This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Nikhil Dalal. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Let’s Go To Paris! My Journey From Engineering School To The EU And Beyond!

Editor's note:This post is a part of #GetEUReady, a campaign by the International Labour Organisation and Youth Ki Awaaz to help students aspiring to study in the EU prepare for their higher education. If you're planning to apply or have applied to a university in the EU, share your story here!

You move to a new country, where you don’t know anyone, you don’t speak the language, you can’t even read the road signs, or order a coffee. A lot can go right. A lot can go wrong. Are you going to be able to keep up?

Those thoughts filled my mind when I moved to Paris in 2013 to pursue my Master’s in Management at ESCP Business School. At the time, I had just completed my Bachelor in Technology from Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak, and was still deciding what was next for me.

Despite it being the popular choice, I was not particularly keen on working in software development per se, as the field was not aligned to my interests. But I was keen on continuing in the technology sector. A lateral shift from the purely technical aspects of my education to the more business-oriented disciplines was a logical next step for me.

While researching my options, I learnt of a different qualification – a Master’s in Management. Image provided by the author.

The best option for something like that would be an education in business management. For most people, this means doing an MBA, which is a great educational qualification to pursue. But an MBA program is most beneficial for people who have some work experience, and want to make a jump to a mid-level management job in their respective industry, or move into consulting.

This was not the right option for me.

Finding The Right Fit

While researching my options, I learnt of a different qualification – a Master’s in Management. This program is ideal for people looking for an entry into management, finance, or consulting careers, and was offered almost exclusively in the EU at the time.

The curriculum at ESCP covered all the topics that you might expect from a management course: Economics, Marketing, Introduction to Business Law, Introduction to Finance, Operations Management, Human Resource Management, and other such topics.

I got the chance to work with people from all over the EU, who came from different cultures, with different ways of working, and different outlooks on life. Image provided by the author.

More importantly, its key appeal for me lay in the fact that it was a ‘purely taught’ program, with very little emphasis on experiential learning, which would not have worked for me, given my lack of experience in the job market.

The curriculum too would lay the foundations of knowledge in all disciplines that would set me up for my future career.

As a plus, the program was taught in English, which was helpful as I didn’t understand French at all at the time. To help with integration in France, the school also provided French classes, and also sessions to learn through conversation with people!

Finally, the program offered students the option of taking a gap year to gain some work experience, which gave me the opportunity to relocate to Geneva for a year. Ultimately, this translated into my current job as an IT Product Manager with the same organisation.

Careers In The EU: Spoilt For Choice

In the three years that I was enrolled at ESCP (including the gap year), I lived in France and Switzerland, and travelled to three other countries in the EU. I got the chance to work with people from all over the EU, who came from different cultures, with different ways of working, and different outlooks on life. The sheer amount of diversity I was exposed to helped me develop my own thinking in unprecedented ways, and challenged me to grow as a person.

A great aspect of studying in the EU is the breadth of opportunities available. Image provided by the author.

A great aspect of studying in the EU is the breadth of opportunities available. The EU includes 27 different countries, which all have their own unique markets, full of their own unique opportunities. From oil and gas in the Nordic region, to finance in Germany and France, to the beer industry in different parts of the EU, you have so many different avenues to choose from.

The start at ESCP led me on a diverse, and unique journey that now brings me to this destination, allowing me to bring something a bit different to the table. And it paid off. I am now set to pursue my MBA in a world-renowned university, starting in September 2020.

Looking Ahead

It’s almost a cliché in the management sector that you perform to the best of your ability when diverse experiences and people shape your journey. Having lived through my experiences in life, I can only agree that the cliché rings true.

I chose France originally because I would be in a situation that was completely unfamiliar to me, and I would be exposed to so many different thoughts and ideas that the only option available to me was to evolve. Every bit of this came true. I did evolve.

If you’re now at the point in life where you’re considering your own options, I would highly recommend considering this one. There’s nothing like coming out of a 3-year-long journey with all the skills you need to make it in the world.

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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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