Last year Sumit was living with his family of four in a one-room shanty in the Tigri slum community of south Delhi. Today he is studying a Master of Public Policy at the University of Sydney, living at St Paul's College, making friends from all over the world and, for the first time, learning to swim.
Sumit, 21, won the 2022 Sydney Scholars India Equity Scholarship, worth up to $60,000 and arrived in Sydney in February 2023 to begin his postgraduate studies. The scholarship was created for exceptional students residing in the slum communities of Delhi, in collaboration with Indian charity, the Asha Community Health and Development Society (Asha).
My goal is to return to India and ‘pay it forward’ by contributing to the development and improvement of my community.
Sumit described the challenges of growing up in a slum environment. “Every night I would use a small battery-operated light to study after the other members of my family went to sleep. I would wake up in the mornings to stand in a long line to fill water from the common street tap. There were also problems like petty crime, violence and drinking.”
After achieving a mark of 95 percent in his senior secondary school exams, the team at Asha spotted Sumit’s potential and provided financial assistance for him to complete his Bachelor of Arts (Economics and Political Science) at the University of Delhi. The first in his family to go to university, Sumit was motivated to continue his education by Asha founder and director, Dr Kiran Martin, who became his mentor; and his father, a tailor for the neighbourhood.
“My father was a very good student at school but couldn’t continue his studies because of his financial circumstances – he had to work after my grandfather died quite early. His dream for me is to stand on my own feet and be successful in life,” said Sumit.
In a year where we are celebrating the centenary of welcoming the first international student to our campus, we are delighted to welcome Sumit to our University community and look forward to seeing him realise his full potential.
Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Mark Scott AO, said the scholarship reflected the importance of Australia’s educational ties with India and the University’s commitment to supporting social equity and building a diverse and inclusive student community.
“We deeply value our relationship with India and recognise the vital importance of strengthening educational links between our two nations, helping to develop talented graduates who will address the world’s most complex challenges,” said Professor Scott.
“In a year where we are celebrating the centenary of welcoming the first international student to our campus, we are delighted to welcome Sumit to our University community and look forward to seeing him realise his full potential.
“We’re proud so many of our students have life-changing experiences while studying with us. A key pillar of our 2032 strategy is creating more pathways to ensure a greater diversity of students succeed at Sydney, and our partnership with Asha is an important part of this work.”
After arriving in Sydney, one of the first things Sumit did was sign up for swimming classes at the Sydney Uni Sports & Aquatic Centre.
“If you are in Australia, you should know swimming! I went to Manly beach but couldn’t go in the water because I didn’t know how to swim. So now I’m doing water safety classes and planning to go back.”
Following his studies Sumit hopes to develop his career as a policy analyst in the corporate sector and use his skills to support his local community back home.
“My goal is to return to India and ‘pay it forward’ by contributing to the development and improvement of my community. I would also like to become a role model for younger students and inspire them to dream big.”
As Sumit begins his degree, Tushar Joshi, winner of the 2021 Sydney Scholars India Equity Scholarship, is completing his final semester of a Master of International Relations. After initially studying remotely due to the pandemic, Tushar was able to come to Australia and enjoy campus and Sydney life.
“Visiting exotic beaches, watching my first live cricket match of the Ashes series at the SCG, interacting with students from all around the world at the University and representing the University at various conferences are some of the most enjoyable moments of my time in Sydney,” said Tushar.