France.
“Make a pitch, make a strong case for yourself and why you deserve it”
1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your Educational and Professional Background? Which college, company, and role did you work in to get you where you are today?
My name is Anmol Soin and I am currently working as a manager for the Amedeus IT group in France. I’ve had a variety of stints before this. I studied in St.Xaviers, Mumbai for undergrad which was followed by a Masters from the University of St Andrews in the UK and a Post-graduation diploma from the University of Oxford. I also tried out a bunch of jobs – was a Professor at NMIMS in Mumbai, then worked with the Indian Government briefly under the 14th Finance Commission. Worked in development projects for DFID which is the UK government. Before my current job, I was a management consultant with PwC.
2. What was your undergraduate Major? What prompted you towards it?
I took Economics as my undergrad Major in Mumbai as I felt like Economics would open up a variety of avenues to the point where you can go anywhere from journalism to business to the civil services. You didn’t need to choose at the age of 18, you could get your foundations right and build towards wherever you wanted to go, and that’s kind of worked for me because I have switched around industries a few times and nobody looks at my degree and goes “This isn't entirely irrelevant.” The people at Think Tanks, the people at government institutions, and the people at various governments and corporate structures have found it a useful degree to have.
3. When and why did you decide to study abroad?
I first thought about studying abroad right after school, but then I got into Xaviers and in the first few days I had a pretty good feeling about the place and I decided to stay there but I knew that I'd be doing my post-grad abroad for a variety of reasons.
Most important one being that the domestic competition for the top universities is insanely high and I don’t know if I would have made it. But if the choice is between going to a great university abroad and an average university at home, of course, an indication of privilege and the fact that resources available, if you have the resources and support it would make sense to go in for what sets you better up in the long term.
4. Did you receive a scholarship? Do you recommend any good organizations/institutions that provide for scholarships or financial aid?
I did receive a scholarship for my time at Oxford but it was a scholarship offered by the university in the application process so I don’t have visibility into external scholarships but my recommendation to most people is when you're applying to a lot of top universities they as if you would want to be taken into consideration for scholarships. Make a pitch, make a strong case for yourself and why you deserve it and hopefully it will work out for you.
5. Is it worth taking a loan to study abroad? How does one measure one’s ROI?
Taking a loan is honestly so dependent on everybody's individual situation. These questions are subjective - what is the degree of debt you're comfortable with your parents taking, what is the degree of debt they're comfortable with taking, what kind of job opportunities do you believe you'd be able to get after it to be able to carry that burden forward, do you want to start your career with a student loan on your back?
6. Why did you choose that particular course in this particular university/college for your studies abroad? What was the process you went through while choosing the university/college?
For me, the process of choosing the right university or the right college was a combination of things. It is not just the brand, you can go to a top university non-flagship course too. I believe in this context it is also important to factor these things depending on your stream - the faculty and the modules taught.
7. Any particular advice you would like to give for the application process from SOP Writing to Academic GPA to other things which you thought were important that helped you get into that course at that university?
A general recommendation for Statement of Purpose is to tell your best version of your own story. A cookie-cutter story is something they’ve read a million times and I presume it gets boring. I'm sure you’ve accomplished lots but what is the context in which you accomplished it, what were the challenges you faced, and what are the things you'd like to see done differently if you had made different decisions. There is a lot of storytelling required but remember that 50% has to be the story and 50% has to be the result of the story. You can't tell a story that goes nowhere and you can't share results without telling us how you got there.
8. Were you satisfied with your choice of university? What is your most and least favorite thing about the university experience?
I had a blast in both places. There is a particular joy in going to 2 of the top 3 universities in the UK. You're surrounded by some of the brightest minds in your generation in places like St Andrews and Oxford and Cambridge. It becomes a learning opportunity outside the classroom as well because people come from diverse nationalities, age groups, genders, sexualities, creeds, races and you get compound eyes to some extent and you look at the world through many different lenses than you did when you were in one city where you were for the first 18 or 21 years for example.
9. How was the Indian fraternity over there? How was the overall campus diversity?
College life itself is a blast. Very few people go to college and say I'm not going to have fun. You have to find your own tribe. Whether your tribe is an international group or whether you find comfort at home there is always a little bit of everything available. The one thing in my experience, I did realize is don’t set too many expectations, let the good things come. If you walk in thinking that you're going to be incredibly social, meet a lot of people know that everybody carries their own baggage, their own comfort, and let it happen organically. Follow this and I can almost guarantee that you're going to have a great time.
10. Tell us something about the faculty and resources which were there on campus.
In terms of the resources available when you can’t cope up, I think the best thing to do is to talk to your professors. You won’t be the first person from a particular background they have dealt with. Usually, the libraries in the top universities are very very well stocked and the professors can indicate what reading in what order makes sense and you can always go up to them for questions. The first step to solving that problem and bridging that gap and honestly admitting that there is a gap and seeking help. The only people who can help you out are your professors and you know, the literature because if you're trying to solve these problems by yourself sometimes you can meander around before you get to the right answer. So it's best not to do that.
11. Tell us about your journey from the first semester to the last both academically and non-academically? Any suggestions or recommendations for fresher’s starting out?
The quality of education for my subjects was extremely high. I could almost feel myself at a disadvantage during my early days in the first semester really because it ends up creating a situation where they expect you to know certain things. So, in the beginning, you're struggling to catch up but once you do, it is smooth sailing.
13. How is the quality of education compared to Indian institutes? What were the gaps in both systems? How did you manage to cope?
The difference mostly originates from the fact that a Masters is an advanced degree and an undergrad is almost designed to teach you the basics. The jump, the transition, varies on how solid your undergrad foundations were. Say if they weren't as solid as quote-unquote a global standard, then you can have that challenge and some of the universities, like I know the University of Cambridge facilitates for you do a 2-year diploma to ramp up for you to do the MPhil before you do your Masters. So, if you don’t feel confident about the undergrad skills you can look out for courses like that.
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