How was your first year as a fresher at IIT Delhi, and what was your first impression of BSW?
As a first-year student, one thing that was different between you guys and me is that I had an offline first year. The first point of contact, both online and offline, are the BSW Reps. I think the interaction with them not only forms your first impression of BSW but also of the college. Everything a fresher learns is from BSW Representatives at first. As we know, there is a rule that you can’t talk to anyone other than your mentor (also a part of BSW) and BSW Reps for a month, so I think my first impression of BSW was that these are the guys who really take care of first-year students. I think that impression has changed over the years, but as a fresher, every fresher believes that BSW is there for first-year students and that it is the board that caters for them.
How has your journey in BSW been till now?
I started in my second year as a BSW Representative of my hostel. BSW's tenure that year was the first online tenure. It was challenging but also exciting because no one knew what to expect. One major challenge we faced was the interaction part; I think the team bonding was very weak and didn't reach the levels that existed before in offline tenures. But I think we overcame that pretty well through regular meetings and team bonding activities; we regularly had ice-breaking sessions between the team at the start, which led us to become a really good team towards the end of the tenure. As a representative, as far as I can recall, I used to do a lot of BSW work. By the end, my rep-sheet was almost filled to the brim. I had to like add extra rows after that! And I think I had done so much work as a Rep that I got to know what BSW does well and was aware of all aspects of BSW and all types of mentorships; I really learned how the team functions at the backend, which is usually not known by the students, unless you are a part of BSW. That was one of the main reasons I got into the elections to become a secretary.
I think a secretary has a lot of leeways which a representative does not have. As a Rep, you can give ideas, but as a Secretary, your ideas are considered much more than a representative because you are part of the core team. And there are regular meetings each week wherein you can present and discuss your ideas with other members of the team. So, I think as a secretary, I was able to achieve so much more than I had done as a representative. A rep does the grunt work and gets to know what the team does, and a secretary makes that work happen. I think the four secretaries of BSW are what define the team. The Coordinators do their job, the GSec and DGSec do their work, but the secretaries are the ones who make it all happen. I think they are the most integral part of the team.
Coming to mentorship, a mentor's journey is unique on its own. They cater to five students who have just come to IIT and will undergo the same things as you two years back. It's a very special and unique experience; any student who becomes a mentor will enjoy it. It's been only two and a half months since I became DGSec, but I have discovered much about the board that a secretary does not know.
It's a very different experience as now you are working on the backend of this; you need to have meetings with profs and you are working with experienced individuals who know how things work. The student team changes every year, but the Deans remain the same for at least 2 years. I really look up to Prof Reetika Khera, the last ADSW. She has the experience that makes us believe that we achieve much more than we actually can. So this has been the complete journey as of now.
When did you decide to stand for the position of BSW Deputy General Secretary and what was your motivation behind it?
Again going back to my BSW journey, as a representative,, I worked a lot towards the academic mentorship initiative. I had some great ideas then about how to contribute or change somethings to better the initiative as it was the first time we were conducting it online. So I think that was my primary motivation for getting into mentorship and changing things. As a secretary I was assigned academic and alumni mentorship, and I was able to better things over there. As I said, a secretary has a lot of leeways, but some things can only happen if you are at the team's core. That was one of my main motivations for going for mentorship in my final year. I have worked across all the mentorship programs of the board. We have also been successful in partnering with the British Council for language mentorship services at IIT Delhi. One of the reasons was also that I had been a part of Mental Health initiatives for two years now, which I want to continue.
In what ways would BSW remain memorable to you? If possible, can you share any particular incident you are immediately reminded of?
Oh my god, there are so many! I think the trips that we had are surely one of those. In our first tenure, we were all at home. I had only met some of my fellow representatives, not all of them. So the first trip we had at the end of my first tenure was very memorable. Because these are people you have been seeing online for the past eight months and have never met them in real life, so that was a trip with a bunch of people who knew each other but had never really met each other. That was really exciting and a very memorable trip for me. If you ask another, I’ll perhaps go back to another BSW trip! They are fantastic in a different way altogether, difficult for me to put into words.
What things do you feel the BSW should improve upon or have been missing until now?
As I mentioned before, there is a lot of responsibility at the hands of a secretary in BSW. While we have four of them, a lot of things come down the ladder and fall upon secretaries. Often, the implementation of any new decision taken up falls upon the secretaries. I think that can really increase their workload sometimes, which we can perhaps reduce, in fact we are trying to do that. Then the team workload would distribute evenly among the secretaries and coordinators. Right now, we have four secretaries and four coordinators, each of the coordinators handles one of the mentorships, and a secretary assists them with that. So many times, the mentorship's logistical portion lands up on the secretary. I think that is something I tried to eliminate as a secretary itself; now, as a DGSec, I think I would be able to do that even better wherein we can involve the mentors and representatives directly in mentorship programs and give the secretaries a little room for going into the operations side better.
How close are you to your team? And how would you describe the efficiency of your team and BSW as a whole?
I think most of our tenure till now has been online. Even though I have a lot of experience with online tenures, having had two of them in the past two years; still in online tenures, what happens is you try to keep full team meetings,, and someone just doesn't show up or someone else has a random excuse and it's really difficult to have everyone on a call and so you can't meet everyone personally. Even if everyone introduces themselves, you don't really remember them. What makes people remember someone is when you have worked with them and interacted with them on a personal level. I think that is only possible when you interact with them offline. We've tried a lot in the past two years,, but believe me, to make that bonding among the team again, which was famous a couple of years back, when people used to say then, "Yaar, babloos ki toh alag hi team, alag hi family hoti hai"; is something which went a little missing in the online tenures.
