Propped by Rajasthan government scheme, Bhilwara girl gets into US varsity, eyes civil services
Aafreen’s US dreams took wings in April 2016 when she got a letter informing her about the chief minister’s sponsorship scheme for three girl toppers from the state wishing to go abroad for higher studies, with a scholarship of Rs 25 lakh a year.
Aafreen Chhipa from Rajasthan’s Bhilwara had not travelled outside the state when she received her admission letter from the California State University, Fresno, in March this year.
The 16-year-old, who has not boarded a flight before, will fly to the US on Sunday. Her mother is a schoolteacher and father owns a cloth shop in Bhilwara.
Aafreen’s US dreams took wings in April 2016 when she got a letter informing her about the chief minister’s sponsorship scheme for three girl toppers from the state wishing to go abroad for higher studies, with a scholarship of Rs 25 lakh a year. In 2015, Aafreen had topped Class 10 exams in the state among girls in the government school category.
Her family met the district education officer to confirm the scheme. Doubts gone, apprehensions cropped up. “My mother was worried, how would I go and manage alone, that too in a place so far,” said Aafreen.
Her mother spoke to two other girl toppers and knew that one of them was interested like Aafreen. The family decided that Aafreen would stay in Jaipur and prepare for admissions to US universities, but the final decision was reserved.
Aafreen stayed in Jaipur for a year in a girls’ hostel and shared the room with the second state topper from Sikar. The third topper wants to become a doctor, so she did not try for a US university as medicine is taught there at the postgraduate level.
She wrote SAT, a test for undergraduate admissions in the US, and TOEFL, an English competency test. She scored 1150 out of 1600 in SAT and 72 out of 120 in TOEFL, Aafreen said.
The second topper could not make it to a US university and will try again this year.
After she got selected for California university, President Donald Trump’s comments against Muslims and reports of violence in the US put her parents in confusion.
“Aafreen is the first person in the extended family to go abroad for studies,” said her mother Aabey Kausar. “The only other time anybody has gone abroad from family is for Haj,” said the mother.
Aafreen’s teachers have been suggesting her to do a BA and a BEd to become a schoolteacher. But she wanted to be an IAS officer. “Teachers told me that a lot of people manage to crack the Prelims and Mains of the IAS exam but fail in the interview,” she said.
One of the reasons why she chose to study in a US university is to develop her personality, so that she will do well in the IAS interview. “Others are saying that I won’t come back from the US. But mark my words, I’ll come back to my country and become an IAS officer,” said Aafreen, a fan of former president APJ Abdul Kalam.
Kalam’s biography is her bible. Her grandfather, a retired school headmaster, is another inspiration.
“When I entered Class 9, my nana told me, ‘Beta, pass sabhi ho jate hain, second bhi bohot se log aate hain, lekin taaliyaan sirf first ke liye bajti hain’ (A lot of people pass the exam, a lot many secure the second spot too, but it’s only the first ranker who gets the applause),” said Aafreen.
Asked about fears of being away from family, she said she has already lived alone in Jaipur for a year. “The day my parents left me in Jaipur, I cried a little. But minutes later I was fixing my targets.”
The girl’s next targets are to engage in activities in California, and understand the academic system in the US to know why its universities are the best in the world.