Lessons From Fulbright Experience

Hi everybody! With all that is happening in India right now - in terms of the covid situation - The Fulbright ZENERGY Podcast is taking a small break I would like to stand with those who are suffering in this pandemic and also be respectful to my guests who I often ask to share their respective episodes via social media at the time of release Today I simply will be posting an episode of myself speaking to graduating students on the key lessons I learned through engaging in the Fulbright Everybody take care - we will back soon - and if you would like to contribute to India’s covid efforts - am linking a place that people can donate to in my story. Thank you.


00:00 Karan Takhar:

Hi everyone, it's really good to be here. Thank you, Dr. Madara, for inviting me to speak. Dr. Madara actually wrote my recommendation to the Fulbright program, and without her, I would not have had the opportunity to engage in that incredible experience and yet today, I'm just going to talk more generally about like some of the learnings from my Fulbright, mostly in terms of like the skills that I was able to develop. I know a lot of people in this class are soon to be graduating, and I'm going to try and just make my talk more general so people can relate on some of the skills I learned and just to give you a little background on myself, I graduated from Wake in 2019, almost exactly two years ago and majored in finance and minored in economics at Wake and then for a year and a half directly after graduating I was in India on a Fulbright Scholarship, which is a State Department-sponsored program and as well as in India is researching renewable energy initiatives and exploring ways that the US and India can partner in this space essentially, what I ended up doing while I was there was creating in addition to like taking classes and writing some research papers, I created a podcast series which Doctor Madera just alluded to I interviewed the Indian ambassador to the US and I just released that episode like two or three weeks ago and he said this tweet which was really nice as them, but managed to connect and interview like some really knowledgeable figures in India and now also on the US side I'm including people like India's foreign secretary and then some leaders of their largest energy companies, some leading regulators, and overall it just came Together really well And how it came about is an interesting story, which I'm gonna share here because I feel like as you adapt into your early career. There are a lot of relevant lessons that I feel like can be passed along because they were passed to me before I engaged in this full bite so kind of just like the re-share what a lot of people who were older than me a lot of Wake alumni and passable by Charles shared with me so I'm doing my best to reiterate some of those clapping and so prior to embarking on the Fulbright, you head out in August and there's a whole summer on beforehand I read this book called The Zen of Fulbright, which essentially is a compilation of anecdotes from past Fulbright Scholars reflecting on their experience and there are very interesting takeaways, essentially, it's just a compilation of like hundreds of anecdotes where say like, someone like me who just returns from their Fulbright experience wants to pass on to someone who's just about to embark on their experience. So the 3K key takeaways that I found personally most relevant and which I think apply to people in their early careers who are adjusting from college to the early professions. Number one is It takes time to adjust there's no need to rush that process #2 is to make sure, at least from the full right angle, go in with a plan but also be adaptable. I think someone quoted Mike Tyson where he said everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face and very applicable to what happened during the Fulbright when COVID hit directly in the middle. But  I really like that coat ever knows the plan until they go punch, get punched in the face but still have the plan, and then the third is What I really think is probably the number one most important thing that helped me over this past year is work hard to meet new people and build Connections. Learn from people who have experienced, or people you respect, or just people you want to talk to you, and just learn from. So I'm just going to talk a little bit about how those three key takeaways kind of applied to my Fulbright experience, and the first being it takes time to adjust. So when you graduate from college and then enter the real world, that's a pretty big transition because college is very structured. You have like a group of friends. You have classes, degree requirements, all of that stuff pretty like planned out for you. But then, when you enter the real world, it's especially for the Fulbright, which is very independent Very flexible. You don't really have someone directing you throughout. It's more on the Fulbright are to like kind of to make the most out of their own experience There are a lot of anecdotes in these end of Fulbright of people who stated as soon as they landed in their host country, they just wanted to run full speed, finish their projects like get right into the work but then what ended up happening because their expectations were so high things that they didn't, they couldn't really account for. It would happen like in the host country, things often go slower than one would anticipate, like little things like setting up your bank account or on managing the bureaucracy of your university and across the board. This was a very common theme where people would recommend easing into it and not necessarily just feeling an exorbitant amount of pressure to get everything done right away, and personally, I think. That's true for, like, when you're transitioning into the real world just having that knowing for me like this is something that a lot of people experience. Where it might not go exactly how it's planned initially, which will be the second takeaway, but all that was helpful because it allowed me to take things slowly, and I might honestly have taken things too slowly. So the first, the first three months of the Fulbright, you pass language classes, and They evaluate you before you get there to see their level, and stormy is Hindi, and out of 11, that score did two going in, and the first three months after the classes were over, I scored a 3. So I was taking things a little too slowly. But I was also like getting acclimated to the new country as making a lot of friends, meeting people. I was enjoying the play and. I was able to get into a positive mindset, and I feel like had I not done it how I did and if I just put a lot of pressure like I really need to do also that Hindi, I mean, it was pretty intense, you would go to class for a few hours a day, so I feel like had I just put a lot of pressure on myself early on, it would have not enabled me to get to the place where I was able to be really productive on my research, and I think, reflecting back and my Hindi improved over the course because