Episode Notes | Episode Transcript | AskTheGuest

 Hi Fives (5 Highlights)   3-Minute Listen

Rifat Mursalin is a graduate of Emory University with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics & French.

Rifat’s college experience is fast paced, with lots of experimentation. He fell in love with microeconomics. He loved languages. He spent a summer abroad in Paris, France. He immersed himself in a number of activities outside the classroom. Tutoring, Model UN, and social entrepreneurship.

After college he went to Malaysia on a Fulbright grant as an English Teacher.

Hi-Fives from the Podcast are:

  1. Emory: Transformative Experience
  2. Why Emory?
  3. Diverse Peers
  4. Social Entrepreneurship
  5. Advice for Aspirants

Episode Notes

Episode Title: Rifat Mursalin on Emory: Transformative Experience, Social Entrepreneurship and Halloween Tradition.

A first generation student, Rifat was in student government in High School, involved in Social Science projects, math club and tutoring other kids. He worked on programs for middle school kids from the inner city.

Rifat Mursalin is a graduate of Emory University with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics & French.

In particular, we discuss the following with him:

  • On choosing Emory University
  • Majoring in Economics and French
  • Tutoring & Social Entrepreneurship
  • Fulbright to Malaysia
  • Advice to Aspirants

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • Introduction to Rifat Mursalin, Emory [0:57]
  • Hi Fives - Podcast Highlights [2:03]
  • Emory - Transformative Experience [5:06]
  • Why Emory? [6:16]
  • High School Interests [8:26]
  • Transition to Emory - “Shock” [10:20]
  • Diverse Peers [13:15]
  • Professors - “Great Experience” [15:55]
  • Comfortable Dorms [19:11]
  • Model UN, Tutoring, Social Entrepreneurship [22:27]
  • Summer Experiences [27:33]
  • Emory Scholars Program [30:54]
  • Majoring in Econ & French [34:29]
  • Fulbright in Malaysia [38:29]
  • Emory Redo [43:39]
  • Advice to Aspirants [47:16]
  • Memories: Halloween Tradition [49:25]

Our Guest: Rifat Mursalin is a graduate of Emory University with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics & French.

Memorable Quote: “And you know, I was a teen, and a first generation college student, ... I didn't really know what to expect exactly when I got to college, even in terms of academic rigor.”

Episode Transcript: Please visit Episode’s Transcript.


Episode Transcript

Transcript of the episode’s audio.

Rifat 0:15

Emory has this tradition, particularly for freshmen, but upperclassmen do this as well. On October 31, you dress up in your Halloween costume, and you go to the president's house. So the President of Emory lives on campus at a park. It's very walk walking distance. It's very nice house, of course. But yeah, all the students, not all, like whoever wants to go, you're dressed up and you go to the president's house and you'd go for cheaper training. And this is again, at the time the the president of the school who is not there anymore, his wife would bake us cookies.

Venkat  0:57  [Introduction to Rifat Mursalin, Emory]

Rifat Mursalin is a graduate of Emory University with a Bachelor’s degree in French and Economics.

Rifat was an immigrant, first-generation college student who moved about 30 mins from his High School to go to College.

In High School, Rifat was in student government, involved in Social Science projects, math club and tutoring other kids.

He worked on programs for middle school kids from the inner city, to teach them about healthy relationships and domestic violence.

These programs were through a local hospital, but funded by Emory University.

Emory, it seemed, was ever present around him.

Rifat Mursalin joins us today to tell us his Emory story.

Before we jump into the podcast, here are the High-Fives,  Five Highlights from the podcast:

Rifat  2:03  [Highlights - Hi Fives]

[Emory: Transformative Experience]

I really think it was one of the most, if not the most transformative experiences of my life, and also the most fun experience for years of life for sure.

[Why Emory?]

And I had the opportunity to visit my senior year interview and spend four days on campus. And that was really a turning point. I got to meet current students, I got to meet other prospective students, and meet professors and Dean's. And that, to me was just a fantastic experience. And I really saw myself being a student on the campus.

[Diverse Peers]

Very, very diverse, folks. So Emory was the first time in my life where I had exposure to such diversity. I've never had that before in my life. This was the very first experience and it was overwhelming at times, but in a good way overwhelmed.


[Social Entrepreneurship]

I was involved with a social entrepreneurship competition, called the Hult prize. So it's a global competition. h lt for those of you who are interested, it's open to all students or any level students, you know, undergrad, grad, PhDs, doctoral student any level, and I had worked with a team of four students. I was the only senior This was my senior year. The others were sophomores. And we had competed to solve a global challenge through a social business. And we actually had the opportunity to go to Shanghai because we were regional finalists.

[Advice for Aspirants]

Think about your priorities, like literally write it down. Like what are the things that matter to you? For me, one of the things was exposure to broad disciplines. Like I would not have wanted to go to a STEM school.

Venkat Raman  3:52

Now, I'm sure you want to hear the entire podcast with Rifat. So without further delay, over to Rifat Mursalin!


Venkat Raman  4:00  

Hey Rifat.

Rifat  4:02  

Hi, Venkat. How are you?

