Leadership Journey – Prarthna Nanda, Acharya Narendra Dev College, University of Delhi

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Prarthna Nanda is a B.Sc. (Hons) Botany student of Acharya Narendra Dev College, University of Delhi, who has been continuously involved in beyond the classroom activities.

Here, Prarthna is sharing her experience being a Student Coordinator of Tark- The Debating Society of ANDC. Her hard work has the potential to propel her ahead of the curve.

Go ahead and know what her story has to offer so that you can easily find a path of self-growth. Young Influxers go ahead and upgrade yourself!!!

What was your role? Briefly list the responsibilities associated with it.

I was officially appointed the Student Coordinator of Tark when the session of 2019-20 began. Before that, I was the acting president. There’s a story associated with how Tark was only left with a handful of members at the beginning of session 2019-20 and how we had to start building it up all over again, which I will be talking about in the answers below. With only a few students left, each person had to do double the work they did before.

As the newly appointed Student Coordinator, I had to manage the FY Auditions with 200+ students participating. The auditions were conducted in three phases in a very short period of time and the core committee had to fully engage themselves in reaching out to the students, making posters, taking calls regarding queries, managing the registration funds all at once. The initial days were tiresome. We at Tark believe that everyone deserves a voice and it is our duty as the members of the DebSoc to teach the art of oration and creativity to our juniors. Hence workshops had to be conducted for beginners as well, along with all others who had previous experience.

Tark’s motto is to train its members to talk about anything at any given place, anytime without any hesitation. For this purpose, I had to arrange weekly/monthly workshops and training sessions. Tark also aims at creative learning hence in the session 2019-20, I introduced open mic, creative writing and games like Pictionary to the annual plan. Hopefully, this legacy will be carried further by the junior members of the society as soon as college begins.

What’s it like to juggle between leadership roles and academics? Pen down the challenges you faced.

I had a very active involvement in the co-curricular activities of my school and I also got a lot of opportunities there. But when I came to college, things were a bit different. Our college is almost a science college. Hence the stereotype that science students don’t take up co-curricular activities in their college years exists at a large scale still in the college. There’s less motivation for students to actively take up roles other than academics because no one around them does it. If you are a biology student, you can relate to this even more. I was the only person in my class to be a part of a proper society. For all three years, I was an outcast in the class. I was someone who was present in the college but never attended many classes.

It was hard to devote time to society knowing that I was missing out on my practicals and my attendance was getting affected on a daily basis. But the verve to not to be a frog in the well, to explore and make the most out of college life was higher. The motivation always came from my seniors and batchmates from other societies who were hustling hard and doing equally good at academics and ECAs. It was hard and at times I also had to face the wrath of my teachers for not handing in assignments at times. But long down in the memory lanes, if you think about those days of college, you would understand that college is a lot more than just academics and it’s all worth a few sacrifices.

Did you also get a chance to connect with any other activity while working on this post?

I don’t know if this should qualify but it feels immensely good to be the first President in all the years under whom our debating society got a chance to participate in Asia’s largest college fest, IIT Bombay’s MOOD INDIGO. I was the College Contingent Leader heading a contingency of 30+ people. It was a whole different experience for all of us to be on the campus with students coming from all over India. We made a lot of lifetime memories.

What are the top learnings, skills and values that you acquired here?

I had always been an active participant in the societies but not a leader. Debating society gave me an opportunity to experience what it is like to lead a team of equally talented people. A leader is not someone who can debate the best but someone who can organize and influence people, give them a direction, someone people would love to work with, not too stiff or unapproachable but not too gentle or gullible either. Being a position holder of society means you’ll have to do a lot of things at once be it active communication with your members, your audience, the sponsors. You have to stay vigil and manage big events and the last moment quick-fixes.

I had to learn time management, patience, a lot of it, to be calm in really stressful situations, to face fears while approaching even the unwelcoming people. A major thing I learnt was to listen. For a person who is really loquacious, staying quiet and observing the rest of the members fighting over a burning topic were a task. It is very important as a leader that you do not flaunt your superiority to other members of your team. They are equally talented people whose contribution matters as much as yours. At Tark, we always made sure everyone in the core team got an ample amount of scope and responsibility to contribute to society and also got the credit for their work. Tark helped me develop my overall work etiquette and skills. I am more prepared for life than I ever was.

