Author, who is son of a farmer, shares his story of struggle and success.
“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.”
By Asif Ali
Every one of us has a story to tell, a story to hide and a story to publish. I am here to fulfill the later part of the above statement. My parents kept my name Asif, an Arabic word that means forgiveness, kindness, and strong too. My friends and colleagues have confirmed the effects of my name on my personality. And why would it not be? I am a son of the farmer who spends most of his time in the fields, working hard and teaching me the lessons of brevity, courage, and struggles. Mitho Bhoot (Khoski), a village in Badin, a district in the south-eastern part of Sindh province is my birthplace where I spent my childhood and got early education.
Education was merely a name in the area I grew-up. As usual for a boy born in the least developed area, I helped my father in cultivating lands from the beginning but also kept on my education. And the time came when my father, a person with strong character, compassionate, diligent, and ambitious for his son (me) realized that I wasn’t born for working in the fields like him for life. I could see the desire in his eyes of making me an educated and successful person despite of not having the same privilege for himself.
He called me a day and said, “My son, you are not born for this work. Now you have to study with full focus.” These words motivated me a lot and I was admitted in a private school for middle education. Although it was quite hard to support my education in private schools, but my father would sell the milk, my sister would save the money from her earnings as ladies tailor in the village, just to fund my education and make my dreams come true.
I can remember even today, the number of times I was not allowed to sit in the class for not having the school fee. But I continued, didn’t lose hope, never thought to quit, and crossed the line of matriculation. And now it was time to enter HSC education and prepare for entrance test exam for university admission. It is quite hard to prepare by yourself if you haven’t been to coaching centers and private college during intermediate as the situation in government colleges is known to everyone. The situation in this part was not much different from the previous one – But God has always been sending angles in the face of humans who always supported me apart from family. I must recognize my cousin who supported me during these days of difficulties. He was the one who funded my intermediate education and allowed me to move on for higher education after clearing the entry test exams of Mehran University of Engineering and Technology Jamshoro.
Let us begin with the second part of the story, I got admission in Mehran UET on merit basis and paid the fee by selling our cattle and adding some part from savings. It was the time to prove myself as a hard-working student, because getting into the engineering university from a village is a big achievement. I got telecommunication engineering technology and a department with beautiful building with wonderful views. But for me, starting with computers and programming in the first semester was a nightmare. And why would it not be for a boy coming from villages with no access to computer and have never ever seen or even heard about programming language. Not only for me, but for majority of the class it was very difficult to understand what was being taught. I could recall a friend who couldn’t find the curly braces on keyboard during initial days. Yes! It was that funny and difficult at the same time. But we had no option without the hard work and that too was my goal as well. Hence, with the guidance and support from friends I cleared the first semester. I was always with good with mathematics and calculations and that has never taunted me, so I did very well in all other subjects.
University is a different environment, you got to meet with new people coming from every corner of province and make new friends and create memories. I got into the electronic circuits which fascinated me always and I wouldn’t stop working in the labs for even after the official timing and at some point, it became my hobby as well – That was amazing, as you dig-into the circuits and make connections and debug problems and so on. But the real game of research started for me during 6th semester, when I was assigned a task by Sir Hyder Mangrio to review the papers and write a literature on the topic of interest. I can call it the beginning of interest in research and a goal of pursuing a research career.
Moving on, I worked on antenna as research project in the final year of our degree under supervision of Dr. Sajjad Ali Memon. Dr. Sajjad is my research mentor, a guide and such a great person. He has taught me about reading a research paper, extracting the needed information and problem formulation, and writing a good research paper. I had published three research papers under his guidance including the research from our undergrad thesis. The undergraduate journey was beautiful as I met some amazing friends who became the great companions for life. But at the same time, the financial crisis has always been a part of my education journey. I would say, it became even more difficult to live at hostel away from the home and pay high fees of university. Although, I used to get merit scholarship once a year but that was equal to monthly expense. But as they say, the best thing about time is that it never stops. So, it passed, and I was more motivated to move ahead with my education.
In 2018, I got admission in my M.E degree at MUET. In the start of 2nd semester, I applied in Erasmus semester exchange program at University of Malaga Spain. I was in the waiting list but was not selected for it.
That rejection taught me lot of things and I improved my profile. In the end of 2nd semester, I applied for the Erasmus semester exchange program at University of Politecnico de-Milano Italy. I got interview call and cleared the interview. I spent one semester at world’s top 50th ranked university and performed my master research work. I got good exposure during my stay in Milan and made an international many friends and worked with international researchers and professors.
I am very thankful to Dr. Kapal Dev Langhani and Professor Maurizio Magarini as they helped me a lot during my Erasmus exchange stay in Milan. I produced one research paper from my master thesis and published in a reputable journal, also completed my master’s degree with decent CGPA.
Winning a very prestigious and dream scholarship is not easy. It needs some courage, consistency, commitments, hard work and dedication to fulfil the demand of that scholarship – On the other hand, to face the rejections and to handle the situation after being rejected. Multiple rejections hurt and divert you from your goals. It is very difficult to move on in that situation and tackle the pressure of failure. We always criticize on failures and do not give them space and courage to get rid from it. But this is the truth that without failure we cannot achieve the desired goals in our life. Failure is the training towards the success. Failure is the part of struggle and after failure if someone gains a success it becomes an experience.
In the end of my master’s degree, I applied for some the scholarships but did not get any response for the full scholarship. Then I decided to complete my master’s degree first and then I applied for PhD scholarships. I applied in more than 10 scholarships where 6 were the Marie Curie Scholarship. From three of them I got the response and was selected in one of them. Initially when I was not getting any response then I sent my profile and motivation to my mentor, he reviewed and did some comments and gave the suggestions. I worked accordingly and improved my profile. I did many revisions before I want to submit my application for the scholarship, this way improved lot of things and polished my skills.
At the end of my story, I give you a suggestion to select one mentor who is currently having the same scholarship, follow his guidance. Within six months you will win a scholarship. In my case I just followed my best friend’s guidance, he suggested to do not go for every scholarship, just target few selected and give them proper time, make suitable application through your hard work, commitments and give your full energy to it, hopefully you will grab it. Allah helps those who have strong belief along with continuous hard work.
Asif Ali is PhD (Marie Curie scholarship) – Electronic Engineering – University of Politecnico de-Catalunya Spain. He has done M.E (PM Scheme, Erasmus semester Exchange (research)) – Telecommunication engineering and management – MUET, Sindh Pakistan and University of Politecnico de-Milano, Italy, and B.E in Telecommunication Engineering, MUET, Sindh, Pakistan.
Courtesy: Humans of Scholarship Network