This is the first of the Essai Files- a series of interviews with past and current essai students.
Virat started coming to essai in the Summer of 2016. During his holidays from Marlborough School in the UK, he worked with the team first for his ACT preparation and then on his college applications. We arranged a cross-continental Skype date to find out more about his essai experience...
E: Thanks for agreeing to the interview Virat! Let’s start at the very beginning. Tell us how you first heard about essai.
V: Essai was recommended to me by someone, but I remember being reluctant to go in for a first meeting and my diagnostic. I thought I was a strong independent man who don’t need no help- especially not with ACT! But in the end my Mum dragged me in.
E: And what were your initial expectations?
V: I guess I had this picture in my mind of Nick and Farhad as these two smart young guys with tucked in checked shirts…... unfortunately these expectations were not matched!
E: Maybe we should buy some checked shirts as a staff uniform… Anyway- think back to your very first day at essai. What was it like?
V: I remember my diagnostic- I did really well and felt quite surprised. But Silvio intimidated me! He was rocking a beard, looking very wise and mature, with a certain enigmatic, foreign mystique.
E: Wow, Silvio will be inspired to re-grow that beard after reading this! Now that we are on the topic of counsellors, who would you say is your favourite counselor, and how would you describe him or her in five words?
V: You’re putting me on the spot here! I’m going to have to say Ganesh. Funny, friendly, nice french fries. That’s five words right? But being serious, Sonali 100%- she’s patient, easily distracted, fun, and she let me drink her water once.
E: Okay that was more than 5 words but we’ll let it slide. Let’s jump back to your experience with studying for the ACT. What did you find most challenging?
V: I found the ACT really frustrating - the content wasn’t the biggest problem for me, but it was hard not being able to come into the office for regular classes when I was back at school in the UK. It was great when I was in Delhi though- I’d come for extra classes all the time, and the fact that essai is a fun team of people (and the other students are also good fun) meant that I found the environment relaxed but also focused.
E: We’re all about the fun and the focus here, it’s true. So overall, what did you end up taking from the whole process of essay writing and college applications?
V: Working on my essays at essai was the first time I had had the freedom to write outside of the classroom, and it actually made me realise that it was something that I enjoyed and wanted to do more of in the future. I was surprised at how much fun the process actually was- it was a good opportunity to reflect on the various experiences I’ve had in my life so far, and I think that as I found a narrative to weave them all together I was able to develop a certain degree of self-understanding. I also realised that although I had been reluctant to do the internships, when I looked back on the experience it was clear how invaluable they’d been, and how much I’d learnt. In the end, the editing process was the only painful part of the essay writing!
E: I bet some of our current students are wishing that they had this much love for essays!
Can you think of the single most important thing that essai taught you?
V: Essai taught me that I should believe in myself, and value my talents and traits. I learnt not to think that self-confidence and ambition is bad, or the same as arrogance, and I developed the self-confidence to go after what I wanted.
E: Yes! Every student needs this attitude.
Most memorable moment at essai?
V: There are too many to choose from! Probably getting Sonali coffee. Or maybe Nick and Sonali’s arguments over my essay. Having a cake with candles in the office on my birthday was also a really great memory.
E: That cake was so good… Okay just a few more questions now. Pick one person from essai. Give him/her a colour. Why?
V: I’m picking Farhad- can I give him a coloured item of clothing rather than a colour? It’s got to be the plain, single coloured T-shirt. I just always picture him wearing one. He needs some graphic tees in his repertoire!
E: Okay we’ll allow that one. Tell us something we don’t know about you.
V: I have a really great fashion sense. Maybe Farhad could take some tips from my wardrobe? (see above).
E: We’ll suggest that to him. He’ll be thrilled.
Where do you see yourself in ten years time?
V: Hopefully I’ll be travelling the world- trekking through the Grand Canyon or something.
E:Who or what inspires you?
V: Hard question! So many ‘inspirational’ people turn out to be racists or sexual deviants or whatever. I’ll go with Peter Singer. Or Slavoj Zizek.
E: You’ve spent a lot of time in the office over the past few years. Do you have a favourite part?
V: The nook of course! It’s very homely- I love how it was once open and then became its own space.
E: It’s been great chatting to you Virat. Let’s end on this- what are you most excited about for the coming year?
V: USA! USA!
Look out for the next interview in the series...coming soon!