August, 2016

YIF Orientation 2016 : The Journey begins

The thirteenth of July, 2016, marked an important day not just for Ashoka University, with the commencement of the Young India Fellowship, in its sixth year, but also for the 215 Fellows who joined it with anxious, yet eager faces.

The weekend before the four day long ‘Orientation’ saw dozens of new Fellows pouring into the 25 acre campus, waiting to finally see others who they had been talking to, over various messaging and social media platforms. As a Fellow who graduated little over a month ago, it was fascinating to follow the induction frame-by-frame, and cover the same.

This year, out of the 215 Fellows attending the one-year residential programme, 56% have prior work experience of at least one year. In addition to this, 42% of the Fellows come from an  engineering background, while a close 32% come from the humanities field.  Out of the 215 attending Fellows, 66% are women, while 34% are men. This year, Fellows come from 20 different states in India, while four of the 215 come from international countries such as France.

Day 1

With the first day of Orientation, the agenda was simple- the Fellows would have a blanket introduction to the University where they will be spending the rest of the year, ebbing in and out.

As I made my way to the Auditorium, the Fellows had a break after their morning session with Vineet Gupta, Pro Vice Chancellor and then Jonathan Gil Harris, Dean, Academic Affairs. Listening to the programme team, and the chatter of voices around me was almost deja vu for an ex-fellow like me. During these sessions, Fellows were seen excitedly chattering about the “spirit” of the Fellowship, while a few raised questions on what the Fellowship has to offer to them.

“I loved the vision that Ashoka has, as a University. Where I studied, we couldn’t even move out of the hostel after a certain point, let alone sit at the library or question our professor’s words”, I heard an excited Fellow say to her friend, while standing in the queue. A few parents of Fellows were also seen making their way out of the auditorium, while discussing how and, ultimately, if, universities had visions like Ashoka, how the quality of education could have changed in their time.

“I just want my daughter to have the best opportunities”, said a sari-clad parent, and while trying to jostle through the crowd, the Fellows were called back into the auditorium to meet the various teams that make Ashoka the way it is, today. As the session was resumed, the Fellows met each team, right from the Office of Student Life (OSL), to the Transport and Medical team.YIF Orientation _1

As Rashmi Singh, Director, Office of Student Life explained the policies on various extra curricular activities and how festivals on campus are celebrated, the two ex-fellows sitting next to me, nodded their heads excitedly, surely reminiscing the last year. “It was definitely a revisit for me, to be there this year, in the front row, watching the Orientation. This time, last year, it felt like the first push on a rollercoaster. And while I was sitting in the auditorium this year, there was adefinite recognition of a lot of things we went through last year “, says Apratim De, a fellow from last year, currently working with Ashoka University, at the Office of Learning Support.

Day 2 and 3

Theatre artist and bollywood actor Asif Basra’s customary theater workshop session was the highlight of day two and three. Filled with drama and theatrics, the session aimed to pull one out of their conditioning and comfort zone, and work with each other despite any perspective differences.

“I thought he was extremely charming”,said one Fellow, to another, and the group nodded in unision. “I also think he’s very accomplished and confident ,” and again, there were vehement nods across the group.

The Concluding Day and the Welcome dinner

Founder Pramath Raj Sinha kick-started the final day of orientation and the alumni sessions quickly followed suit.

YIF Orientation_2

At the end of the final day, a look of relief could be seen on the faces of Fellows which I could easily recognise as an ex-Fellow. With the welcome-dinner doubling up as an Open-mic night where Fellows could express themselves through music, dance and comedy, excited voices could be heard.

Ashoka’s founders’ once said, about the Young India Fellowship, at the Orientation in July 2015:
“Be confidently confused, that is what the Fellowship is about”.

And the legacy seems to continue.

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