Episode Notes | Transcript | AskTheGuest

Episode Notes

Episode Title: College & Beyond: Hartejas Sekhon 12th Grade, India.

Episode summary introduction: In this Podcast, Hartejas Sekhon talks about a wide range of topics, the Saathi NGO, her interest in Software Engineering, her views on the future, career, and how she is navigating the college process.

In particular, we discuss the following with her:

  • Who is Hartejas Sekhon?
  • High School Interests
  • The Future, Priorities & Readiness
  • College Plans Abroad
  • Parents’ & Peers’ Support

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • Introducing Hartejas Sekhon, Grade 12, India [0:38]
  • Who is Hartejas Sekhon? [3:09]
  • High School Interests [4:53]
  • Future [9:18]
  • Priorities & Readiness [12:38]
  • What does College look like [15:20]
  • Studying in the US or Australia [17:02]
  • Counseling Resources [18:12]
  • Peers & Parents Influence & Support [20:38]
  • Pandemic Impact [24:05]
  • Saathi NGO [25:49]

Our Guest: Hartejas Sekhon is a 12th Grade student in Chandigarh, Punjab India.

Memorable Quote: “And I am somebody... who can get swayed by good, good points. If somebody has some good concrete points to tell me in favor of something or against something, then I will likely hear them out, and my decision will change accordingly.” Hartejas.

Episode Transcript: Please visit Episode’s Transcript.


Episode Transcript

Transcript of the episode’s audio.

<Start Snippet> Hartejas  0:14  

I'm not very good at memorizing, but I will randomly have I will have the most random facts or does anybody I know. So if there is a conversation that we're having, chances are I will just have some facts to do with some of your parts of that conversation.

Venkat  0:38  [Introducing Hartejas Sekhon, 12 Grader India]

That is Hartejas Sekhon, a 12th Grader from India.

I am your host, Venkat Raman.

Today, with this Episode, we are concluding this select set of conversations with 12th Graders, all girls, & their parents, from India and Indonesia, about how they see their future and their college plans.

I want to start by thanking Jorge Calderon, Asst Director of Int’l Admissions at Iowa State University for suggesting this podcast idea.

Today’s episode is with Hartejas Kaur Sekhon, 12th Grader from Punjab, India.

She loves Math, singing, debate, basketball, Pop Media, watching YouTube...

Biology not so much.

She is also very passionate & vocal about social & cultural issues including feminism & LGBTQ.

In this Podcast, Hartejas talks about a wide range of topics, the Saathi NGO, her interest in Software Engineering, her views on the future, career, and how she is navigating the college process.

She is full of energy, quick witted and always ready with an opinion.

So, without further delay, here’s Hartejas Sekhon!

Venkat Raman  2:13  

Well, let me start by welcoming you to our podcast, College Matters.Alma Matters. Thank you so much for taking the time, so late in the day.

Hartejas  2:22  

Thank you so much for having me the late part, there's absolutely no problem. I usually am up at this thing.

Venkat Raman  2:29  

Well, good. You do sound choppy. So that's good. Very well. So as we talked about, wanting to spend some time talking to you about yourself, about what you're looking forward to, what your hopes and aspirations and dreams are and how you're sort of preparing for it. So if you're ready, we can jump right into it.

Hartejas  2:58  

Yes, definitely. Let's.

Venkat Raman  3:01  

Okay,cool. So maybe the best place to start is tell me who you are a little bit about yourself.

Hartejas  3:09  [Who is Hartejas Sekhon?]

So I am Hartejas Kaur Sekhon. I am 17 years old, going on 18 next year in 12th standard. And I am somebody who enjoys pop culture and somebody who is very invested into media and fiction and all that sort of stuff. I watch a lot of movies, I watch a lot of TV shows. I watch, I listen to a lot of a lot of music. And I watch a lot of YouTube that takes up a significant chunk of my day.

And I am also somebody who's very passionate about certain topics, especially you know, things like feminism and stuff. I am very, I'm a very vocal person. I'm very loud about that stuff, too. I'm also very interested in talking to people, if you haven't noticed, I talk a lot.

And I do tend to go out of my way to try and make new friends and learn about people's experiences. And I'm very, very excited to see where life takes me as excited as I am nervous, I guess. But yeah, I'll be going to college next year. So don't know what that's about. But, let's see.

Venkat Raman  4:25  

No fabulous fabulous. Sounds like, sounds like somebody you know, who would light up a room and keep it entertained. so fabulous. so

Hartejas  4:37  

Mostly just loud, but I'll take the compliment.

