By challenging myself to engage with diverse perspectives and backgrounds, I broadened my horizons and developed as a person. It is essential to give oneself the opportunity to learn from the richness of diversity.
Can you tell us about your initial reaction when you found out that you had been awarded the Eiffel Scholarship? How did it feel to be recognised for your academic excellence and chosen among applicants from all over the world?
I found out that I received the scholarship during my visa application. The kind gentleman who was conducting the interview with me, when I mentioned that I was being considered for a scholarship, he asked if I had already received it. He seemed surprised and said, 'Wait, the Eiffel scholarship?' He asked me to wait for just five minutes and disappeared. Five minutes later, he came back and said, 'Hey, you received the scholarship!' It was quite a funny incident.
Initially, it felt overwhelming, and I couldn't fully process it. My brain was trying to comprehend the magnitude of what had just happened, being recognised and receiving such an opportunity. It also brought a sense of responsibility to represent my country on the world stage and to embody the values that I hold dear. I wanted to showcase all the aspects that make me who I am, the things I respect about myself, and bring them to the global platform.
Being the only one from Bangladesh, I felt the weight of that representation. I also had moments of self-doubt, wondering if I truly deserved this honour. However, there was no time for debates or self-questioning. I knew I had to give my best and demonstrate what I was capable of. It was a beautiful moment that I tried to channel constructively, using it as motivation to push myself to do more and strive for excellence.
The scholarship provides financial support, including a monthly stipend, health insurance, a round-trip international ticket, and cultural activities. How did these benefits impact your experience as an international student? Did they alleviate any financial burdens and allow you to fully focus on your studies and personal development?
Yes, and that's a great question. It's actually one of the defining aspects, in retrospect, of the scholarship for me.
When it first comes to mind, you think about the academic and achievement aspects. However, practically speaking, the way it played out over the past year has been an incredible boost, allowing me to allocate my time to the right things.
You see, I come from a fairly humble family background, and affording to live abroad was almost impossible. It was hard to even dream of it.
In order to pay my INSEAD tuition, my family sold our small car. We also borrowed money from friends, and we still don't have a car, which is a bit inconvenient. Hopefully, I'll be able to fix that.
Anyway, what I'm trying to express is that getting here was a long shot, and I was worried that even after I did get here, I would be burdened by financial responsibilities, both for myself and helping out back home. Fortunately, I didn't have to face that.
I can point to specific factors that made it possible. I had the opportunity to have many interesting conversations with faculty during times when I might have otherwise needed to do tutoring or part-time work. I did engage in some of that because I still need to help my family to some extent. However, I had an abundance of time to explore my interests here. I conducted research and achieved decent grades. Thankfully, I even made it to the Dean's list for a period of time.
Moreover, I got to know the people here, and that's the best part. I got to cook for them, eat their cooking, and learn from the incredible diversity of culinary abilities and talent. That, in my opinion, is the true highlight enabled by the scholarship.
As a recipient of the Eiffel Scholarship, what advice would you give to future students who are interested in the scholarship and pursuing their studies at INSEAD? Are there any specific strategies or tips you would recommend to maximise the opportunities and benefits provided by the scholarship?
The advice available for these types of applications is often limited and lacks standardisation. It's a relatively free-flowing process, which makes it challenging to find comprehensive guidance.
Typically, the advice revolves around highlighting achievements and being yourself, which is a standard package. However, this advice isn't particularly helpful because most applicants for the Eiffel scholarship already possess those qualities and abilities. It can make you feel restricted to what you've already accomplished and who you already are.
What helped me was envisioning the person I aspire to become and the impact I want to make.
I focused on bridging the present with my ideal future through education and the scholarship. This strategy allowed me to remain authentic.
There were instances where I wrote things that I didn't believe or edited my statements extensively. When pursuing a scholarship with a substantial amount of money and various possibilities at stake, it's natural to be tempted to exaggerate. However, I made a commitment to stay true to myself.
Initially, it can be challenging, and you may worry that being honest and not embellishing your achievements will put you at a disadvantage. However,
if you stay dedicated to authenticity, you'll find yourself writing compelling and intriguing narratives.
