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7 Reasons Why Going To Ashoka University Was The Best Decision Of My Life

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Three years ago, when I took admission in Ashoka University, I had no expectations from it. Being a new university that promised to offer a liberal arts education, a course most people hadn’t even heard of at that time, I was unsure whether it would be worth it or not. However, since I hadn’t applied anywhere else other than Delhi University, where I couldn’t get the course I wanted to pursue, I wasn’t left with much choice. So, I reluctantly took admission in Ashoka, without any excitement that one has when they join college.

The dejection I felt because of not getting into DU slowly wore off as I began to enjoy my academics, made amazing friends and started settling into the hostel. From meeting people from diverse backgrounds to studying subjects that I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to study anywhere else, this place has given me everything that one can want from an ideal college life.

If I were to do it all over again and had a choice between Ashoka and DU, I would choose the former any day. I’d also encourage others to make the same choice because of the following reasons that make Ashoka as amazing as it is:

1. Your Life, Your Choice

You need not worry about judgmental stares and comments if you attend classes at Ashoka in your night dresses and half-sleepy eyes. Keeping in sync with the idea of liberal arts education, Ashoka treats students the way they should be, as adults. You’ll find regulations that are commonplace in most Indian universities, not found at Ashoka. Students from the opposite sex are allowed to visit each others’ dorms; there are no dress codes and no curfews.

2. Flexibility

Most universities have a rigid attendance policy, say a minimum requirement of attending at least 75% classes, or else a student may be barred from appearing for exams. At Ashoka, while foundation courses allow four free absences in a semester, almost no other course has any attendance requirement. Also, not all courses have final examinations – some may just require you to write a paper, or your evaluation may be based on attendance and class participation.

3. No One Dictates What You Should Study At Ashoka

You can go in for conventional major courses, such as economics or history, or pursue an interdisciplinary major, like economics and finance, history and international relations, or do a minor course alongside your major.

If you aren’t satisfied with your major, you also have the provision to make a switch. The best part of it all is no one judges you for following your heart. One of my friends, who initially intended to major in economics, switched to sociology after studying courses like Social and Political Formations and reading great books because she was fascinated by these courses.

4. Financial Aid

Given that Ashoka’s undergraduate programme’s fees is seven lakh per annum and it has a ‘fancy’ campus, most people assume that our university is full of elitists and snobs. However, this isn’t true. Many students here are on financial aid of some kind, and some students even get full scholarships. Ashoka tries to be as inclusive as possible in every sphere, which is why the authorities try their best to make sure that meritorious students don’t lose out on the opportunity to study at the institute because of financial problems.

5. Critical Thinking Approach

While all of us know that two plus two equals four, at Ashoka, you would be asked why and how you arrived at this conclusion. All students have to take an introductory course in critical thinking in the first semester, where they read and learn to analyse texts and give their views. Critical thinking is an important aspect of the liberal arts curriculum at Ashoka, where students are encouraged to question everything around them, rather than unthinkingly accept things the way they are.

6. Tie-Ups With Renowned Universities

Ashoka has partnered with several well-known universities from across the world, such as King’s College, University of California, Berkeley, Carleton College, Sciences Po, Trinity College, Yale University and the University of Michigan. Visiting faculty from these universities come to teach at Ashoka for one to two semesters.

The tie-up also gives students at Ashoka the opportunity of spending a summer or a semester abroad at these institutions. Students mostly have to look after funding on their own for going to these institutes for a semester. However, partial fee waivers are granted to those in need, if they wish to attend classes at these institutes for a summer.

7. Centres For Holistic Development

Ashoka has various centres which ensure holistic development and concentrate on non-academic areas. For instance, the Centre For Well-Being aims to ensure the mental wellness of students by conducting workshops about mental health and also offers counselling. The Centre for Sexuality and Gender Studies organises regular events about gender and sexuality.

Ashoka University has a Centre for Entrepreneurship which hosts programs like Entrepreneurs in Residence and has given birth to many successful startups on campus. Also, entrepreneurship is offered as a course at Ashoka, which can either be pursued as a minor or with an interdisciplinary major in computer science.

I have now realised that the kind of college I was aiming for initially, could never have given me the exposure that Ashoka did. Rather than solely aiming for academic excellence, it focuses on instilling values in you which would help you succeed in whatever field you’d want to succeed in. Ashoka University somehow moulds you into an independent, free-thinking individual, without trying to control you in any way. Since the university itself doesn’t conform to conventional standards, it encourages you to tread on an unconventional path if you wish to, fearlessly. As I am preparing to graduate in a few weeks, I can confidently say that coming to Ashoka has been the best decision of my life.
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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