This offline tenure has just started for the new team. It's been just two weeks, and we barely have had a full team meet. If you ask me now, I won't even be able to name all the representatives. It's such that I have been working so closely with the Dean and my mentorship coordinators that we have lost a bit of contact with the representatives. But I am sure that this will not be the case as soon as we start having offline full team meets and fun sessions.
Mental Health has been the buzzword in IITD, with BSW taking significant measures to ensure it gets due importance in yesteryears. How far have we tackled this issue after the implementation of SCS and YourDost? What initiatives have you planned for this year?
A student's first interaction with the Counselling Services is through a session wherein they come to the hostels and interact with all the students. One of the initiatives we have planned for this year is to have perhaps a more personal interaction between the counsellors and the students. Wherein the counsellor is not talking to a whole bunch of students but a small subsection of the students at a time. I think that will surely encourage a lot of students to open up with the counsellor. I think one of the issues I have now realized after interacting with the counsellors personally is that the counsellors have busy schedules. They are really busy many times of the day and many students are coming in for help from the counsellors, which is a great thing I must say. If you look at the numbers from YourDost, they have also been experiencing a surge. If we go by numbers, A lot of students are now opening up, and I think the publicity by the BSW team has played a big role in this. We have worked hard in the past few years and made this culture happen in the online semesters. Mental Health is now being talked about a lot more than it used to be previously. As you said yourself that it is very prevalent in IITD now, I think that is something we have been able to achieve. Talking about what we would do in future, one of the initiatives we started last year was the Student Support Team. We are looking forward to continuing that. We'll try to implement that as much as possible in offline mode so that the students can take benefit from that. And another thing I would like to add is that our mentors have been undergoing training for the past two years to be more prepared and knowledgeable about how to identify and approach such issues.
IITD will be welcoming Freshers in offline mode this time, after two batches having faced online mode before their on-campus onboarding. How different will it be for BSW this time with respect to ensuring a smooth welcoming of Freshers? Have you planned anything special in this regard?
This takes me back to my first year when BSW welcomed us. I think the orientation into IIT Delhi is a really important phase which also went missing in the online semesters. I'll briefly describe how the orientation goes about. So you come to IITD as a student and go to many rooms to complete many different formalities, but you will always find BSW reps there. They will take some notes, complete some formalities, and then hand out your mentor's letter. That is the level of interaction that happens with BSW at the very start of your stay at IITD. The orientation occurs in the morning, and by evening the BSW reps welcome them to the hostels and take them out for evening games on the very first or second day. So that is the actual icebreaker session, which the online students missed out on. And that is something which is really great we are looking forward to doing it this time over. When you go out with a whole bunch of students from so many hostels, all branches who have just come to IITD, who are just as clueless as you were sometime back, that is something really different. You make so many friends on the first day itself; I think it's great that we have BSW for the orientation process. We'll have those evening games sessions as soon as possible for this new batch of freshers because that is a special thing I remember from my first year!
BSW has also come up with this new initiative of Alumni Mentorship, where pre-final year students receive mentorship from alumni excelling in their field of interest already. Can you elaborate on Alumni mentorship and what initiatives have already been taken in this regard? What can we expect in future in this section?
So, it's not really a new initiative; it's been around for quite some time now. In Alumni mentorship, we plan to connect students (mostly prefinal year students) directly with alums. These students are looking forward to how they will go about their careers and really need advice. What usually happens is that people try to approach alums on LinkedIn, a common thing people at IIT Delhi do towards the start of their prefinal years. We plan to bridge that gap through this alumni mentorship and connect students directly with alums. But in the online tenure, that became a little difficult to do. So, alumni mentorship got divided into multiple things. Now we have so many things under the umbrella; we have an interview series with alumni called Alumniescence, where we have many alumni from various fields: UPSC Graduates, STEM industry, Consulting etc. That has helped students know how these people shaped their careers after IIT Delhi. What we have started now in offline tenure in Alumni mentorship is we have identified alums from multiple fields and have started connecting students with them. We've been allotting 5-6 students to each alum. They are really helpful, and from the feedback, we have received, it has been really beneficial for the students and the alums. Even they wanted to know what has happened to campus now and how students were going about online. We have started again in the past two months, and there is a lot of scope for improvement in alumni mentorship, is what I'd like to say.
The 2020 entry batch is seeing offline semesters for the first time, and hence most of them don’t know how to manage things, while they will now be mentors and are supposed to help juniors with this. How does BSW plan on tackling this?
For 2020 students, we’ve been trying to plan a special kind of mentor training this time wherein we are planning to train mentors much more than just the regular mentor training we had previously. I think 2020 students have started to become accustomed to the campus, but there are still many things they don’t know. So we are planning some things in our training to help them become aware of the campus issues so that they can help the incoming freshers.
Any final message to our audience?
I would say that these coming years will be really different for students who have not experienced offline life at campus. I think the students have become accustomed to just staying at home, staying at beds and doing class. You should take this opportunity to start attending classes in offline mode, because you can just learn so much more than in online. There are people who have been able to work well in online mode, but its just so much more chaotic in offline, so many things are happening which makes it really really exciting. I too have not experienced that much of an offline life, I have to admit. I think have spent 7-8 months on campus in first year. Take this time what you have seriously because literally time flies. It goes away so quickly. And I think that would be my final message, really enjoy yourselves at campus and just try to explore all what you can because there is so much to do!
Interview By: - Aditya Arya
Design By: - Prisha Jain, Shivam Jhanwar