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Battling all odds, girl from tribal Rajasthan journeys to Minnesota

Launched in 2010-11 by the Ashok Gehlot government, the scheme sponsors foreign education of three girl toppers of Class 10 from government school every year with the annual cap of ₹10 lakh (now ₹25 lakh). Only two girls have availed the scheme in the past six years, an official of the government’s Balika Shiksha Foundation said.

jaipur Updated: Sep 11, 2017 21:11 IST
Salik Ahmad
Salik Ahmad
Hindustan Times
Jaipur,Sujita Shah,Minnesota
Sujita Shah.(HT PHOTO)

Six years ago, Sujita Shah, a cashier’s daughter who had studied in a Hindi-medium school in Rajasthan’s Banswara, did not have any inkling that the coming years would take her to Minnesota in the US and later, land her an opportunity to work at Thomson Reuters, one of the largest news organisations in the world.

It was a usual day for Sujita in mid 2011 and she had just returned from her coaching classes for IIT-JEE when she received a letter from the government. The letter informed her that she had been selected under the state government’s Videshi Adhyan Yojana.

Launched in 2010-11 by the Ashok Gehlot government, the scheme sponsors foreign education of three girl toppers of Class 10 from government school every year with the annual cap of ₹10 lakh (now ₹25 lakh). Only two girls have availed the scheme in the past six years, an official of the government’s Balika Shiksha Foundation said.

Sujita was the first beneficiary of the scheme, while Aafreen Chhipa from Bhilwara, who went to California State University, Fresno this year, was the second. The official said that most parents are reluctant to send their girls abroad.

But for Sujita, parents’ consent was not the issue. She had other concerns. The first was language, she had studied in a Hindi-medium school and the second was clearing SAT – the exam on the basis of which most US colleges admit students.

“I had no clue about how to prepare for SAT and there was no coaching in the city either for the exam. My English vocabulary was poor by SAT standards. I was already caught between school and coaching classes,” Sujita told HT over the phone. She stayed in Jaipur during the two-month summer break in 2012 and attended SAT coaching.

Sujita’s grandfather, the central pillar for her ambitions, made rounds of government offices for months to get Sujita’s documents cleared, and later getting the government yearly expenditure cap for the student upped from ₹10 lakh to ₹15 lakh.

Her grandfather passed away a month ago. “His dream of visiting Sujita in US remained unfulfilled. But seeing Sujita scale heights, his joy knew no bounds,” said Sangita Shah, Sujita’s mother. The first stipend that Sujita later earned while working as a research assistant, she sent it to her grandfather.

In summer of 2013, Sujita started studying computer science at South East Missouri State University in Missouri. “The culture was so different there, and the people reserved. I didn’t like the food. I am a vegetarian, so I cooked mostly,” said Sujita.

“The first time my pressure cooker gave out a whistle my Chinese roommate panicked. Students from neighbouring rooms came running in. It took me some time to quell their fears,” she added. “Impressed with how quickly food could be cooked in a pressure cooker, my roommate too got one later.”

Soon Sujita started realizing the limited opportunities at the university. “I felt I should migrate to a better university and applied to the University of Minnesota. Considering my performance in Missouri, they selected me,” Sujita said.

But education at Minnesota was costlier. Her father’s income and the income from the stationery shop her mother ran were not enough to support her education for the next two years. Banks refused to give loans. Her grandfather toiled again and aided by a reference letter from the university in Missouri, the expenditure cap was raised from ₹15 lakh to ₹25 lakh.

After two years at the university in Missouri, Suijta moved to Minnesota where she completed her bachelor’s degree.

This June, Sujita started working with Thomson Reuters in Minnesota as a big data analyst. She is on a six-month training period, she said and will be absorbed after the completion of the training period. She wishes to study further in the US and dreams of a job at the Indian Space Research Organisation.

Sujita’s parents, her brother and her sister have their passports ready and are waiting for the US visa to arrive so they can visit the girl soon.

First Published: Sep 11, 2017 21:10 IST