Ayush Sharma, undergraduate at MIT, class of 2019! Sounds like nothing exceptional, right? Well what this does not reveal is the amazing story full of hardships that were overcome to turn wishes into reality. Read on to know more about the incredible mechanic’s boy who never gave up on his dreams.
All of us have dreams. Most of us work hard to pursue them. Some of us are fortunate enough to have the resources to fulfill them, while the rest have to give up due to lack of resources. But, a few work so hard that this constraint is just a shallow pit which can be easily overcome. One such example is Ayush Sharma of Kanpur.
A mechanic’s son, Ayush is one of three people from India who will be heading to the world famous MIT in September this year with a full scholarship! Surprised? Here’s how he made this possible.
Ayush’s father is a mechanic in UP Public Works Department and his mother retired as a constable from Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). Sitting in front of the computer on March 14, 2015, Ayush gave out a loud shriek which got his mother running into the room. It was then that Ayush broke the news to his parents, and the smiles have been stuck on the faces ever since.
His parents, who have themselves never been to a degree college, are beaming with pride for their son to be the first one in their family to go to a ‘proper college!’ “God has blessed us that our child will now study in a prestigious college,” says the proud mother, Manju Sharma.
Ayush had heard about MIT when he was in class seven. He says he would read about the research being carried out by the faculty and students of MIT but never thought he would be applying there as it seemed out of reach. Ayush was a student of Kendriya Vidyalaya.
In class 11, when most of his classmates were enrolling themselves in different coaching centers for preparation of engineering entrance exams, Ayush wasn’t too keen in doing that. The idea of learning equations by the rote method did not interest him. He had heard about Avanti, a social enterprise run by IIT alumni, which emphasizes on peer learning as the education technique and gives affordable coaching to students. Their idea appealed to him and he got himself enrolled in Avanti in 2013.
Ayush initially had no idea how applications to US schools worked. When the end of class 11 was nearing, Avanti’s foreign application’s program leader, Taylor Gregoire-Wright helped Ayush apply to Yale Global Scholar’s Program, a two-week summer course at Yale.
The first challenge came in at this stage. Ayush had poor communication skills in English and both he and Taylor were in doubt of his selection to the summer program. However, Ayush not only got selected to the program, but also got a full tuition waiver from the Ivy League school.
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But, he required travel funds for getting there and, through an amazing crowd-funding program, he was able to garnr $1500 (INR 90,000) in barely 6 hours! While his parents had always been very supportive, they had no idea about what their son was trying to do during his preparations for admission.
Photo: Huffpost India
“I was diverting time into something quite different from just IIT preparation,” he says. “They were unfamiliar with what I was doing and were apprehensive about the entire process.” However, it was his father who took Ayush to Lucknow to appear for TOEFL examination and then to Delhi for SAT.
“Ayush returned from Yale completely transformed. He was more articulate, had a broader world view and was convinced that he wanted to go to MIT or another top US university for his undergraduate studies,” says Varun Varma, a Michigan alumnus and sales head at Avanti, whom Ayush credits for getting the opportunity to study abroad.
Ayush feels that the changes in him will now always be there in his life. He feels he has become better at communicating with people and can express his ideas and explain concepts in a more impactful way. “I’ve also developed the ability to take on challenges and risks and now I can do something which is not entirely familiar to me,” he says confidently.
However, overcoming the obstacle of not knowing English was not easy for Ayush. He had never previously been exposed to an environment where most people spoke in English. Therefore, he says that he kept speaking to himself in the alien language and constantly persevered to improve.
Ayush has in fact also been selected at the Columbia University as a John Lay Scholar, but he is more keen in joining MIT.
“What’s incredible about Ayush is his determination to make things happen for himself. Despite having seemingly few resources available, he is always ingenious, optimistic and focused. He is incredibly well-spoken and intellectual despite his modest background and limited exposure,” says Kavita Mehta, co-founder of The Red Pen, a Mumbai-based admissions consulting company that helped Ayush with identifying colleges, writing essays and resume, and the like.
Ayush broadly plans to pursue Physics at MIT with no definite ideas in his mind yet and wants to explore the area as much as he can. He wants to work on the education system of developing countries. This is partly due to his own experience in India and the positive learning environment at Avanti.
“The level of science education in India is just not good enough. Many students don’t really get to appreciate what science means,” says the 17-year old smiling boy.