Venkat Raman  4:03  

I'm doing well. How are you?

Rifat  4:05  

Doing Well, doing well, myself. It's quite hot here in Atlanta, but doing well.

Venkat Raman  4:10  

Well, I guess, everywhere it's hot these days.

Rifat  4:14  

Yeah, exactly.

Venkat Raman  4:16  

Something about climate change, I suppose.

So first of all, let me welcome you to our podcast College Matters. Alma Matters. Great that you could give us some time on a Sunday afternoon for you, and really appreciate that. Thank you so much.

Today, we are going to talk about your undergraduate years at Emory. This is for the benefit of aspiring students all over the world. And hopefully they can benefit from your experience and whatever you shared with us, so thank you so much.

Cool, so let's sort of dive right in and maybe start with sort of some overall impressions. It's been, what, five years since we graduated. So how do you feel about Emory today?

Rifat  5:06  [Emory - Transformative Experience]

Thank you for having me. And you know, now that I have the opportunity to look back at Emory, in hindsight, you know, now that I'm five years out of college, I really think it was one of the most, if not the most transformative experiences of my life, and also the most fun experience for years of life for sure. And, you know, I think the both the things I've learned, and also the people I've met, and how all of those things sort of cumulatively impacted me positively, both during my four years at Emory and the five years beyond, has been truly astounding. I, you know, when I was graduating from college, I had not necessarily necessarily thought about how my college years and those four years would impact me for years to come after and beyond. And that's all been truly fabulous. So I'm really thankful for my and grateful for the grateful that I chose to attend Emory.

Venkat Raman  6:12  

Maybe that is sort of a good lead into why did you pick Emory?

Rifat  6:16  [Why Emory?]

Absolutely. So there are a few reasons that I chose to go with Emory. One of the first reasons is location. I am from the south, I grew up in Atlanta. So Emory is the college that I grew up thinking that that's a fantastic school. Right. I've, you know, in high school in middle school, Emory is kind of like seen as the better school in the area, they have a fantastic Medical program, medical school and the hospital. So I was always kind of attracted, and the name was always on my radar even growing up.

And during junior year of college, I came across a scholarship opportunity Called QuestBridge. And Emory was one of the partner schools of QuestBridge, and I'd applied to several colleges through quest bridge. quest bridge is a scholarship for students, high school students from low income backgrounds, who have you know, excellent academic, sort of academic portfolio, and they can apply to kind of these high ranking colleges. And it's, they provide scholarships. So I applied through that my junior year, just to get a sense of it did some summer programs there.

And also my senior year, I applied through the Emory Scholars Program, which is a scholarship through the Emory University, scholars sort of department, and I had the opportunity to visit my senior year interview and spend four days on campus.

And that was really a turning point. I got to meet current students, I get to meet other prospective students, and meet professors and Dean's, And that, to me was just a fantastic experience. And I really saw myself being a student on the campus. Emory just had a huge breadth of areas that it has a liberal arts focus, but also research school. So I just thought it would be a school that wouldn't narrow my options down and instead, really give me a breadth about.

Venkat Raman  8:22  

What were you like in high school? What kind of things were interesting to you?

Rifat  8:26  [High School Interests]

During high school, I was involved in student government, I was a class president, I liked sort of being the representative or leading the student body. That was interesting for me. And I'd done quite a lot of things with on the social studies side.

So I'd done some social science projects, both at the school level, but also county and state level. So that took up a lot of time. I was in the math club. Those were just some like primary activities I did.

And the other thing I spent a lot of time doing both at high school and this carried on to Emory was tutoring. So I started tutoring in high school I really enjoyed it was a tutor was in fact a tutoring captain for for my last two years at Emory, which means so Emory has a peer tutoring services open to all students. So I kind of led that service for my last two years. And this is actually something I continue to do today. I tutor kind of on the side, if I have free time. So that was one of the other things I that blossomed during my during my high school career.

And the final thing I did and I guess the first sort of professional experiences I did, I started working at a hospital nearby Grady Hospital. And it was interesting because I didn't work at the hospital, it was through the hospital. And we were essentially going to middle schools and teaching Inner City Youth about and minority use, about healthy relationships, domestic violence, and etc. And that was actually came through as a partnership of the Grady Hospital and it was through funding from Emory.

So I guess in many ways, Emory. has always kind of been surrounding a lot of activities I've done.

Venkat Raman  10:08  

Let's talk about your transition from high school to Emory. Obviously, it's in the neighborhood. So it's easy. But how was the quality experience? How was that transition?

Rifat  10:20  [Transition to Emory - “Shock”]

Sure. So you know, it was frightening, because although it was maybe, let's say, 20 minute drive from my high school, maybe half an hour, let's say, yeah, yeah, it was very different. Even in terms of the locations, so as I'm not sure to the breakdown of our audience, American versus non Americans, but as most Americans would know, cities in the US tend to have different neighborhoods of various income levels, for example, in capita income by zip code, that's like, you know, research shows that So, and for me, the high school and colleges, even though they were very close to each other, were worlds apart, right, even just based on where they were located.

