True to its motto of providing a “Home Away From Home” for Indian students, the Indian National Students Association UK (INSA UK), in collaboration with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) UK, conducted its annual flagship event namely INSA Forum Day earlier this month.
It was a day-long virtual multi-disciplinary event where Indian students from various levels and disciplines of study across major universities in the UK were provided with the opportunity to connect and network with major companies in the UK, career and immigration experts, and government officials – all on one platform on June 4.
INSA Forum Day 2021 had a formidable schedule of events: the much-anticipated interview of renowned Indian cricketer Gautam Gambhir; student leaders’ interaction with the High Commission of India; a round table panel on “UK-India Partnership in Education”, led by highly qualified professors and domain experts; interactive sessions with leading employers, including Barclays and AWS; a panel discussion on Post-Study Work Visa; an industry session on innovation and entrepreneurship; and a CV writing workshop.
INSA Forum Day had a momentous start with the much-awaited address of our chief guest of honour – cricketer-politician Shri Gautam Gambhir, who was interviewed by the current secretary of the INSA committee of Imperial College London. From reminiscing about his early days and the ups and downs of his cricketing career, to sharing his perspective on the lessons learnt from dealing with difficulties in life and uncertain situations, there was a lot of valuable advice for our students to assimilate into their practical lives. Moreover, his candid and straightforward responses to questions related to political career and social service (especially his perspective on nationalism) were also well-received by the audience.
One of the defining aspects of INSA events has been the active participation of the High Commission of India, and the Forum Day was no exception. Our INSA student leaders had the opportunity to interact with two esteemed guests of honour Shri Amish Tripathi (acclaimed author and Director of The Nehru Centre in London) and Shri Manmeet Singh Narang (Minister for Coordination at High Commission of India London), who addressed a range of questions covering various aspects and concerns of the Indian diaspora: Brexit implications for Indian students, recognition of Indian vaccinations, promoting Indian culture, and even contentious issues such as anti-India narratives in the foreign media and the biased interference in Indian internal affairs such as the farmers protest.
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Following the High Commission session, there was a round table panel hosted by Dr Jagannadha Tamvada from the University of Southampton, who interacted with various domain experts including Professor Rao from IIT Delhi, Dr Varshney from the Government of India’s Ministry of Science and Technology, and a representative from QS World Rankings. The primary points of discussion were the strengthening of the UK-India partnership at all levels of higher education ranging from undergraduate to post-doctoral studies to ensure further consistency in designing curriculum. An interesting point raised was also the dire need to explore and study the scientific knowledge in our indigenous Sanskrit scriptures from the Vedic age which has vast potential.
Parallelly, a series of career-based sessions were conducted in different breakout rooms. INSA has always believed in assisting the students excel professionally which is why the INSA’s corporate liaison team invited several of world-class employers such as Barclays, KPMG, Amazon, Cognizant, Wipro, NHS, Astra Zeneca and many more to meet its student members. The employers provided information regarding their companies and opportunities they can offer. Given the importance of jobs in a Covid-hit job market, students attended different session with high hopes & enthusiasm. All the employers were extremely happy with the opportunity INSA provided in connecting them with hundreds of talented Indian students.
The interactive session on the Post-Study Work (PSW) visa, or the Graduate Route, options for Indian students. This was particularly sought after because of the profile of the speakers: Ms Mukta Varsani (a senior solicitor specialising in immigrate law) and Mr Parin Shah (Founder and CEO at Back2Study, an expert in students’ admissions and placements). Whilst the first half of the session was focused on a presentation on all the various visa routes and a brief summary on major employers for Indian students, the second half of the session focused on answering several questions from our study body – ranging from the newly launched Graduate Worker Route visa to visa options for self-employment and start-ups.
To further add momentum to the already power packed day, the industry session on innovation and entrepreneurship was led by Ms Lakshmi Kaul (UK Head of Confederation of Indian Industry) along with Mr Sachin Nandha (Non-Executive Director and an expert in Private Equity), who talked through the various opportunities for Indian students in UK industries, in particular the importance of reaching out to like-minded co-founders to enhance collective skill set.
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Furthermore, the CV workshop led by Mr Sirish Kaundiya Nagilla (Performance Coach and Competency Development Trainer), extensively covered all aspects of CV development, right from the fundamentals to detailed tips on structure, flow, format and language. A unique point mentioned was the significance of evoking a specific emotion (balance between overselling and underselling) to the CV instead of a purely factual approach, and viewing a covering letter as a ‘trailer’ and the CV as the ‘movie’!
By the end of this intensive day, it was remarkable to reflect on how smoothly and efficiently all our dedicated chief guests, coordinators, volunteers, and participants ensured the grand success of INSA Forum Day 2021. From our front-end hosts to our back-end techies, to all our guests and esteemed speakers – we send our utmost appreciation and gratitude from team INSA, and we promise to continue providing a holistic platform for our vibrant student community to flourish.
by Ritvik Shyam
Ritvik Shyam, Imperial College London, is the Outgoing Treasurer and Incoming Secretary for the Indian National Students’ Association UK (INSA UK).
*This column is part of a regular iGlobal Campus Roundup series.