From Zimbabwe to India: A Full Scholarship to Ashoka University

July 12, 2021

Q&A with a current senior about his experience to Ashoka University in Sonipat, Haryana, India.

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Name: Fibion Mukwati

Hometown: Harare, Zimbabwe

High School: St Faith’s High School 

University: Ashoka University, India

Program: Biology

Year in School: 3rd year 

Graduation Date: May 2022

Top 3 Things You Love to Do: exercising, interacting with people in a face to face set up, and cooking different kinds of food 

If someone would like to contact you, how do you recommend that s/he reaches you?:

Through my personal email: fibionmukwati18@gmail.com

What was your high school like? Do many people study abroad? What sort of support did you receive when you wanted to apply to college? 
My high school was a mission institution of the Anglican Church so it was a Christian-based school and all boys. There were a lot of good teachers who were highly qualified and managed to produce students with good results both in 10th and 12th grade exams. Quite a number of people from my school make it abroad each year because of the seniors who link their juniors up.

I had the privilege to join a program under education matters called USAP (United Students Association Program). Through this program I was helped in my preparation for SAT exams which they paid for. After the SATs I had a camp where we went through the writing of personal statements and the application process as a whole. This was so helpful in understanding the liberal arts college way of choosing students and the holistic approach.

Why did you want to study abroad in the first place?
I wanted to escape the rotten system of education in my country and find a better education. In this mindset I started also seeing other benefits of going abroad which include the liberal arts way of learning. We do not have that in my country so I was keen to know what liberal arts had to offer, that is whether it would meet the expectations I had. 

How did you end up picking your college? Your major?
I picked the University of Edinburgh in Scotland as my early decision school. Unfortunately I could not make it past the last interview round. I picked biology because I love the subject and I am looking forward to knowing more since biology is such a huge field. I originally wanted to medicine so biology was a good fit, but now I am not so sure.
After I wasn’t accepted, I applied to Ashoka in the last minutes and it was their third/fourth round. Fortunately I was accepted and that’s how my journey to India began.

On a scale of 1-10 (easiest), how was the application process? Is there anything you wish you would have known?
The application to Edinburgh was a bit challenging (a 5 out of 10) because I had to write essays under the Mastercard Foundation to get funding. I had to write a really good personal statement and a few other essays. I also went through two interview rounds which were decent in my opinion.
The Ashoka application process was like 9/10. It was so easy and the process was smooth. For me, I wish I knew the kind of food I was going to be eating on a regular basis. I’m clearly not a person who goes well with spices, maybe this knowledge would have somehow made me apply somewhere.

What’s your advice to someone who was rejected?
Disappointments are an everyday thing in peoples lives. Rejection is not the end of the road but it’s another opportunity to prove your worth to someone else so do not be discouraged.

What do you think someone should know about financing their college education?
There are a lot of good sponsorships out there. Please ask people around for help and references and do not withhold applying for a good college that you like just because you cannot afford it. Good grades will definitely help because most scholarships are merit based.

What do you think stood out most in your application that led to your acceptance? (Feel free to list more than one).
I think my grades for 10th grade and other classes were good enough to be eye catching to the admissions team. I also had a really good reference letter from my teachers in high school. I was not only academically gifted but I also played sports: I was the handball vice-captain. I was involved in clubs having leadership roles like in Scripture Union, interact club, and drama club. Overall it was God’s grace for me.

How long did you prepare in your research, application, etc.?
Approximately 15 months (this includes the other time I was in high school preparing for my 12th board exams too). Their preparation for college had parts when it would be intense and then sometimes it was not as bad. 

What’s your advice to someone who is seeking a full scholarship for their university studies?
To do a good research on schools that offer full scholarship grants according to one’s country. One of the most useful things to do is speaking to college counsellors because they are well versed about scholarships and the requirements.

Tips when researching schools?
If you are a person who is from a non-native english speaking country/region i highly recommend that you take English proficiency tests (Duolingo, IELTS, etc) before even applying to any college. This will help to not limit the number of schools which you can look into. Look into the programs that they offer and their policies which might affect your stay after the duration of undergraduate studies. 

What expenses did you have in the process that you wish you had known beforehand?
I had none because USAP paid for most of my expenses and they also prepared me thoroughly.


What happened after you were accepted?
I started preparing to get my visa. The school’s international board of students arranged for a senior who was telling me more about Ashoka. She gave me advice, told me what to expect, and all other things I had to keep in mind.

What ways did your current school keep you engaged after you were accepted?
They made a social media group on a social app called Telegram. There we interacted as a batch and I managed to make a few friends before even meeting the people physically. The school provided a campus virtual tour link for us to view the look of the campus before we came.

Were there any surprises?
There were quite a number of surprises for me. I was greeted by a wave of unfamiliar heat. The weather was torturing my unprepared body. The food was not as good as I thought. The good surprises include the fact that seniors arrange for a thrift shopping experience for freshmen and also the culture of celebrating birthdays in large numbers was a bomb.

What has been the most challenging to adapt to in India? What has been the easiest?
Food has been my biggest challenge as well as the excruciatingly hot summers. The temperatures can reach as high as 40+ degrees celsius. The easiest thing was assimilating into the culture and making friends from different backgrounds. 

Is anything what you expected?
I expected the food to be spicy. I expected the weather to be quite bad and it didn’t disappoint.

How supported do you feel in your studies?
The support is really great here, the professors invest their time into each and every student. The colleagues I have are super supportive as well.

What do you love about your school and program? What could be improved?
I love the work that professors do. They are committed and will go as far as conducting night classes just to finish the syllabus. There is a lot of freedom at my school and I love that. My program has cool experiments which is what makes a Biology student curious and heavily invested. At the same time, they need to work on expanding the laboratories and buying more equipment as the number of practical majors students is now rising every academic year.

What do you miss the most about home?
I miss my siblings and the good food back home. I miss hanging out with my friends as well. My faith is strong because I know that every season will pass and this phase that I am in too will come to pass, it’s just a matter of time.

Does a full scholarship really mean a full scholarship, or have you had outside expenses?
It is a full scholarship. There is even a stipend that is meant to sustain us for a month. Sometimes it’s not enough for the expenses but it’s manageable.

Describe what it’s like to be an international student. 
It’s both hard and a privilege at times. The hard part is having to adapt to a lot of things like culture shock, food, weather, language, learning system and homesickness. The privileges are that you get to make lifelong links with other powerful people. The exposure opens one’s mind and makes you very diverse. You also get to market your culture and the good things about where you come from. 

Who do you think would be a great fit at Ashoka?
A person who is open minded and who enjoys joining clubs and societies. Ashoka has about 40 clubs and societies which help one to grow in every aspect of life. Ashoka has a lot of freedom so it also is important that whoever wants to be here has a huge sense of self discipline.

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Raised in the U.S, I'm a first-generation college graduate who has spent the past 15 years studying, volunteering, and working with students in Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Panama, and Italy—currently calling the island of Sicily my home.
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