So that was a big, I don't know, whether I should call it culture shock, there was a shock. Okay. Just because the it was almost overwhelming the resources and opportunities available, because especially at my high school, there weren't any of that are very few of them.

So that was a big transition. You know, it's, it's imagine, I don't know if this is the best analogy, but imagine you've been starving for a week. And then you go up, and there's like, a buffet of like, 1000 dishes. So that's kind of what, what, what my experience was like, does analogy I'd pick by.

So at the beginning, it was a little rough. My first semester to be very frank, a little rough transition. And, you know, I was a teen, and a first generation college student, so didn't really have the, a lot of the ..., I didn't really know what to expect exactly when I got to college, even in terms of academic rigor. So it was a little difficult to balance, the academic rigor, the social opportunities, and you know, just like personal well being.

So, because college is very different from high school, and the College of a different caliber. So that was interesting. But you know, I really felt like I've been able to develop the develop, like a support solid support system, you know, even starting my freshman year, that have really carried me through the rest of my college journey.

But yeah, one of the things that was really striking about Emory to me was was the friendships I've built during my college years, and even even from the beginning, there were just tremendous, and just wonderful. people all around it not and I don't mean just my peers, even professors, and the academic staff.

Everyone's extremely approachable and friendly and caring. So that to me, was a big, big part of my college life.

Venkat Raman  13:05  

Okay, so let's talk about your classmates and peers. You said that they were a great to have around. So what kind of folks were they?

Rifat  13:15  [Diverse Peers]

Sure, so the good thing about Emory is the size of the school is interesting. So each class has about 1500 students. So overall, the undergraduate is around, let's say, 5000, maybe a little more than 5000. At least this was the case when I when I went. But and I don't imagine it changed too much since then. But so the good thing about that is, regardless of one's personality, he or she is likely to find like minded people.

So I feel like college is one of those things, you can afford to stay in your comfort zone if you'd like. Or you can stretch it out and meet people from other backgrounds. I meet people who challenge you meet people with different perspectives on different views than you right. So I think colleges, so it very much depends on individual. So for me, I was very keen on stretching my comfort zone. So most of my peers came from different backgrounds than mine, speaking, you know, ethnically or racially backgrounds, socioeconomic backgrounds, geographic backgrounds, you know, very, very diverse, folks. So Emory was the first time in my life where I had exposure to such diversity. I've never heard that before in my life. This was the very first experience and it was overwhelming at times, but in a good way. Overwhelming, not, not in the bad sense. And, you know, my friends were just very diverse backgrounds in all sense of the meaning of the diversity.

And, you know, I feel like I've really got into shape My perspectives because of those four years because of the conversation. So you know, this is different from like classroom material. I'm not talking about talking about the, the everyday conversations and learning from each other. I think in terms of the classmates and friends that have developed a very diverse group of folks from different walks of path, even in terms of their careers, you know, a lot of them are in the medical profession, a lot of them are in the tech profession, a lot of them are in, in business, and social work, etc.

So yeah, it's just, it's just a melting pot of all sorts of people. And that, to me, was really incredible, like more than I can express incredible.

Venkat Raman  15:47  

So you mentioned the professor's a little while ago. What did you think of the overall quality of Profs? The teaching, the Professors?

Rifat  15:55  [Professors - “Great Experience”]

Sure, sure. So I was someone who, as I mentioned, as I alluded to earlier in my, in my bad analogy, the feast. So I wanted to, you know, imagine you have feasts of different cuisines. And it wasn't I had never explored before. So I was very interested in sampling, right. So I, just for my audience's background, I double majored at Emory in economics and French studies. So those were my two primary majors.

But you know, Venkat, I took classes, starting from philosophy, to music, to chemistry, to Sociology, linguistics, I was really all over the place. And very intentionally, I wanted to explore different academic disciplines. So I feel like I had the chance to take classes from professors from different departments. And, you know, one of the ways I selected classes and you know, if someone were to ask me, How do you have any advice for colleges, this is one advice I would give them, you know, pick classes based on professors, based on what you know, not just how the class title is, or what the class title is, it could be a mixture of both. But one of the things I did, I reached out to upperclassmen, and one of the good things about being a part of the marine Scholars Program was we had that mentoring, we had that support. And as I mentioned, people are extremely approachable and friendly and helpful. So I would reach out to upperclassmen and say, Hey, like, I'm thinking of taking classes in art, I have room for maybe two electives, do you have any professors that you absolutely loved? That you'd recommend, and they would give me a list list of like, maybe a few names that they really enjoyed having, and I would try to sign up for those professors.

So for me, there might be some selective bias into it, because I was very careful about the professors I picked. But overall, it was really wonderful. I still stay in touch with several of my professors, and, and, you know, get keep them posted on my career. We meet up every once in a while. And my academic advisor at at Emory, an economics professor, we met up maybe like, a month ago, during COVID, like, we got dinner together, because, you know, I'm in town.

