The I Have a Dream program gave me the time and space to introspect and understand myself. The program not only helped me discover myself but also reminded me of my exchange experience in the U.S. A reminder of what I had forgotten, of things I had wanted to do upon return from the U.S., of dreams to bring change and leave an impact on my society. All these aspirations had faded with time and this program gave me the boost to rethink and realign my commitment towards these societal goals. Through various exercises conducted by the facilitators, I realized my weaknesses and fears, and above all awakened a certain strength in me. We were given a chart to write down what was blocking us from pursuing our dreams. That very act of writing it down on the chart paper made me realize my inner ability and inner self. The opening workshop gave me confidence and propelled me from thoughts into action. But later, other academic priorities and preparations for civil services took over and things came to a halt.

I am from the North-East and actively involved in the socio-political issues there, and want to start an NGO focusing on imparting education and awareness about the environment. I feel this strong connection with the environment and want to contribute towards it. This is perhaps also because my father works in the Forest Department. This program helped me understand that I can continue to do things that inspire me and balance them with conventional career plans that our parents may have for us. To talk about this NGO, my friends and I met Nabam Tuki, then the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh. He was encouraging and enthusiastic, and has asked us to come back whenever we are ready.

The facilitators were more like friends, who would listen carefully before giving any advice. Interacting with my mentor, Stuti Jalan, was inspiring as well. I enjoyed every minute with her and we interacted like peers. She shared stories about her personal journey, which was truly motivating. Stuti is an entrepreneur and started very young. She counseled and guided me beyond the plans my parents had for me, for whom a secure job comes first. While I had every intention to implement my idea, things did not go as planned. As of now, I have to concentrate on my final semester of my Master’s degree in English Literature. Before the program, being able to start an NGO was just a dream; this program gave me the courage to speak to my parents. Now, my father is with me and has offered help once he retires.

This dream hasn’t come to an end and I will continue to work towards it after my exams. I have reached out to my mentor in the past but don’t have much to tell her at the moment. She has asked me to call anytime, and I will, when something tangible happens. During the closing workshop, there were a few other NGOs organizing events at the venue where our program was hosted. At that time the facilitators told me if people there could build their startup NGOs, so can I. They asked me to reach out once I have selected the field-site for my NGO and told me that they will connect me with people. I am confident they will be there to back me whenever I plan to implement my dream.

Shanchui is currently in the final year of Master’s in English Literature. She participated in USG-sponsored Near-East and South Asia (NESA) Undergraduate Exchange Program in the 2010-11. She was mentored by Ms. Stuti Jalan through the USG-sponsored I Have a Dream leadership and mentoring program for International Exchange Alumni.

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