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Student Spotlight: Arav Vashisht

This year, grade 11 student Arav Vashisht joined AIS and is the epitome of an international student. He was born in India, but by the age of 7, he was swimming at state-level competitions in Dubai’s 40ºC summers, and by the age of 9, he witnessed Moscow’s Red Square turn white in its -10ºC winters. At the age of 11, Arav returned back to India and transitioned from international schools to boarding schools where he learned to be independent. At 13 Arav transferred to private schools in Bangalore where he created “Gesture Talk” a glove designed to help the mute community communicate to the rest of the world and delivered three TEDx talks: “Finding the Passion Within,” “Thrill from Adventure Sports,” and ““How Movie Makers Merge their Reality with Ours.” The reality of this seemingly glamorous life of an expatriate sunk in when oceans separated him from his friends or even family during moments of celebration or isolation. But throughout all these experiences, Arav learned not to take anything for granted and that persevering through adversity leads to success. This notion became the foundation for the book he wrote, Take the Wheel; Drive Your Passion, which he published at the age of 15.

“Everyone has the potential to do something great; they just need a catalyst.”

In Take the Wheel; Drive Your Passion, Arav combines context, interview, and reflection about a diverse group of 14 professionals from medical doctors to actors and nuclear physicists to judges all with a common connection: they achieved success despite obstacles through following their own passions. In his first chapter, Arav tells the story of Dr. Koppillil Radhakrishnan who despite being born from a poor village became the Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization between November 2009 and December 2014 which led the Indian mission to Mars. Similarly, Dr. Shivana Gowda H Patil, who he interviewed in chapter 3, lost an eye when a shard of glass fell in it as he was sleeping, yet with that loss of vision still became one of the most well-renowned nuclear scientists in India. From these stories, Arav learned that, everyone has the potential to do something great; they just need a catalyst.”

Arav’s catalyst and inspiration for writing this book beyond the people he interviewed was his mother who advised him early on, If you aren’t creating knowledge, you should at least know how to distribute it.” And Arav did just that: he articulated that this book isn’t about sharing an original thesis but rather synthesizing the wealth of wisdom from the people he met. In fact, an important part of writing this text was ensuring that he chose people from a wide range of disciplines. Much of his process was trial and error, asking questions and interviewing only to realize that there were follow-up questions he wanted to ask that he missed the chance to, and thus revised them before speaking to new people. He drafted and revised in multiple iterations and worked with an editor for feedback. This was done with a clear target audience in mind: teenagers, the very group of people whose passions are malleable. 

“Go where your heart takes you, not just where your family tells you. Let your passions guide you.”

Through this process, Arav learned to “go where your heart takes you, not just where your family tells you. Let your passions guide you.” Though too humble to admit, Arav followed in the footsteps of those he has interviewed by taking the wheel and driving his own passions.

Mr. Josefino Rivera (@josefinor) has over 10 years of experience in international school settings. Originally from the Philippines, Josefino grew up in California and received his BA in English at the University of California, Santa Barbara and MA in Education at Stanford University. He taught high school English Language and Literature for 13 years in 6 different countries and has organized 7 TEDxYouth events. Currently he is the Learning Activator serving students and faculty from EC-12.