So I think, but even during the time, I you know, I remember, for example, a professor the day before the evening, before a midterm, I was really struggling with the material, he took me into his office hours, and we were going over problems, you know, this was like, seven 8pm for an exam. That was the next morning at 8am. So 12 hours before the exam, you know, he and it was just a one on one teaching just because I reached out and asked for help, you know, so that's just kind of one anecdote of how helpful and caring the people can be. And I was also someone who went to a lot of office hours, and really took advantage of the professors and getting getting to know them on a personal level. So yeah, overall, I had a really, really great experience with professors.

Venkat Raman  19:00  

Okay, so let's jump out of the classroom. And, how was the campus life? What were the dorms like, and then we can talk about those social cultural stuff?

Rifat  19:11  [Comfortable Dorms]

Sure sure. So the class... So the campus overall at Emory isn't too huge, it's lets say one end of the campus to another 15 to 20 minute walk. I think my sophomore year, I was living on one end, and I was taking a music class, which is completely on the other end. He wasn't morning class. So that was a bit painful. It was maybe a 20-25 minute walk. But that is literally the farthest you can be from your class. Like it doesn't get any farther than that. But most of it is slightly more centralized. So most of your classes would be within like 10 minute walk. So very reasonable. So I personally and this was again in high school when I visited the campus I was like wow, this is this is beautiful. So I personally am a big fan of the campus and my dorm, for example.

Rifat  20:03  

So I'll quickly talk about my four years and my sort of living situation so that it's helpful. The way the setup works, it was a suite. So essentially, you have two rooms separated by a bathroom. And in each room, there were two people living so it's sort of four people for persons sweet. And you share the bathroom. So that was sort of my freshman situation. I really enjoyed living with my roommate, he was a random person, because I was you know, I even though I knew people going into college, I wanted to do random, almost, I like challenges as well. It'll be fun. Let's do random. Let's see who I get luck of the draw. And let's see if I if I can, you know, get along this person who was I almost took it as a challenge. And I was really lucky, I got to have a fantastic roommate from Boston, who went to, you know, Catholic school. It's a very different background than mine. But yeah, we got we got along really well. Sophomore year, I decided to live in a single again, just to kind of see if I can try that and see what that life is like. So the way it works, and this was on one end of the campus, it's five floor buildings, it's a massive building. And the way I had my living situation was a single suite. So I was I had my own. But I would share a bathroom with someone else who had a single suite. So it's your have your own space. My junior and senior year, I we had the same situation, I actually lived in the same room. And it was an apartment. So the way it works. Again, it's on campus, though. So it's an empty apartment. And it was a four bedroom apartment to bathroom. So and this had kitchen living area, it's quite spacious. And just for my readers awareness, this apartment is situated in a different campus than Emory technically different, they call it Claremont. So the way it works, you either walk to main campus, which is about half an hour, 40 minute walk, or you have shuttles running every three to five minutes, then you have classes. So you basically have both of those opportunities. So my junior and senior that's what I did live with one of my very close friends who was one of my best friends now we talk like almost on a monthly basis, but lived lived with him for two years. But yeah, so that's kind of my that was my living situation.

Venkat Raman  22:20  

What kind of activities Did you engage in? I know that you were super busy.

Rifat  22:27  [Model UN, Tutoring, Social Entrepreneurship]

Quite a lot, quite a lot. As I mentioned, when I end, you know, this was one of the reasons I had a rough transition to be honest, my first semester. So it was, I think balances is key, right. And I don't know, if you are if their listeners have seen this graphic, where it's, I guess a meme, there's like, it's a pie with three sort of chunks, sleep, social life and grade. The mean is that you can only choose two, you can have all three. So I think that was kind of the same for me. And even if you can get all three, it just takes a while to develop that balance.

So coming in, I really jumped into a lot of activities my freshman year, first semester, and there's a pros and cons of that the Pro is you're getting to meet different people, you know, so I felt like even from the very beginning, I was meeting people and everyone was very nice and tight even during orientation and beyond. So I felt like I was making friends. So that was the Pro. The con is that if you're if you are choosing too many, you have the risk of spreading yourself too thin, and not having enough time for yourself or academics. So that was kind of the wall I had run into.

But just to give you an example of some of the things I've done.

I immediately joined Model UN, I always been interested in international relations. So that's something I immediately joined. You have to sort of qualify for the team. I did and started going to competitions like starting my freshman year, first semester. So we I think had two competitions, just the first semester alone. So that's something I got into really liked it enjoyed the work.

Another thing I did was teaching at an after school program to refugee children, that was about 15-20 minutes out of campus. So we go there once a week for two, three hours and teach English and math to middle schoolers. Usually, that was the second thing I did.

I also got involved in some political organizations, young democrats at Emory, I was there a freshman liaison there, and the other few so I've done a few other things. One of the things I did was I started writing for the newspaper, which is The Emory Wheel. So I was a writer for them. So as you can see, there's a you know, quite a lot of especially for a first semester and you know, I sort of reevaluated after the end of my freshman year you know which of these should I should I keep which of these should I drop? Because I was interested in doing a double major I was going to take more and more credits. So I decided to drop a few of them. So then my, I guess, activities slightly changed starting my sophomore year.