Do you feel your current role fills you with pride and gratitude? Illustrate how the experience gained will help you going forward.

I have been associated with Tark since the first day of my college. For the first two years, I was just an active member of the society without having any clue that I would be elected President in my final year of college. I was in my second year and the academic session of 2018-19 was just about to be over when due to some unfortunate internal reasons, all the senior members of the society, some of my really good friends and very talented people who I loved working with agreed upon a mutual decision which was to leave the DebSoc. I was caught up in a dilemma as to who to stand with. But my connection with the debating society was beyond my friendships and the awards I had gotten. I had been there when the society built up as a strong one in Delhi University debating circuit and then fall down the very next moment. It broke my heart to see the only society I loved working with crumble down in a matter of days. At that point, I just couldn’t let it Tark’s chapter finish like that and decided to stay despite the circumstances. And today, I’m really happy I did.

Only a handful of senior members were left in the society and is among a prominent faces, I was elected president. With most of my coworkers now gone, it was really hard to start afresh. It almost felt like we were starting Tark all over again from scratch. I had to gather all the members left in the society, had to plan out the next academic year with my teacher coordinator, I had to manage funds, organize major events and do some other works I had never done before. Initially, we had to face a lot of backlashes. It was hard but with time it felt good to be the one people looked forward to. Every time I think of this story, it fills me up with some sense of pride as to how things worked out for me.

This is a story I would carry with me all my life. How suddenly an opportunity, a responsibility came up to me, what challenges I had to face and how I managed to bring Tark back to life with the help of my teacher coordinator and teammates. This episode of my life taught me bonding, true friendships, support, persistence and patience.

As when we talk about leadership we have a whole team with us. How do you persuade others to accept your ideas/ways?

Persuasion is an art. If you want someone to accept your ideas and ways, you’ll have to present your idea in front of them with intricate details along with the pros and cons of that idea. In that way, we let people scrutinize it their own way, reach a decision and respond back. This is a trick to let people think that somehow they too are a part of the idea you have proposed while the idea is entirely yours. Another way is to welcome minor suggestions and edits (which do not completely change the whole structure of your plan but add on to it). This again lets people think that they have contributed to the plan. No one wants to blindly follow orders while working in a team. Active involvement, discussions and debates should always be normalized by the societies. A leader must always be friendly and approachable in order to make other members voluntarily work for a common cause. Forcing your ideas on the entire team and not letting them talk about their concerns and issues will never let people be satisfied with your work methods.

What is your message to students, aspiring the same or a similar role to do?

I will keep this short. Push your limits, always keep an eye on the spontaneous, unexpected opportunities coming your way and try your hands at everything in the young years of life. These are perhaps the only chances you’ll get. Never be scared to face challenges, always hope for good and be open to ideas. Never be scared to voice your opinions and question everything that’s wrong. Your voice defines you.

How can we (Friends, Family, YI Fraternity) encourage young students such as yourself to engage with co-curricular or extra-curricular activities?

More often than not it’s the stories and struggles of ordinary people which motivate us, people to who we can relate to. Young Influx is doing a brilliant job at promoting this. A small push could lead to a big positive outcome for someone and if we through our stories are able to ignite passion into our juniors, we’d be the happiest.

A reform against the kind of education being imparted that indirectly suffocates students need to come into existence. The stereotype, mainly existing with the science background students that there’s no world outside their books needs to be completely erased from present-day India. As a student, one must acquire an overall character development to face challenges in the corporate world and in a wider aspect, the life ahead.

Anything else would you like to say to the YI learners who’ll be reading your experience?

Young Influx is a really unique platform giving opportunities to people like us who started from scratch and took a step forward, to share our hurdles and experiences with the brilliant upcoming minds. To all the people reading this, you guys are awesome. If you’re yet to achieve what you want, be patient. A chance might come your way off the cuff, just like it came to me. Always lookout for more. Stay alert, stay amazing!

We at Young Influx would take this opportunity to thank Prarthna for taking a leap of faith and sharing her impeccable story. We are humbled and grateful, your efforts mean a lot for the youth seeking growth and development.

And hello, dear readers, we welcome you to explore the platform with an open mind. Help yourself gain most out of the experiences and opportunities listed here.

And before you bid us adieu, we would like you to know that you can read more such student stories here.

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