Current student Tushar Joshi carries with him a strong value set. “Always remember to pay it forward,” is the advice he would give to future scholarship recipients. Joshi’s journey to Australia started in the Mayapuri slum, a community of around 10,000 people, when he was about to start Year 10.
“I was playing gili-danda (a traditional Indian game that requires two sticks and excellent hand-eye coordination) with my friends, when senior ambassadors from Asha approached to chat about their higher education program.”
The University of Sydney collaborates with Indian charity Asha Community Health and Development Society to deliver the Sydney Scholars India Equity Scholarship, which supports students from slum communities to undertake postgraduate coursework.
Up until this point, Joshi had assumed he would be a labourer like his father. With an average high school completion rate of around just 43 percent across India – even lower in Delhi’s slums – the challenges in pursuing an education are immense.
“We live next to one of Delhi’s biggest open drains, and my home is constantly full of flies and mosquitoes,” Joshi says. “There is also a train line with lots of people, and the noise is deafening. You cannot concentrate in a place like that.
"When I found there was a centre where I could get peace and quiet, and support with books and coaching through Asha, what else did I need!”
Mentored by Asha’s founder and director, Dr Kiran Martin, Joshi went on to complete a history degree at the University of Delhi. Then, with Dr Martin’s encouragement, he applied for the India Equity Scholarship at the University of Sydney, worth up to $60,000 a year.
Stay true to your passions, and always remember the ways that people have helped you. This is the value I cherish, whether I’m in Delhi or Sydney – there are so many other people who need help.
“I was over the moon when I received the offer letter to study in Australia. No one from my family or village has ever studied this much – and at an international level,” Joshi says. “This was life changing.”
Due to the pandemic, Joshi spent his first semester studying remotely from his family’s one-room house. At night he would study in the corner by lamplight, to avoid disturbing their sleep. The University also supported him with essentials for remote study, including a laptop and high-speed internet.
“My parents were very proud and excited to see their child studying at such a university as Sydney – this gave them hope that we will come out of the slum community.”
Joshi arrived in Sydney in December 2021 and moved into St Paul's College. “I received such a warm welcome from the University,” he says. “I was taken to the Sydney Cricket Ground by someone named Shane.” Joshi raises his eyebrows at the coincidental significance of that name in the cricket world. “And the very first time I got to see a live cricket match, it was the Ashes Series!”
Settling into life in Sydney was not without its challenges. “What I like about living in Delhi is that everyone lives together. There is this concept of collectivism. If you have a problem, even at midnight, you call your neighbour, and they will be ready for you. This aspect of life was very noticeable and every night, when I sleep, I still dream of Delhi.”
During his master’s degree, Joshi says he gained access to a wide variety of viewpoints. “Studying international relations at the University of Sydney, you’re in a class with students from all around the world. And when you discuss some of the most pressing challenges the world is facing, and try to look at these issues from different perspectives, the people in the room bring a fresh perspective from their own country. This helps us develop critical thinking skills – I not only study international relations, I get a chance to practise international relations.”
I want to do something to provide future benefit for other students, to try and make a positive difference in students’ lives.
Joshi has also sought out industry experience, with a six-week internship at the Australia–India Institute in Melbourne. “My long-cherished dream of working in the public and foreign policy domain was fulfilled!” he says.
He is also taking on leadership roles and contributing to the University community outside of class, and has been elected as student representative on the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences subcommittee.
“I chose to do this because of my experience as a scholarship student, knowing how valuable support is for students. I want to do something to provide future benefit for other students, to try and make a positive difference in students’ lives.”
Joshi says the benefit of these learning opportunities extends beyond his individual academic and professional development. “It is about all the people in my Delhi community," he says.
“I have one sibling, my sister. It’s a harsh reality but if I hadn’t come this far, if I hadn’t shown this to my parents, then what happens generally in my community is that girls get married at a very young age. Now, because of their experience with me, my parents’ opinion has changed. And now my sister is studying an undergraduate degree at Delhi University. Other families and friends see this too. That’s the importance of these kinds of scholarships.”
As the second recipient of the India Equity scholarship, Joshi was able to exchange ideas with and draw on the experience of the first recipient, Abhishek Handa, who completed his Master of Management in 2021. Now an associate project manager for a software company in India, Handa says the experience opened doors for him.
“My degree and work exposure in Australia gave me a sharper edge – without this, it would have taken me years to reach where I am today,” Handa says. “My family and I have now moved out of the slum community and rent a very nice apartment nearby. My parents are very happy that they no longer have to face challenges with water, electricity, noise and heat. I’m looking forward to giving them a good life, and would also like to help other students in their growth and development.”
Joshi says the scholarship creates other enduring outcomes. He points out that while democracies such as Australia and India interact in high-level political and strategic areas such as trade and security, it’s the people-to-people connections that Joshi has been able to forge during his time in Sydney and will take with him into his future.
By specialising in political economy, Joshi wants to make a difference in the lives of people, particularly children from low socioeconomic backgrounds. To achieve this, he would like to continue his studies to PhD level, and then pursue the practical application of international relations by working at the United Nations. “I believe this is where my dream to assist others can be fulfilled in an extended way.”
Joshi’s final piece of advice for future recipients of the Sydney Scholars India Equity Scholarship: “Stay true to your passions, and always remember the ways that people have helped you. This is the value I cherish, whether I’m in Delhi or Sydney – there are so many other people who need help.”
Written by Eleanor Whitworth for Sydney Alumni Magazine. Photography by Stefanie Zingsheim and Bali Abhishek
By supporting education for all, you can help students from disadvantaged backgrounds to access university through life-changing scholarships, ensure they feel supported throughout their studies and enable them to achieve their full potential.