The things I started getting involved in sophomore through senior year till graduation were slightly different. So one was tutoring, I really started tutoring maybe and tutoring was I was tutoring maybe 12 to 15 hours a week. So a pretty big time commitment, essentially was like part time work, right. And I, by the end of junior and senior year, I was leading all of the tutors, we had about 80 to 90, so I was in charge of hiring them, training them and just helping them throughout the process. So that was something I spent a lot of time doing, and got to meet a lot of people through that.

I became a TA for several economics courses. And I'm glad I did that because that was another way to develop relationships with professors. So I was a TA for an TA is teaching assistant. For those of you who may not know, I was a teaching assistant for microeconomics and macroeconomics, both principal and intermediate levels. I also started being involved with the economics student society.

And my sophomore year and by the time I was graduating, I was a president. by senior year I led the club and I was involved with a few honor societies as well.

The other thing I did during college that really shaped even my career, you know, if I if I may as if I may say so is I was involved with a social entrepreneurship competition called the Hult prize. So it's a global competition. H U L T for those of you who are interested, it's open to all students or any level students, you know, undergrad, grad PhDs, doctoral students any level. And I had worked with a team of four students. I was the only senior This was my senior year. The others were sophomores. And we had competed to solve a global challenge through a social business.

And we actually had the opportunity to go to Shanghai, because we were regional finalists. So it was a really, really wonderful experience, because we really put Emory's name on the radar. And it was kind of a big deal. Professor Muhammad Yunus, who was one of the Nobel laureates was one of the sort of judges on the panel, and etc. So that that also took up a lot of time my senior year, because it's literally designing an entire business model from scratch.

Venkat Raman  27:27  

What did you do during the summers? Were you extending what you were doing on campus? Or did you have sort of different experience?

Rifat  27:33  [Summer Experiences]

Sure, that's a that's a great question. Venkat. So I also think it's really important for students to plan their summers carefully. And you know, I'm not opposed to someone taking their summer off and saying, you know, I just want to be with family or I just want to relax, that's totally fine. But at least have intention and intentionality around what the summer should be. So starting, I'll walk through three of my summers in between my four years.

Rifat  28:01  

So starting my freshman year, I, again, was very fortunate to have been a part of the Scholars Program. So we had different opportunities through the Scholars Program. So one of the opportunities was to it's a program called FCS scholarship and service. So you spend a summer with a group of maybe dozen other scholars, and you all work in different places, supposed to be unpaid, but we got an stipend from Emory. And you all live together. So I lived my freshman year summer on campus, it was actually at a frat house. So that was kind of funny. I was not a part of Greek life. So that was, that was an interesting experience. But essentially, you live with like a dozen other folks and you just live together, you Although you're working at different places, you know, in the evenings, you come together, and you do a lot of volunteering together. So one of the focuses is community based volunteering. So I in terms of where I work, I worked for a government, Economic Development Agency, public sector, he was for a county government here in Georgia. That was really interesting work. And we got a stipend from the college. And I really got to bond with my fellow folks. I was living with one of the one of my friends that I got to spend my summer with. We recently went on a trip to Iceland, like last month. So that kind of shows that, you know, this was in 2013. So, you know, eight years later, we're still in touch and traveling together. part of a group, but so that was my freshman year, summer.

Rifat  29:35  

Sophomore summer I studied abroad, and traveled. So I studied abroad in France in Paris. I as I mentioned, was a French major. So I took classes in Paris lived with the French homestay, again, these classes and a lot of the fees were covered by the Emory Scholars Program. It's a complete it was a competitive process. We had to apply and get the scholarship. But so that's what I did. And after the classes were over, I backpacked around Europe. For two months, that was my sophomore summer.

Rifat  30:03  

Junior summer, I did a consulting internship at an in house strategy consulting group at one of the hospitality chains here in Atlanta. That also was a great experience because I got to work with x consultants and got to really understand business strategies and how they think about it. And yeah, that was sort of my junior year summer internship was based in Atlanta, lived at home during that summer, but I felt like really got to develop a lot of the important skills that would that would come in handy in in my professional career.

Venkat Raman  30:40  

Couple of things I wanted to kind of follow up on which are interesting. One is talk a little bit more about the Emory scholars, you mentioned that a few times, and that sounds like something would be of great value.

Rifat  30:54  [Emory Scholars Program]

