Swathi Meenakshi, hailing from Chennai, is the only girl to have won $10,000 TOEFL scholarship this year. With a BE from Guindy College of Engineering, Swathi is all set to pursue her Master's at McGill University in her dream country Canada. Being a passionate writer, she has already planned to continue her writing by working with the university's campus newspapers. In line with her interest in the environment, she is currently an intern at the Environment and Development Desk of the Central Tibetan Administration in Exile at Dharamshala, India. In a tête-à-tête with Shipra Goel, she shares how she bagged this scholarship even after a nervous interview. Q: How has getting a scholarship helped you? A: It has taken the load off! I can now focus on research and not funding, right away. Q: Why did you choose McGill University in Canada? A: I have been to McGill during my BTech internship and I am not apprehensive of the facilities there. In fact, after that I had decided that if I ever apply for post graduation then it’ll be Canada. I have seen the sort of research they do and I liked the environment. At McGill, the lab that I would be in and my research supervisor perfectly fit in my area of study. Two decades ago a company called Infolytica Corporation was created out of this lab called, and my supervisor is a co-founder of that company. So there is going to be a lot of industrial and academic activities with no gaps between the two. Q: Tell us about the application process for the TOEFL scholarship. A: We had to write one essay and some short answer questions. The word limit for all answers is between 75 to 600 words. I was confident about the content in my application, and had taken more than a month’s time to write each and every word. I had no doubts about anything and was ready to answer any question from my application. Q: How was your interview? A: I was very nervous during the interview, even though it was based on whatever I had mentioned in the application form, it was on Skype. Whole thing is lost as neither have you seen the person nor you know their body language. But the interviewers made me feel at ease first and then went to whatever questions they wanted to ask. At the end of it, I didn’t have a great feeling that I have done enough. Q: TOEFL is all about English language. What should a student take care of while writing the test? A: TOEFL test is a test of English plus patience. So if you are mindful of the time and know which section to end at what point, it is easy. It’s quite possible that you sleep through the test as it is so long and about a language with which you are so well accustomed with. So you need to just keep your eyes open and stay clear on what’s happening, then I think that’s about it.
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