Venkat Raman  4:44  

So what are you like at school? What kind of things do you do in school? What are your interests? What kind of courses and topics interest you?

Hartejas  4:53  [High School Interests]

I do basically anything at school, I mean, you can ask me to do something and if it's not related to academics I'll probably end up doing it. I'm not very inclined towards studying I do enjoy math and I enjoy computer science those are two of my favorite subjects mostly because I don't have to memorize anything in them. So I think those that's why I really gravitate towards those subjects because it's all logic and I can let go without preparation because this creates a tension in class I'm bound to get some marks.

So I think that's sort of the driving force. I have taken non medical. I am pursuing software engineering hopefully in the future that's something I look forward to doing solely because I do love computer design. Not a fan of chemistry and physics but there's something that I've too get behind. There's not really an option here.

So in school I also played a fair amount of sports growing up although 2020 has been kind of a struggle with that you know, I gained at least about 15 pounds or 15 kgs in quarantine actually. But you know, yeah, I used to be a lot of basketball I was the team captain for two years we won consistently and had a lot of fun. I can play any game if you ask me to. I don't like running though. I cannot run I would say in the context of a sport I will not run even if my life depends on it. And I also take part in a lot of competitions. I like to see not particularly good at it I mean I'm not bad. But I also take part in debates and elocution, and things like that.

I will, I am the person who is the unwilling teachers’ pet. I like to think of myself as that because I will never approach a teacher but it's just the thing that teachers will give me those of like last monitor or you know class eat and stuff like that. And that's something that I've just gotten used to at this point. Like there's been times where there is no class monitor ability to just walk into the room and ask for the class monitor and all my classmates will point at me. So that's always fun because then I have to carry bundles of books up and down the stairs, which no thank you. yeah, that's me in school.

Venkat Raman  7:23  

Out of all these things, deep inside you, do you think you have a special talent or skill or something you feel you're really good at, a God given gift, thing of significance, something of that kind?

Hartejas  7:36  

I wouldn't say I'm very good at something but there's a lot of things that I can basically get by on anything. I mean I can I will not be the best at anything I won't tell you that I'm the best at something but if there is something new then chances are I won't be bad at it like I know how to play the guitar I've been learning to play I learned to started playing when I was eight years old. Even less than anything I was reporting standards so it's been about nine years since I've been playing it I started doing when the guitar was bigger than I was so that's something that I've done a lot I also like I said I see I see a lot of songs I listen to all sorts of things I pray for like I said I talk a lot I'm not very good at memorizing but I will randomly have I will have the most random facts or does anybody I know so if there is a conversation that we're having chances are I will just have some facts to do with some of your parts of that conversation. So yeah

Venkat Raman  8:44  

Okay. It sounds, the word that comes to mind is versatile and I think I think you...

Hartejas  8:51  

That's one way to put it!

Venkat Raman  8:57  

Here you are, you kind of, I think understand yourself quite well, so how how are you looking at the future? I mean what what is it and I don't mean in terms of college and just alone one of those things but those are all means, but how do you think, how do you think the years ahead look like to you?

Hartejas  9:18  [Future]

They look very uncertain. I have no idea where my life is going at the moment I don't even think I have a concrete end goal I just found that I will be pursuing source engineering I don't know from there. I don't know how I mean I do plan on going abroad but on the other hand, I also plan to give you j so that's funny because I have both my with my feet in different words, and its usefulness and then them SAT coming up this month and yeah, in future I think I sort of want to live a luxurious life.

I know it's materialistic and everything. Writing, it's sort of important to acknowledge that sometimes maybe it's selfish, but I, personally am somebody who likes to have a lot of different experiences. I like to try new things. I like to, you know, dip my feet into everything. And I love to travel, although I haven't traveled a lot, admittedly. But I would love to do stuff like that I would love to meet all sorts of people.

So I think that's something that I would like to do in the future. I am not sure how it's going to go at the moment. But yeah, I am very keen on knowing I'm pretty excited to I'm not, I wouldn't say excited, but I think I just want to know how everything will pan out.

Venkat Raman  10:47  

Yeah, we all do!

Venkat Raman  10:52  

But deep inside, you feel positive? I know. You said you felt uncertain. But you know, do. Yes, there are a lot of uncertainty. But do you feel confident that you can find a way?