We often underestimate the inherent interest in our own stories. Being authentic meant asking myself what I could do and exploring the possibilities for the future within the framework of an INSEAD education. I expressed these aspirations in my application.
By adopting this approach, you're not confined to what you already know about yourself or your past experiences, although those should still be incorporated.
The scholarship evaluators already acknowledge your academic success and achievements. What they want to see is your vision and your ability to contribute to the conversation, both within France and upon returning to your home country. They seek someone who can act as a bridge and micro-ambassador, bringing fresh perspectives to France and taking back valuable insights to your home country.
When you genuinely demonstrate these qualities, your chances of success are significantly enhanced.
Looking back at your time at INSEAD, how do you think the Eiffel Scholarship has impacted your personal and professional growth? What are the key takeaways or lessons learned that you believe will shape your future endeavours?
In terms of personal impact, the scholarship has helped me tap into and reinforce a commitment I was already developing around the time I was working on the application. It pushed me to dedicate myself to becoming a mentor and teacher, not only in the formal sense of giving classes but as a guide to anyone who may benefit from my skills, experiences, or even my effort.
The Eiffel scholarship, in essence, opens up opportunities, but even to be nominated for such a scholarship requires a fair amount of luck and support from others.
Personally, I felt the absence of mentors throughout my upbringing. I lacked the right individuals to inform me about opportunities, to help me recognise my capabilities, or to bring out the best in me. While not everyone may feel the same need for mentors, as a sensitive child, I could have greatly benefited from having someone in that role.
The Eiffel scholarship represents a significant step toward a future with increased access and possibilities. Those who receive the scholarship, in my opinion, have a responsibility to contribute to the earlier stages of the process—ensuring that more talented individuals have access to this scholarship.
During my time at INSEAD, I have focused on being of service to the people and initiatives that I believe in. The scholarship has not only freed up my time but also instilled within me a sense of gratitude and a mission to give back.
I want to make sure that the scholarship committee has an even larger pool of applicants to choose from, and ultimately, more recipients to award. Personally, this mission to become a better teacher and a more supportive individual has been greatly inspired by the scholarship and its impact on my life.
Lastly, is there anything else you would like to share about your experience with the Eiffel Scholarship or your journey as an international student at INSEAD? Any memorable moments or highlights that you would like to mention?
There are three important aspects that I would like to share, which I am grateful for during my experience with the scholarship. These points have been instrumental in shaping my journey and growth.
I learned the significance of embracing diversity and stepping out of my comfort zone. It is easy to stick to familiar circles and people we feel comfortable with, but I realised the value of connecting with individuals who are different from me.
By challenging myself to engage with diverse perspectives and backgrounds, I broadened my horizons and developed as a person. It may be intimidating at first, especially for introverts like myself, but it is essential to give oneself the opportunity to learn from the richness of diversity.
Secondly, I discovered the immense value of making use of the professors and resources available. Many students tend to underutilise the expertise and guidance professors offer. However, I found that professors are not just a source of knowledge but also have a genuine interest in their students' development and success.
To make the most of this opportunity, I recommend engaging with professors beyond the classroom. Take the time to research their work, initiate meaningful conversations, and connect their expertise with your own motivations and future plans. These interactions can be incredibly enriching and provide a unique learning experience.
Lastly, I realised the importance of active participation in class discussions.
As an international student, your voice and perspective are valuable contributions to the academic discourse.
It is natural to feel hesitant or worry about saying something foolish, but rest assured that every contribution is appreciated. Asking thought-provoking questions, sharing personal experiences, and providing unique insights adds depth and diversity to the classroom environment.
Trust your teachers to guide the conversation and incorporate your input. Remember, being an active participant in class discussions not only benefits your learning but also enables you to become an effective critic and agent of change. It cultivates good citizenship and allows you to make a lasting impact within the programme and among your peers.
In conclusion, by embracing diversity, engaging with professors, and actively participating in class discussions, I have found these three aspects to be pivotal in my journey. They have contributed to my personal growth, expanded my understanding, and allowed me to make meaningful contributions.
I encourage future scholarship recipients to consider these insights as they embark on their own transformative experiences.