Absolutely. Absolutely. Thank God. So the Emory Scholars Program is a program within the Emory University. And it's interesting comes from funding that was started by Robert Woodruff. So anyone familiar, Emory would have heard that name. So Robert Woodruff was one of the presidents of Coca Cola. So Emory has a very strong relationship with Coca Cola, which is based in Atlanta, the business school is, for example, is named after one of the previous CEOs of Coca Cola. But Woodruff himself an alumnus of Emory, it's interesting because he didn't actually graduate but he attended Emory. He, he set up a fund for scholarships for led to the birth of the Emory Scholars Program. Essentially, it's a highly competitive program that high school seniors apply to and happens pretty early on and you know, you are brought to campus and people from all over the world come like I remember my interview weekend. There were people from Turkey, Brazil, just really all over the world. And they're they're flowing it's an all expense paid trip. Your I just drove 20 minutes. So I unfortunately didn't get an all expense flight, paid flight. But yeah, your your interview with with other with current students, current scholars with professors with with Dean's. So there's essentially some of the professors are on the scholars committee who make selections, then we're given an offer of anything that ranges from, I believe anything from like half scholarship to everything like you know, full tuition to full ride, including room and board. So you have that opportunity. But yeah, so the Emory Scholars Program in terms of size. I don't know the exact number, but not not too large of a program. The other thing I would mention is coming into Emory is not the only way of becoming an Emory scholar. Someone can apply to be an Emory student can apply to be an Emory scholar, after his or her like first or second year as well, given they meet the minimum GPA requirements, and that's called a Dean's achievement scholar as ownership. So all this information is can be found on the Emory's website. But you know, I really love being a part of the community because they had opportunities. For example, both my freshman and sophomore year summers, I was able to take advantage of those opportunities. Because I was a member of the of the program, we have retreats for students, the alumni base is quite strong. I, one of my very closest friends to this day, I met through the Emory Scholars Program, very much keep in touch, like on a weekly basis. So I think just really, it's a wonderful organization. But again, not the only way to attend Emory. There's a lot of luck to me beyond that.

Venkat Raman  34:04  

Now, let's talk about how you picked your majors. Now, you said you came into college, not knowing what you wanted, and then you you what was that a starving student to a buffet kind of thing. And here in the end, finally picked Economics and French Studies. How did that happen? What was that like? And how did how did you kind of converge on these two?

Rifat  34:29  [Majoring in Econ & French]

Sure. That's a great question again. Venkat. So I, as I mentioned, came in undecided and took classes from all over. I believe the rule was, by the end of the sophomore year, students have to decide on their major. So which is great, right because that means students have the opportunity to take classes for four semesters before they actually select on a major which is fantastic. I am a huge proponent of keeping an open mind and trying different things in college as opposed to coming in very narrow minded. Some, some people are laser focused and know exactly what they want. And that's fantastic. I just wasn't one of those people. And I felt very happy with my experience. So coming in my freshman year, first semester, just to give you an idea of what I took, I took chemistry. Oh, this is gonna be tough to remember I took political science, I to come music. That was my first semester, my second semester, I took economics. I think another music philosophy. And I forget, I'm forgetting something else. But you know, I just tried different classes. I liked, you know, econ happened, because so the very first class you take is principles of micro economics, which I was a TA for later on, and a tutor for later on. But I absolutely loved the class professor was phenomenal in the way he taught that class. And I just was very engaged in the theories that was taught in the econ class. And I was like, wow, this is very interesting. Let me take another on. So then I took principles of macroeconomics the next semester. Yeah. And also really enjoyed that class and did quite well. So I was like, Well, you know, this is what econ is like, maybe I should, I should major in it. And the other one, the other reason I chose econ was because of the breadth of options available, you know, I wanted something. And my philosophy was to pick something that would open doors and not closed doors. And Econ, I felt was one of those disciplines, because, you know, as an econ graduate from Emory, and I was talking to, you know, senior upperclassmen to understand this, you know, a lot of them go to consulting, a lot of them go into private sector, like Business Banking, a lot of them go to law school, a lot of them go to work for multilaterals, like World Bank, and un, a lot of them go into Federal Reserve. So I just really felt like, there's a breadth of options available within a major. So that's why I ended up choosing that as my primary major. So that that was the story behind Econ, or French, you know, there was not a lot of science to it, I just really enjoyed the class. And I kept taking more and more French classes. And, you know, going in, I will say this, I was very keen on learning a language, I enjoy learning languages, I enjoy the process, I enjoy languages, I speak quite a few myself, and I wanted to pick up more. So I decided to go with French because I thought it would be useful that it'd be interesting. And then I just started taking more and more classes. And you know, one day, my advisor, or a professor was like, you know, you're very close to a minor, why didn't you just do a minor, and then after minor, you just have to take a few more, and you'll basically be a major. And I was like, you know, I, I'm enjoying this process a lot. Let me just keep taking them. So that's kind of how the French major happened. But you know, I don't want to make it sound like an accident. It was intentional, you know, halfway through my college career that I would be a French major. So I declared it and, and planned my academic career in a way that I could I could have the two majors.

Venkat Raman  37:58  

Yeah. And you also, I guess, did a study abroad. So

Venkat Raman  38:02  

I kind of wanted to talk about two things. One is about the Fulbright grant, which you've got after college. And then, you know, maybe before that we can talk about how Emory has shaped your career. I mean, you've kind of given us little snippets here and there. So give us a feel for that. And then talk about the Fulbright grant.

