Vanderbilt University - Extracurricular Essay

Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences.


The pothole-filled roads after a point were too narrow for my cab but just wide enough for me and a few other pedestrians. Laptop bag in tow, I reached the unplastered structure housing the underserved school. I had spent weeks preparing to train eight of their girl students for the Technovation Challenge—a competition that had triggered my tech journey.

Inside the dimly-lit computer lab, I was welcomed by one dusty desktop, a red plastic chair, and three teenage girls. The other five had opted out. I shrugged off both my disappointment and my shoes, making myself comfortable with them on the floor.

Within the first fifteen minutes, I learnt of their names, backgrounds and inexperience with smartphones. My frustration mounted: I was trying to teach mobile app development to girls who had never used a mobile phone, let alone an app. My presentations and handouts were irrelevant. Post the third session, I met their parents, mostly construction workers and rickshaw drivers. “Akka, will this competition get Parvathy a job?” her father’s question stumped me. I realised that the parents couldn’t relate to the competition. I could see my dream of helping the girls win the competition come crashing down.

With this team and every...

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