Hartejas  11:04  

Yeah, I'm actually fairly certain that I managed to do something, maybe it's not what I want to do right now. But I think that I am a very independent person. I am very good. I think I'm quick witted I can I can come up with I'm sort of like, I'm good in crisises, then I'm good in a crisis. And you know, if there's something that I need to come up with, at the last minute, I think I'm pretty good at stuff like that. And, you know, I don't require a lot of preparation. I am never somebody, I've never been somebody who's good at preparation. I, that is sort of a reason because I'm not very prepared for the future as such, as we say, quote, unquote, but I think that I will be managed to do something. I don't know if it's gonna be software engineering. I mean, I don't know if it's going to be something related to engineering. But I think I will figure something out. And I think that we'll have fun doing it.

Venkat Raman  12:03  

So you know, I asked you earlier, if you had a special skill or talent, I feel like maybe, maybe that's it. That you given, Given a situation, you can find your way out. And I think that's, that's probably life's greatest skill. So

Hartejas  12:21  

I'm the main guy couldn't movies, then?

Venkat Raman  12:29  

Very well. So let's, let's talk about priorities. I mean, what's, what's important to you?

Hartejas  12:38  [Priorities & Readiness]

I think right now, just not to disappoint my parents and myself. Because at the end of the day, I do think I'm capable of a fairly decent amount of stuff. I don't think that I'm incapable. And I also think that that is something I have been pretty set on software engineering since since I was in maybe first or second standard. It's very weird. But you know, people are usually uncertain at that younger time.

And then you know, in I can tell you standard before to start realizing what they want to do, either had an opposite thing, I was already certain that I had to do software engineering, I wonder to software engineering, and then in ninth and 10th standard, it kind of started to dwindle a bit because I was enrolled in a coaching center along with my school, and over there, everybody's studying so hard. Everybody's coming. It was good.

There are people competing for like first five rounds, because they've all gotten full scores, and it's just about one or two marks. And there I was in like the 30th rank, this is the people above me. And so I think that is something that I think is a priority of mine is to not disappoint. And I also don't want to sort of I don't want to burden my parents, essentially. So I think I think that is my biggest priority right now is to sort of come to one or the expectations that I have set for myself and that others have.

Venkat Raman  14:19  

Do you feel prepared, you feel ready for the next step and beyond?

Hartejas  14:27  

I am more than ready and I'm super excited. I think that's the biggest thing. I want to keep the major process we just go to college or I don't want to do this anymore. Just put me there and I'll handle it.

Venkat Raman  14:44  

You just want to fast forward.

Hartejas  14:46  

I want to I want to skip through it. It's not even fast forward.

Venkat Raman  14:53  

Jump, jump ahead.

Venkat Raman  14:54  

Yeah. Let's talk some thing more concrete. So, obviously our next step is college you mentioned briefly about looking abroad as well as in India. What, what do you have as a picture in your mind about a college, I mean, what what, what is college look like to you,

Hartejas  15:20  [What does College look like]

I, I really don't have a picture, I have been looking into colleges for a while now I have a counselor and everything. But I really don't have a concrete image in my head. As towards my future college, like I have, I really don't know, I think I'm open to anything. To be honest, I just know that I sort of want to experience the, you know, college life. I said, I want to experience you know, living in my own room with a roommate, and you know, stuff like that. And I think that is something that I'm very keen on. So that is the reason that is one of the reasons that I want to go abroad. You know, aside from the fact that is to a better life, and there are more opportunities. But another reason is that I be away from my house. I love my family. But I don't know if I am meant to live with people, eventually. So I want to go to college abroad for that reason, I want to have my own sort of space, and I enjoy seeing with friends. I mean, I notice and everything. So that is one thing that I that I see in my college in the future. But apart from that, all I know is that it is going to be a software engineering college, at least at the moment. And that is all I have for a concrete image at the moment.

Venkat Raman  16:52  

You mentioned why you're looking at studying abroad. Now, any specific countries you have in mind?

Hartejas  17:02  [Studying in the US or Australia]

Currently, I'm going to apply to USA and Australia. Those are the two countries that I have in mind.

Venkat Raman  17:10  

Okay, okay. And, you know, not names of colleges, but in general, in the US any specific types of colleges?

Hartejas  17:21  

Oh, I don't know, I know, it's not going to be an Ivy League. That's for certain. But apart from that, I think it could be any kind of college. To be very frank, I want to have fun if I like it, and I'll probably you know if it's good. It was a good place if it has good courses and good scholarships, and definitely as good as

Venkat Raman  17:45  

How many colleges are you planning to apply to the US roughly? I mean, do you have an idea, right, that maybe in August, I'm guessing you figured a whole bunch of things out?

