20-year-old engineering student from Kerala becomes inspiration for other girls


By Express News Service

MALAPPURAM: As a child, Reema Shaji always told her relatives that her dream was to study in the United States. The responses were almost uniform — “get married and go abroad with your husband’s help.” The Tirur native, however, was not one to conform to society’s expectations of her.

“My first goal is to become an independent woman,” says the 20-year-old, who is all set to fly to the US to attend the fifth semester of her computer science engineering course at the McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana, next January.

A student at the Kuttipuram MES College of Engineering, Reema is one of only five students from India to be selected for the US’ Global Undergraduate (UGRAD) Exchange Program, a substantive exchange programme aimed at providing “a diverse group of emerging student leaders with a scholarship for one semester at a US college or university.”

Under the programme, students will be provided with a free round trip from their home city to the US host college or university. 

The costs of tuition, housing and meals will be covered under the scholarship, in addition to which she will receive a small stipend to meet living expenses in the US during the period of the programme. Reema had applied for the scholarship last January and was selected on November 9 after several procedures including the TOEFL exam and an interview.

“When the interviewer asked why they should select me, I told them I will be an inspiration for other girls like me to chase their dreams. When I return from the US, I will also pass on the knowledge I acquired there to the students in my country,” she says.

Her relatives are now proud of her achievement. “They have realised that I don’t have to rely on a husband to go abroad,” she says. “After my father passed away, it was my mother Jousiya Shaji who looked after me and my sister Tasnim Shaji. My mother is my biggest inspiration to acquire education and stay independent. I only seek her advice.”

Reema, who is expected to return home by June next year, stresses that students even from economically backward families should try to earn a suitable foreign scholarship and study abroad.

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