I was in a good mindset and strips codes like this first three months, I didn't necessarily improved that much with the fact that I was positive and happy and enjoying the place, and it really put me in a productive, So that was one key lesson. It takes time to adjust and then the second was make sure you go in with a plan but also be flexible to changes and be adaptable. I recently listened to A podcast episode with Tim Ferriss, who interviews a lot of like leaders in the business world, and also artists and people, and writers, and they were talking about how previously, like the number one metric to judge your intelligence or your success was IQ in intellectual quotient and then that slowly transitioned to EQ over time, and now what they're saying is they introduced a new concept called AQ called the adaptive quotient because the world is changing so quickly. The people who are able to adapt to the changes are the ones who are more likely to succeed over time, and for me, this was extremely relevant because. So I did go in with. I think this is important personally, is to have like a clear plan of the bigger picture and for me, what that was, was to understand the structure of the renewable energy landscape in India and essentially choose to learn about the different areas in the renewable and either long picture plan like what I wanted to accomplish by the time I left, and I additionally had a decent idea on how they get there, which included interning with different organizations in spending time with that for few months at a time, and What ended up happening, however, was. COVID hit in the middle of the Fulbright in March, and the State Department recommended people had best, or you could say they gave you the option. You could either stay in India, or they'll just pay the rest of your side and pay for your flight back, and I was pretty clear. I wanted to go back to the US with this, with this understanding decided to stay. However, two of my four internships which I had structured, they got canceled, but you couldn't really engage. India went on a 3-month lockdown, so everything became remote. My plan was essentially just shattered and what ended up happening was. I had to adapt, and essentially, I'll talk about the end result, how that came about. But had I not been able to adapt, I probably would have just, I wouldn't feel as good about how my project culminated as I do now and I think like just moving forward with all of the technology that's coming out and just the world, the way the world scaling, being able to adapt is going to be incredibly important. So that was, that was Watson #2. Going in and then. Lesson #3, which ultimately enabled my success. I think that without having had this like support I would not have been able to complete. My project is being open to meeting people and building connexion. So my number one learning from my Fulbright experience is that people love to share. They love to share with those who are interested in hearing what they have to share, like people who are very senior level in companies or people who are open to giving time out of their day, to sharing insights with  People who are curious and you reach out to them because Essentially what I've realized is in order for those people to have gotten to where they are today, they've had many mentors. They've had many people take time out of their day to show them or to share with them like what has helped them get to where they are and we're super lucky because today it's so easy for us to reach out To people and ask them for informational interviews especially, like via link. You pretty much have direct Communication channel to anyone and everyone, and bringing this back to my full byte experience. So there were two very key people who helped kind of facilitate my experience and. One was named UN in Cuba, and the other was Anjali Garg so on, and he worked at the largest. He led the strategy team at the largest renewable energy company in India, And then until a, she managed the IFC's lighting Asia India team, which is part of The World Bank Group. It's like their private investment arm, And the way I connected with them is super interesting. So with, one end the summer before because I read that book called the Xenophobe right, where they recommend just reaching out to past full biters and just talking to him and exploring like whether they can connect you to people in the host country before you get there. So I reached out to a few, And after talking to one, that person connect me to another person. The other person connect me to someone who worked in private equity and solar to directly worked with UN, and ultimately, he connected me to on and who went to the University of Maryland. I'm from Maryland, the DC area, And I met with him all like three weeks after arriving in India, and a super distant connexion. This is a fourth person I spoke with as we had very little in common, but he took the time he met with me for an hour of new to Delhi. What ended up happening was on and connected me to two of my like six months of the year that I was engaging in research directly came out of my relationship with a non-compete connecting me To this think tank. They offered me an internship, and then after COVID hit, Onion personally offered me an internship at his company of remote internship. But It's just incredible how that happened, and then, similar with Anjali to lead the ISP's Clean Energy team she I met, I was at a Thanksgiving dinner with which the embassy hosted, and I was just in line waiting to get Turkey, and then its older couple engaged in each task. What are you doing here and I started to talk to them, and then they're like, oh, that's super interesting work. You should connect with our friend Anjali, who's after sitting over there. So they walked me over to her, and I just started talking to her and just telling her about my work and what I would hope to accomplish and then we developed a relationship and so I conducted over my course off my interviews like I interviewed 40 people on in a podcast format. She connected me to the 1st ten people I interviewed. Once you get those first ten, it's not that hard to build on it because you just present to people who like to interview you. I've interviewed these people, And once you have something to show, just think about how crazy it is at thanksgiving dinner. I just was able to connect with someone like that, and it all comes down to, I think, just being an open to beating people and just reaching out, taking effort to reach out. We all have networks that we can tap into, I mean,  I reached out to so many wait for so long, and  I think that those are the three key learnings or lessons. One is Takes time to adjust. Don't feel too much pressure early on second was make sure to get on a plan but also be adaptable, and then the third recommendation I would have, which is personally helped me a lot, is just work hard to meet people and build Connexions and just reach out 'cause. You never know what will result out of it.

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