Hartejas  17:55  

Yeah, I think I don't think the list is going to be any more than about five to seven colleges in each country that I applied to, I think, five to seven colleges in UFC fighter seven in Australia. So that's the limit.

Venkat Raman  18:12  [Counseling Resources]

You mentioned you have a counselor to support you. what are the, what are the resources do you have? What are the things do you use now? Obviously that is the counselor for just study abroad? Or do you have a broader I mean, you're preparing IIT entrance exams or the JEE. Right? So how are you doing all that how, you know, obviously the, you probably have different different sort of help for different things.

Hartejas  18:39  

I only have a counselor, she is very, very helpful, you know, in general, and she is there for study abroad essentially, he or she is there to make the application process easier. And you know, the exams I need is the SAT, ACT things like that. As for my JEE examination and the IIT and all of that I have enrolled into Coaching Institute. Aside from my school, I am into coaching Institute's in there, they sort of teach all of that and for the school part of it. My fool is a dummy school. So I don't have to go to school, eventually they will just give me attendance. I just have to go for my examinations. And it's not like anybody going to school at the moment. So we really just ended up saving money, I guess. That's Yeah, that's..

Venkat Raman  19:35  

okay. Now, I just wanted to ask you a question. You know that a lot of the US colleges are test optional right there in the sense that you they don't really need to see your SAT or ACT scores. So I'm just curious why you're still taking the SAT. What was the reasoning behind that?

Hartejas  19:59  

Um, I One is that I want to sort of redeem myself because the last time I gave it, I didn't get a good score. And I'm not really happy with that. That's one. And secondly, I think it helps with the scholarships.

Venkat Raman  20:15  

Do you, do you discuss all these ideas and plans and you guys, about with your peers with your friends? Or is this sort of a thing that you just do with a small group of people? I'm just curious, how collaborative, all this is, you guys helping each other, or how's that process working for you?

Hartejas  20:38  [Peers & Parents Influence & Support]

I definitely have a very strong group of friends with me, I have a very strong support system, I would say I have a lot of very, very good friends who are some of them are doing the same thing as I am, some of them are also trying to deal with the same counselor As matter of fact. So I sort of had that network. So we will talk about these things, you know, when this stuff sort of starts setting us out, because a lot of us have our exams on the same date. And a lot of us have some seen universities on our list and stuff like that. So you know, I have that sort of network. And you know, we'll discuss on this is nice, and this is that, and I have a counselor, obviously, and I have my balance. So every thing that is in my head, a lot of it is just me deciding, but then again, none of it is concrete. So I will talk to people about it. And I am somebody who is very, very who's who can get swayed by Good, good points. If somebody has some good concrete points to tell me in favor of something or against something, then I will likely or the mountain, my decision will change accordingly.

Venkat Raman  21:42  

How much pressure do you feel from your parents or from your family to do something or do you pretty much have the freedom to do what what you feel is right?

Hartejas  21:53  

I have always had the freedom to do what I feel like doing, especially in the career side of stuff. You know, because my parents are always very happy Monday choosing engineering, but you know, in about 10 10,10th standard ninth and 10th standards. You know, my father also brought up telling me to do maybe Economics or something on Commerce side of stuff, because I am pretty good at math. Like I said, it's one of my favorite subjects. That is also something that you should look into. But I was really pretty, you know, set in stone that I want to do engineering, which is what I ended up doing then, and also studying abroad, my parents are very, very keen on that as well, if I because that is something that they also think is a really, really good move to make. And like I said, a lot of my decisions are swayed by people around me. So I think they have a very big influence on my decisions, as well. So it's sort of like a team thing, none of the decisions are mine or theirs. It's sort of a collaborative effort. So, so the pressure part of it, they have been, they have never explicitly put pressure on me. You know, my father always tells me that it's important that he sees the effort, like he doesn't care about the marks and everything he he just wants the effort farther, so that there's something that has stuck with me, I that is essentially it. Like I don't have a lot of pressure on me on that aspect. But I do have pressure on myself and I really need to put I need to get out of India and I really need to get good scores. And I have to do this myself.