] Rifat  38:29  [Fulbright in Malaysia]

Absolutely, of course. So coming out of Emory, I was interested in a few things. You know, I had done a consulting internship before I was considering consulting, I was I had looked primarily at the private sector immediately out of college. Yeah. And so consulting and banking are two of the traditional ones. But you know, it's interesting that I use the word traditional even for econ majors, because Emory has a separate business schools, right. So there are students can get BBA. So those are more traditional for the BBA students, which I was not I didn't I wasn't planning to go to business school during undergrad. But those are some of the ones I considered. I had also really wanted to leave a year abroad. I had always wanted to study abroad in college, and I did the summer, but I really wanted to do it for longer. I had really wanted to do this one program that Emory has was with LSE, London School of Economics. Once one semester, actually, I'm sorry, there was a one year program. They didn't have a one semester option, only a fully academic year. And I just couldn't fit it into my schedule, given that I was trying to take so many classes here. But yeah, one quick tangent. Emory has a fantastic consortium of study abroad programs literally all over the world. So that was another huge plus. But so given all of that I wanted to do Fulbright because I didn't have the opportunity to spend a year or a semester abroad. And my senior year when I went to meet with the scholarship office, it was really fun. Because I had, essentially I that when I went to meet them, they were like, you know, the deadlines like four days away. So I wouldn't have been able to I was just too too late to the game for Fulbright's. All right, that's fine. You know, they give it to alumni, maybe I can put that on the back burner for some time that we just go the traditional recruiting route. So then I started full time recruiting traditionally, and landed a job in corporate investment banking. In New York, I was very fortunate to have several other options. And that that's kind of that was kind of like, I wanted to live in New York City. So that was the route I went into, did that for some time really developed my professional skills, and wanted to pivot to something else. And that's when I started thinking back to Fulbright, and I applied. And, you know, just to bring it all back to Emory.

Before applying, I met with the Emory Office of scholarships and services, scholarships and fellowships, and, you know, told them about myself told them about my plans and my application and where I was interested in applying. So I did a Fulbright grant in Malaysia. And this is something I chose in in after conversations with them. There's a part of the world I've been very interested in. And, you know, the the office and the folks there have been tremendously helpful. I remember I was, I had to do some mock interviews, I did that when I was working in working in the banking job. I submitted my application. I was in like South Korea when I when I submitted my application. So it was a bit hectic, but they were really helpful in reviewing my essays and everything. And, again, bringing it back to the Emory support system. You know, before applying to these fellowships, I reached out to my Emory friends, like hey, can you read over my essays and give feedback, and you know, that That, to me was really helpful resources, because they're all brilliant, brilliant people that are, you know, saying change these changes, and I really trust their judgment. So that's that. That's how I ended up doing the Fulbright, I was very fortunate to have received that grant. I left the banking Job had traveled around the world for quite some time, for about a year before going to Malaysia. So I almost had like to gap years did that did a Fulbright grant in Malaysia, where I was an English teacher, that that was a wonderful experience I taught at a village in northern Malaysia near the Thailand border, that was sent fantastic. Coming back from that I was thinking about graduate school, maybe public policy and or business school. Were the two routes I was considering I was thinking about that for quite some time. I'm still thinking about it, but right now at a transition point. And I will very soon start a sort of a new career in social impact consulting. So it's consulting but little non traditional in that we help our corporations and foundations with what their business strategies, but as well as their social impact strategies.

Venkat Raman  42:57  

Fantastic. It's great that you're able to build on your experience and whatever you've discovered about yourself. So right. So good. Good luck with all that.

Rifat  43:07  

Thank you. Thank you, I appreciate it.

Venkat Raman  43:08  

I'm sure it will turn out great.

Venkat Raman  43:14  

Let's power forward and maybe backward. I know you had a great time at Emory, I know you did a lot of different things. But just given the five years away from it. Now, if you could go back in time, anything you would do differently. Things you wouldn't do the things you would do more of, or change nothing, which is again [ok].

Rifat  43:39  [Emory Redo]

Sure. Know that that's a very important question. And you know, I don't think I wouldn't change nothing. I think I would change certain things. So let me just spit ball here. So few things. So first, I would say is being more intentional. And that's very difficult to do when you're, you know, a teenager being more intentional. And I don't mean just career wise, I don't mean just have like a 10 year career plan. That's quite unrealistic. That's that's not what I'm talking about.

Here I'm talking more about what are the things extracurricular, like, what are the things you want to be involved in? Right? And being very aware that it's impossible to be involved in everything. So picking and choosing carefully. And prioritizing? prioritizing is the key in having a solid college experience.

So one advice I would give just be a bit more intentional, think about it, reflect on it, and reassess, it's fine if those priorities change. That's very normal. That's, that's a sign of maturity and growth. They should change over time. Right? So kind of what I did after my freshman year was like, you know, I was involved with the young democrats at Emory was great, but you know, maybe I want to switch to econ student society. Now. Something like that is helpful. So maybe take your winter breaks or summer breaks, to reassess your goals and see what you're enjoying what you're not enjoying, and then then go forward. That's why advice I would give.

Second advice I would give is on the relationship side. So with your peers and friends really putting the energy, effort and energy to build and nurture meaningful relationships, because these are the things that will stay with you long after you leave campus memory or regardless of where, where you go to college. So that would be the second advice, I will give I would do different, not different, because I've done some of it, but I would do even more.

And the other thing in particular I would do is coming out of college, really making sure to continue rekindling those relationships, I unfortunately, went into a very rigorous and demanding profession, where I frankly just did not have the time to nurture those relationships after graduating.

