What motivated you to join Minerva University?
Even before Minerva, I had been looking at various other liberal arts colleges across the United States. The idea of smaller class sizes, proximity and deep connections with professors, a more tight-knit community, and the ability to take a variety of courses from all departments appealed to me! I knew I was never the right fit for a huge, prestigious college, because I didn’t want to sit in a lecture hall with hundreds of other students while taking my classes. After hearing about Minerva through multiple conversations with other TKS students, it was love at first sight! The global rotation model, the innovative curriculum, the diversity of the student body, and the focus on teaching according to the science of learning research resonated with me. I believe college is the time to explore and get out of your comfort zone. Since travel had always been super close to my heart, I relished the opportunity of not only visiting but living in major cities across the globe, 5 of which I had never visited before!
Diversity is a hallmark of Minerva's student body. How has your experience at TKS, which encourages students from various backgrounds to collaborate, influenced your perspective on diversity and its role in a global education?
At Minerva, students come from over 100 countries across the globe! Cross-cultural interactions truly help you become a global citizen by broadening your perspective and worldview. Your friends from starkly different cultures will challenge so many of your beliefs and values, which you had previously taken for granted because citizens of your country followed these values and beliefs without doubting them! Minerva was the first time I had a chance to interact with Pakistani students of my age, and it was mind-blowing to see how similar our countries really are in terms of culture, language, festivals, clothing, and traditions because our media always portrays ‘them’ in a dark light. Tiny ‘sweet nothing’ moments of cultural exchange happen all the time at Minerva, from trying to learn basic words in each other’s languages to sharing food from back home with my foreign classmates who inquire about the ingredients and whether it will be too spicy for them to handle, to seeing everybody dress up in their traditional attire from time to time, and of course, proudly celebrating independence days nearly every week with songs and dance!
What does the Minerva community mean to you?
The Minerva community is a close-knit bunch of driven, intellectually curious, loving, and passionate students from all over the world who decided to take a leap out of their comfort zone and attend this 10-year-old university which takes 15 minutes to explain each time you are thrown the question ‘So where do you go to school?’. Classmates from all walks of life with accomplishments as diverse as our names, ranging from summiting mountains to speaking at international conferences to starting companies and acing music exams. The beauty of having only a couple hundred students in a class, compared to 2000 in most US universities, is that even after these first few months, I have interacted with most of my classmates and know a little something about each of their hopes, goals, dreams, fears, joys, sorrows, and passions. Fast forward 4 years, and I have no doubt, that we will know more about each other than even our parents because we have lived through this roller coaster of a ride that is Minerva!
In what ways do you think your time at TKS prepared you for your academic journey at Minerva? Are there specific skills or mindsets that you found to be particularly valuable in both environments?
Being in San Francisco means three words: technology, networking, and conferences. Coming into TKS with a very tiny STEM background, the program quickly exposed me to a snapshot of the entire emerging tech industry, which is all I need to be able to somewhat understand all the amazing things people in San Francisco are building and working on and to ask meaningful questions about people’s work, which is the easiest way to open the door to new opportunities. The communication skills I built up in TKS through brain-dates, pitching Challenges to executives, or cold outreach to experts have served me well at Minerva.
TKS mindsets are very similar to Minerva’s Habits of Mind and Foundational Concepts (HCs). These mindsets are dynamic, broadly framed, and highly relatable to ensure that they can be thought of from multiple angles and applied to different subject fields in one's life and work. TKS helps both with understanding the theory behind a mindset (e.g., the purpose of 'Stoicism', the science behind '10x thinking') and the projects we work on during the year (e.g., challenges, hackathons). The mindset of ‘Everyone has a story’ has really served me well here at Minerva, as I engage deeper in one-on-one conversations with my classmates, professors, and staff. It’s also not difficult to see how mindsets like ‘Figure it out’, ‘10x thinking’, and ‘Stoicism’ transfer not only to Minerva but any university experience in the world.
How has your journey through TKS and later Minerva influenced your perspective on the world and your career aspirations?
In terms of career aspirations, I am more confused yet open-minded than ever, because both TKS and Minerva have taught me the power of exploring new fields and re-exploring those I had given up on. I’m still figuring out where my interests lie, and hopefully, through new experiences of this first year, I’ll come out with greater clarity and direction.
My perspective on the world has broadened, because personally, until TKS and Minerva, I was in the same tiny bubble as many of us, with school, homework, extracurriculars, and sports taking up most of my time. Both TKS and Minerva opened me up to a world of possibilities and the power of meeting people whose life experiences are so different than your own that it’s shocking! Coming from an upper-middle-class family, coming to Minerva taught me the value of money, which I used to take very much for granted. But constraints make you resourceful. Minervans are the most resourceful people I have met – being able to survive in San Francisco on a limited budget is no small task! My friends are able to explore the city, eat delicious food, travel during the breaks and find time for academics, thanks to their resourcefulness and their ability to always find a work-around to expensive experiences and events, which I believe is a great skill to possess!
What advice would you give to a TKS alum thinking about applying to Minerva?
Apply to Minerva. There is no application cost (truly commendable) and, speaking from first-hand experience, the application is more fun and less intense than any other US university.
Reach out to upperclassmen and alumni on LinkedIn and social media – you’ve been trained well to do this! Again, speaking from experience, there is no better help than running your application through a current student or alumni for the final fine-tuning.
Be clear about your priorities for a university experience. Minerva is not for everybody. Students who care about the prestige of the institution, want to focus on research all through their undergrad, and who find it difficult to move frequently and be thrown into new environments, may want to spend more time talking to Minerva students and staff to gain better clarity on which choice is right for them. On the other hand, students looking to take a risk and get out of their comfort zone, students whose views on experiential education align with Minerva’s, and students who see the value of a global education, should definitely give the Minerva application a shot!
If you happen to live near to one of the rotation cities, see if you can visit for a day and interact with the students! Visiting my seniors in Hyderabad during the spring cemented my decision to enroll at Minerva!
If you were inspired by Arya's story and are seeking a college experience that will teach you valuable pragmatic skills that will enable you to change the world, start your Minerva application today.