Venkat Raman  23:41  

So how they just we are sort of nearing the end of our podcast, I kind of wanted to give you a chance to talk about anything that we haven't talked about or anything that you think is, you know, needs to be said something that has been left unsaid, or just anything interesting that you want to comment that you want to make.

Hartejas  24:05  [Pandemic Impact]

No, I don't think there's anything, at least in the context of all the stuff that we discussed today. I mean, I do think that my sort of study has sort of taken a slight hit in the pandemic, which is I'm not somebody who's good at coping with online classes. They are just not for me. I as a you know, 9th and 10th standard when there was not a pandemic, I most of my information was retained because I would pay attention in class, which was something that I never had to put an effort in. I just like I just paid it as one class except for in biology, which is a subject that I loath from the bottom of my heart that in every other subject I was pretty good at paying attention. And you know in online classes that has sort of really impacted me because I have problem with concentrating. on things, especially that I don't want to, for example, like I said, physics and chemistry, not a fan. So that has been especially trying. And you know, now I barely see any numbers in match. So that that is well. And yeah, I think, but I do think it will return a lot of fun because if it wasn't for the pandemic, there are certainly experiences that I have had now that I would not have had otherwise. So I think it's a win and lose sort of situation.

Venkat Raman  25:32  

You brought up the pandemic? And I'd say it's not completely related. But I did want to talk about the NGO, your interest or enthusiasm for it. Does a little about that. I mean, I think that's really important.

Hartejas  25:49  [Saathi NGO]

Yes, so I am in Saathi NGO. And this was sort of it started in 2009. Originally by my counselor, she was the founder at that time, and she started with a group of her students at the time. But when they passed out, then it was shut down. And in, in last year, it was in the month of November, October or November, one of them it was relaunched. And I was one of the first I would say 10 members in the NGO. And yeah, I was one of the first 10. And I think in this year, in the month of maybe February, I became the HR coordinator at the NGO. We have 3 coordinators in doing this. And I am very, very vocal about my opinions, like I mentioned, and there are some, there are some things that I see very, very strongly about, for example, you know, feminism and homophobia and things like that. And I think that this NGO has sort of been an ally has been an outlet, or a very, very good way, for me to actually act on all those things that I see. I mean, obviously, you know, we talk about this in science circles, and in groups of maybe five people. And apart from that, there is not really any change that we can create. But I think with an NGO, even if it's small, it's on a bigger scale than what I previously had. And I think that is something that I would not have done. If it wasn't for the pandemic, that is sort of how it ties into the pandemic, because if it wasn't for the pandemic, the NGO would probably not even have started. And you know, all of our projects would have been very, very different. Everything that we've done has mostly been online. But if it was not for the pandemic, then you know, our products to do very, very different. And everything we would have done would look very, very different if we even had an NGO in the first place. So I would say that it is I know it also led me to some of my closest friends at the moment, I would not have made these changes if it wasn't for the NGO and working with them. And I think it is doing a lot of opportunities in that sense as well. So that is really impressive to me.

Venkat Raman  27:55  

That's terrific. Okay, so how are they just this has been really interesting, fascinating, and enjoyable. appreciate all the stuff that I've talked about. And and you truly do love to talk and I appreciate that in the nicest possible way. Thank you so much. So I wish you all the best in your college process and beyond. I'm sure.

Hartejas  28:26  

Thanks for having me. It was a pleasure to talk to you about all of this.

Venkat Raman  28:31  

Yeah, I will, I'm sure we'll talk more but take care. Be safe. Bye. Bye.

Hartejas  28:35  

Thank you, you too. Bye.

Venkat Raman  28:37  


Venkat  28:44

Hi again!

Hope you enjoyed our podcast with Hartejas Sekhon.

Hartejas is a very versatile 12th Grader. Behind that wit and easy going persona, is an ambitious teenager.

I wish her the very best as she heads into her future.  

For your questions or comments on this podcast, please email podcast at almamatters.io [podcast@almamatters.io].

Thank you all so much for listening to our podcast today.

Transcripts for this podcast and previous podcasts are on almamatters.io forward slash podcasts [almamatters.io/podcasts].

To stay connected with us, Subscribe to Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify or visit anchor.fm forward slash almamatters [anchor.fm/almamatters] to check us out.

Till we meet again, take care and be safe.

Thank you!

Summary Keywords

College Podcast, Software engineering, India, high schooler, US Colleges, College Admissions, undergraduate, Australian Colleges, SAATHI NGO, 12th Grade, Grade 12, 12th Standard.

Is College in US for you?