So one other thing I neglected to mention, I also wrote an honors thesis that kind of carried on all through my senior year. So that also was a huge time commitment. But so the advice I would give is really focusing to nurture those relationships. So that's what the friends and peers but with the professors.

I would say strongly, highly rec, encourage folks to go to office hours, and really getting to know their professors. I I've done I'm really glad I did that.

And would do more if I were a student again. And final piece of I guess, thing I wish I did. I wish I did more was would be to study abroad. I think I kind of alluded to earlier I did a summer but I would have liked to do even more. So yeah, those would be sort of the pieces from my end. But you know, I have absolutely zero regret about the place I picked, Emory, the majors a pig, I'm very, very grateful for all those decisions. And I wouldn't do it any differently. For those things, I would do the exact same way.

Venkat Raman  47:04  

Any additional advice for aspiring students? I mean, you mentioned a few things here. Anything else that they ought to keep an eye out as they are finishing up high school?

Rifat  47:16  [Advice to Aspirants]

Yeah, two pieces. One is try to find current students, or alumni at the student at schools you're looking at, and before deciding on a school, if possible, you know, their time 15 to 20 minutes of their time and try to have a conversation. Come in with a list of questions of things, you'd want to learn about things that matter to you. And just try to because you know, no resources are for hearing people's stories. So that's why I don't think that what you're doing here is really important through your podcast. So try to try to talk to people, that would be my first advice. Second is, if possible, visit the schools. But again, I understand a lot of listeners might be internationally might be resource stretched. So if that's not possible, that's totally fine. But if possible, do it. Again, I didn't visit a lot of schools I applied to I just didn't have the resources. And that's okay. But if possible, try to do that. And the third, I know I said too, but I think I'll add on a third is before deciding. Again, this kind of goes back to my earlier point, think about your priorities, like literally write it down, like what are the things that matter to you. For me, one of the things was exposure to broad disciplines, like I would not have wanted to go to a stem school, like any kind of tech, another school was Georgia Tech, which is a fantastic school, I had all also gotten in and I was choosing between Emory and tech, great school tech, but I just really one of my priorities was just broad opportunities in terms of academic, academic. So just like figure out what those priorities are for you. And then see which colleges sort of kick off those priorities. So those would be the three pieces, I would I would highlight.

Venkat Raman  49:10  

Rifat, we are winding down here and wanted to give you a chance to, you know, reminisce or share any memories or traditions of Emory that you think the listeners might enjoy.

Rifat  49:25  [Memories: Halloween Tradition]

Of course, you know, growing up so I am an immigrant to the USA, he moved here. middle school, high school age, I have never really celebrated Halloween trick or treating, which is a huge part of American culture, but never really celebrated that.

And Emory has this tradition, particularly for freshmen but upperclassmen did this as well. On October 31. You dress up in your Halloween costume, and you go to the president's house. So there are hundreds and Emory lives on campus at a park. It's very walk walking distance. It's very nice house, of course. But yeah, all the students, not all, like whoever wants to go, you're dressed up and you go to the president's house and you'd go for Trick or Treating. And this is again at the time the the president of the school who is not there anymore, his wife would bake us cookies, literally like batches and batches of cookies and give it all to students in addition to like candies. And I thought that was just really cool, because I've never done Trick or Treating before. So again, I was like 18 at the time, my first and last time trick or treating. But that was a fun, fun experience.

The second thing I would say, again, this is not necessarily a tradition, but some of the other highlights that are just quirky things that I've done through one of my sociology class, the teacher who was really into birdwatching, the professor, lovely, lovely, lovely person, took us birdwatching, about an hour, you know, north of Emory to National Park, and at six, seven in the morning, and we just went birdwatching, that is an experience I would not have done otherwise. That was my again, my first and last time. So this is just like true. You know, the small anecdote, there are plenty more and I'm sure any student goes to colleges will, will have plenty themselves.

But yeah, again, I really wanted to reiterate how much of a wonderful experience I had during my college years.

Venkat Raman  51:27  

Oh that sounds great, but only thing I would say the focus that both your experiences were the first and last time. So I am just wondering why you didn't do it again. But that's another conversation. So excellent. This has been a fascinating and very detailed and we were too fat. I really, really appreciate you taking the time over the weekend or talk to me, and I'm sure we will talk some more in the future but for now, take care. Be safe. Thank you again.

Rifat  51:57  

Thank you, Venkat, and thank you for all the listeners. Thank you again, have a great rest of your weekend.

Venkat Raman  52:01  

You too.Bye. Bye

Rifat  52:02  

Alright, take care. Bye.


Venkat  52:09  [Close]

Hi again!

Hope you enjoyed our podcast with Rifat Mursalin about Emory University.

Rifat’s college experience is fast paced, with lots of experimentation.

He fell in love with microeconomics. He loved languages. He spent a summer abroad in Paris, France.

So he ended up majoring in Economics and French.

He immersed himself in a number of activities outside the classroom. Tutoring, Model UN, and social entrepreneurship.

After college he went to Malaysia on a Fulbright grant as an English Teacher.

I hope Rifat’s story serves as an inspiration, and encourages you to check out Emory University.

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!

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