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The Indian researcher who won a full scholarship to study climate change in the UK

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Akansha Mary Balmuchu's greatest inspiration were the working women in her family. Source: Sajjad Hussain/AFP

Akansha Mary Balmuchu is on her way to study climate change in the UK.

Recently, six tribal students were selected by the Jharkhand government for the Marang Gomke Japail Singh Munda Scholarship Scheme to go study in the UK and Ireland. This scholarship offers its awardees complete coverage of tuition fees along with living and other expenses. 

Balmuchu, who belongs to the Ho tribe, is one of the six recipients. She will pursue a master’s in climate change, science and management at Loughborough University.

Below we speak to her about her passion for science, why she chose to study climate change and what it means for her to land this Jharkhand scholarship:

Can you share the backstory on why you choose to study climate change?

I remember growing up reading Marvel books and Dr. Strange was something that truly intrigued me. I walked up to my dad and told him I wanted to study biology. 

I took biology during high school but never expected to end up studying engineering or becoming a doctor. Biotechnology was an emerging field and this attracted me. 

Up till the last day of my undergraduate studies, I wasn’t sure where this interest would take me. Gradually, the scopes and streams broadened for me and so did my career. 

Walk us through your previous job role. 

I worked as a research associate at India and Bharat Together (IABT), an applied research nonprofit working on rural youth livelihoods in the Indian Himalayas. There, I was closely involved in a policy research project documenting the proceedings of a summit on youth and sustainable development issues. 

This included health, climate change and livelihoods hosted by the Integrated Mountain Initiative, as well as identifying emerging inputs for policy. The culminating report was launched in July this year and was an important milestone in IABT’s journey towards creating policy change.

Additionally, I also took the initiative to begin my own personal project developing a toolkit on gender and sexual health. This was to provide IABT with the best practices to address any sexual and reproductive health concerns of the young people we work with. 

I’m also connected with our partner organisation who work on menstrual health in rural regions.

Tell us more about the scholarship you won and what made you apply in the first place.

Biotechnology can play a role in treatment but not in prevention. It would probably be restricted to rich communities because it’s a costly treatment. 

I do have the knowledge of how this field can be helpful in addressing climate change issues. Yet, I wanted to learn more about formulating the various data and tools used for environmental management, sustainable development and so on. 

Can you walk us through the application process for this Jharkhand Scholarship?

I sought help from my friends and seniors during the process — people in the UK and around me. I got into a few unis which included Loughborough and even though I applied for scholarships, I only got 50% of the fees covered. 

One day, a cousin passed on this advertisement and I decided to apply without much hope of success. This Jharkhand scholarship (a government one) can be stressful at times with a lesser chance of success. 

Fortunately, this wasn’t the case and it appeared to be a blessing.

What does this scholarship cover and how does it help you study climate change?

This Jharkhand scholarship covers both my tuition and living expenses so it’s been a huge help for me. 

What was the hardest and easiest part of the process?

The hardest was to keep patient as it was a very last-minute thing. The easiest part was the supportive staff of both the uni and the scholarship team department.

How did you overcome the obstacles?

Just a little bit more patience, faith, and a lot of encouragement from the staff. 

What would you advise prospective applicants on how to manage finances abroad?

With COVID-19 and Brexit, the prices have indeed risen so I suggest checking out the accommodation and journey fees very carefully. Plan ahead.

 

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What advice do you have for future applicants of the Jharkhand Scholarship?

It will be a tough ride to secure a place at uni and even tougher to prove that you are really deserving of it. People will always be intrigued to know what makes you stand. 

Also, when you submit any form of assignment, it will be seen on a global level so you must develop and polish yourself daily. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes as it will be treated as an opportunity for a new idea.