A Conversation with Minerva Student Arvvin

Meet Arvvin, a student in the Class of 2019 | Feb, 5, 2018

Quick Facts

Arvvin Maniam

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Majors & Concentrations
Business: Strategic Finance
Social Sciences: Politics, Government, and Society



Why did you choose to attend Minerva?
I knew a lot about Minerva before I started my application for the Founding Class. I learned about the students who had already been accepted and I saw that they were all very accomplished; some of them had patents for their inventions and others were running their own businesses. After learning about Minerva’s model and my potential classmates, I was up for the challenge of seeing whether I could actually get admitted.

Within a few hours of getting accepted, I submitted my security deposit; I had already made up my mind. Minerva stands out not just in terms of its curriculum but also its travel component and student-centered experience. These differences are what made the program unique and, in my view, an altogether superior experience compared to the other colleges I was researching.

How did your family and friends react when you told them you wanted to attend Minerva?
My parents are very supportive of my decision to attend Minerva. The day my friend told me about it, I took my computer to my father’s room and watched a video featuring [Founder] Ben Nelson and [Founding Dean] Stephen Kosslyn. We watched it about five or six times and realized that the experiences I could have at Minerva were ones that would not be possible at a traditional American university! On the other hand, some of my relatives weren’t as sure about Minerva. A lot of people didn’t think it was that special, at least at that time, and felt I could go somewhere better. But in my view, that was absolutely not the case. So while some were understandably concerned, my parents were completely supportive of me. If you truly understand Minerva, I think that the fear of trying something new goes away. Of course, it still takes a bit of a leap of faith.

Why did you decide not to attend a school with a traditional campus environment?
In my opinion, I think that the concept of Minerva suits me better. One thing I tell people is, Minerva is not for everyone. If they would prefer to have four walls around them and remain in the same country over the next four years, then Minerva may not be right for them. But if they’re open to being challenged by different environments, then it may be. For me, it was important to gain more exposure to the world and to learn from those experiences. Living in seven countries exposes you to cultures in a way no other institution can.

What do you enjoy most about being a part of the Minerva community?
The student community is diverse. There is no single type of person. Everyone is different. At the same time, we are somehow able to connect very easily. Everyone at Minerva clicks with one another. But when you speak about the Minerva community, it’s also worth mentioning the people we meet in each of the cities. For example, when we were studying in Berlin, I met locals who eventually became my friends. The same is true for when we studied in Buenos Aires and Seoul — and it will probably be the case for Hyderabad, too.

Tell us how you have engaged with a city you have lived in while at Minerva.
We learn a lot on the computer, doing assignments, preparing and taking class, and so on; but our education expands beyond online classes. With location based assignments (LBAs), we actually go out in the cities and explore. For example, for my class “Designing Constitutions,” I had to find a constitutional lawyer, interview them, and learn about constitutional law in Seoul from their perspective. LBAs and civic projects — which are collaborations between students and Minerva’s Civic Partners — push us to learn about different challenges in each of the cities we experience.

How did you hear about the opportunity with PwC?
I sought out an opportunity at PwC because it is one of four large, international accounting firms, and the Kuala Lumpur branch is a large division of the company. I wanted to experience working at a firm of that scale and learn how and why it became so successful. I also hoped to learn how an enormous firm was able to remain efficient and relevant for its clients so that, after I graduate from Minerva, I could apply this knowledge to my own pursuits. I reached out to Minerva’s Professional Development Agency and said, “I want to work in consulting at PwC. How can you help me?” Through a Minerva staff member in the region, I was given a door to PwC and they helped me open it. I’ve always had a keen interest in finance consulting and because it was in Kuala Lumpur, where I could be with my family, it really worked out for me.

What were your main responsibilities there?
I worked hard to stand out and eventually had the opportunity to work with the director of the financial consulting department. I focused on researching and brainstorming, and I was responsible for multiple proposals. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to work at a client’s office, because we didn’t have any ongoing projects at the time. What I did learn was the fundamentals of acquiring a project. For example, when a client sends out a request for proposal, it means they have a problem and want to know what solutions PwC might have. My team’s job was to brainstorm ways we could help the client by asking ourselves: how might we add value and offer solutions that are better than those being offered by other consulting firms? It was through this process that I really learned about financial consulting. From the thought process to the technical and commercial proposals, I was able to explore different fields and come up with multiple solutions.

Tell us about your experience interacting with your colleagues and fellow interns.
What surprised me was that a lot of people knew of Minerva, especially the other interns. People would respond with, “You’re from Minerva? Wow!” instead of, “Oh, what’s Minerva?” PwC is a very friendly company that values their interns; they didn’t simply give us busy work or have us make coffee, which is common in Malaysian internships. Instead, we did real work, and I was able to interact freely with everyone. There was no special treatment; we were all equal.

What prepared you for your internship?
I prepared for brainstorming meetings in the same way that I prepare for class: by thinking through a lot of the potential solutions to different challenges. Just like class, I needed to understand what my colleagues would be talking about and thought about how to meaningfully contribute to conversations before they took place. Though I did a lot of work beforehand, I also brought a lot of the fundamentals I learned during my second year at Minerva. For example, when drafting a proposal for a client, I used #levelsofanalysis, #emergentproperties, and other HCs from Multimodal Communications. We had to be able to create tangible value for our clients, and applying those principles allowed me to consider all perspectives in order to design the best solutions.

What are you most proud of regarding this experience?
I think the best part of my PwC experience was when we finished a proposal and actually printed it out. The whole proposal process takes days and requires rereading, editing, and refining the same document over and over again. When we were finally done with one it felt really good. No, it wasn’t fine art or anything like that, but it felt as though it was.

How have you changed since your first year at Minerva?
I was always very confident. In Malaysia, I was very successful at debating and won a lot of competitions. But back then, I was just able to talk. Now, after several years at Minerva, the things I say are filled with meaningful and intentional content. I feel a lot more complete now, and my conversations are more sophisticated. Minerva has made me much more conscious about how much I know and where I stand on particular issues. That’s what Minerva does; it gives you the chance to improve yourself.

If you were inspired by Arvvin’s story and are seeking a college experience that will teach you valuable pragmatic skills that will enable you to change the world, apply to join Minerva today.