Before even landing in the United States for college I was giddy with excitement over one big thing: the Desi Dance Network. The Desi Dance Network co-hosts and sponsors various national events ranging from dance competitions to conventions and forums. But most importantly the Desi Dance Network represents a community. In fact, it was built on the principle of re-empowering South Asians by reconnecting multigenerational South Asian dancers to their roots. Having danced nearly my whole life - this was big.
Now picture this. Fingers flying across the keyboard, frantically attempting to finish a coding assignment before its due. A figured clothed in the newest team-embellished sweatshirt, running across campus to grab a bite before practice starts. Sweat stained bodies stamping and gliding across basketball courts, dance studios and what-have-yous from 6 to 12 PM on Sundays and 10-12 PM on Mondays and Wednesdays. This is what the Desi Dance Network looked like on my campus. It was hectic and beautiful.
Amidst all of this chaos stood a few prominent figures - the captains of these teams and coincidentally some of my best friends on campus. Not only do these girls win on stage, but in life - having maintained relationships, friendships, research positions, internships, GPAs and their sanity. Hence the question arises - how do they do it all?
Meet Suhani Jain - captain of Georgia Tech Ramblin’ Raas (a co-ed Garba-Raas team), Computer Engineering student and big LUSH enthusiast.
An average week for Jain looks like 10 hours a week with GT Ramblin Raas commitments, 5 to 10 hours a week spent working for a leadership board and 10-14 hours a week doing labs for a Malware reverse engineering class (not to mention attending lectures, cooking, laundry and sleep).
Jain began conducting materials science focused research in high school and particularly thrived at her science fairs. This then gave her a good grasp of the flow of work for conducting research in college. Jain most recently worked on researching, developing and testing LIDAR systems and will be headed to the Ford Motor Company this summer as a Product Development intern. Eventually, her goals are to work somewhere where her work is innovative and will have an impact. TLDR: start early; think big.
Meet Anamica Menon - captain of ATL Tanishq (an all-girls bollywood-fusion dance team), Industrial Engineering student, and most recently a Delta Airline intern.
“Since studying abroad, and working at Delta, I realized that there is so much of the world to explore and so much you could never expect to learn staying in one country your whole life. I enjoy being uncomfortable. I enjoy having my limits tested. So as of now, I want to use my degree to work in the airline industry.”
Menon hopes to start her own business at some point in the future, or create and patent a product, and hopes her work experiences and travel foster inspiration for this. Menon’s favorite quote through the highs and lows thus far has been “Everyone sees what you appear to be, few know who you really are” –Niccolo Machiavelli
Meet Aditi Kumar - captain of Georgia Tech Bhangra (a co-ed Bhangra team), Biomedical Engineering student and future doctor.
Starting from eighth grade, Kumar volunteered in the Kaiser Hospital as a receptionist at the front desk as well as the surgery recovery room (PACU).
“After I came into high school, I was allowed more opportunities of hands-on experience (well as much as a non-MD can get). I volunteered with surgeons and physicians of different specialties. I did residency rounds of experiencing different specialties to see if one particular one stood out to me. I would get excited to check in these patients and take their vitals. In college, I was trusted with more responsibilities in these private practices. I could act as a nurse except I could still not inject a patient. I could also continue acting as a scribe for doctors, so they could focus on the patient. Now I can really see myself being a successful doctor who works in hospitals for a while and then runs her own practice.”
Talking to these girls made me wonder - how did the hours even add up? How did they make time for school, work, research, relationships, dance and personal growth. Here are some of their best insights:
I use wyzant or I look on Craiglist. I then email them and schedule my first tutoring appointment to try it out. I finalize a tutor after meeting with a few of them. There is an online whiteboard that we both can write on, so that makes it a lot easier. Every tutor is different. It ranges from 30-50 dollars per hour. - Kumar
Go to Office Hours
Office hours are your friend. Not just for exams but to stay caught up on the material too. - Menon
Look at the homework alone first before you work in groups - Menon
Not All At Once
I give myself the full week to do it and spend a few hours each day - Jain
Don’t Memorize Problems
I was under the false impression of good study habits before. I hadn’t realized it but I used to memorize problems instead of truly understanding the material - Menon
Pay Attention in Class, Like Actually
Try to solve the problem or think of the next step as your teacher goes through the problems and be hyperaware of what is stumping you. This saves so much personal time - Menon
Divide and Conquer
I have a pretty notebook for proper, clean notes and a spiral notebook for messy problem-solving where I work out concepts and understand them myself before transferring it over. - Menon
Fill in the Gaps
School is first, and then fill in the gaps in your schedule - Jain
I set time for studying labeled ‘STUDY’ and precisely an hour or so for job applications. Randomly deciding to apply to jobs and studying can be stressful especially when you know you have an assignment coming up or exam. - Menon
Proximity in living location helps - Jain
Reach out to people individually. Set aside time in your calendar to build one-on-one relationships. - Menon
Study in the same spaces - Jain
It is not difficult to make time for everyone. It just involves a little effort on both sides to just reach out and check in. - Kumar
On Dance and Leadership
If two of us disagree there is a third person to bring up a compromise - Jain
Delegate - Menon
For Great Mental Health
The impact on your mental health is better for sure - you are guaranteed to have someone support you and comfort you when life or school gets difficult. - Jain
There will always be the usual anxieties of uncertainty and opening up to someone new. - Menon
It is easier to work through problems and be upfront about issues that may be bothering me. I don’t have to sugarcoat anything, I can say how I feel and work through it - Jain
Love is Friendship
It is like any friendship. It can be good and bad on different days. Personally, I do not take anything to heart, so overall, it is good for my mental health. If it isn’t, then boy bye - Kumar
Get Swept in the Honeymoon Phase
Get swept up in the honeymoon phase. Hell, get lost in it for a little bit. But make sure you resurface to reality again and reestablish that balance with your S.O. now in your life. - Menon
Compromise and realize that you have to think of the other person not just yourself - Jain
Make sure that you are the same amount of compromising in the organization as you are with the relationship. - Jain
Georgia Tech is special to me for a plethora of reasons but none quite like the sense of community it has fostered amongst the South Asians - particularly amongst teams that bring home trophies. Nothing fosters camaraderie faster than winning a big gleaming piece of plastic half your size. In fact, just last week Georgia Tech swept the placings of three different competitions in three different categories - classical, garba-raas and bollywood fusion. And while these girls can't quite teach you how to win like they do on stage, perhaps these tips can help you make small wins in life.