Taking a chance

Born and raised in Mumbai, Antariksh Sharma’23 was in his last year of high school when he was presented with two starkly different options: join the Indian Merchant Navy and travel the world aboard a commercial ship or move to the United States to study at Beloit College. He chose Beloit and hasn’t looked back.

Antariksh Sharma?23 in the Marjorie and James Sanger Center for the Sciences. Antariksh first heard about the college in a WhatsApp group chat. Beloit College was listed at the top of a Next Genius Scholarship Program brochure that promised full-tuition and partial-tuition scholarships to 10 colleges.

Established in 2014, the Next Genius Scholarship Program identifies outstanding Indian students and connects them to universities in the United States. Antariksh competed over a day with hundreds of other students from across India in activities and debates. The winners would be announced the next morning.

“I remember the day, a Sunday. My math prelims were on Monday. Another guy in the interview rounds was quite vocal and eloquent. I thought he would win,” says Antariksh. “Instead, I won. That’s where it all started.” With a full-tuition scholarship, Antariksh joined Beloit’s third cohort of Next Genius fellows.

“I didn’t want to look back at this moment and think about why I didn’t take this chance [to study abroad in the United States],” he says.

Antariksh Sharma?23 poses in Moore Lounge, Pearsons Hall prior to the Diwali celebration. Antariksh Sharma’23 poses in Moore Lounge, Pearsons Hall prior to the Diwali celebration.Antariksh is naturally inquisitive, and what he loves most about Beloit College is the space to ask questions in and out of the classroom and to talk frankly to his professors. He enjoys taking courses in a wide range of departments and learning about different ways of thinking and living. Antariksh says he is glad he took “religion and reality,” a 100-level course offered by religious studies professor Sonya Maria Johnson. “Even though it’s not really related to my majors (computer science and political science), I’m really glad I took it. I used to be cynical about religion and I would invalidate it. After taking the class, I understand the support system it creates and how it can help people.” He says that taking the class also helped him become a better writer.

Antariksh says that it’s always exciting to see Professor Johnson, who occasionally leads evening yoga classes at the Logan Museum of Anthropology. “If she sees me, she approaches me and I love that. There isn’t a power imbalance with her. I can be very candid and transparent.”

Antariksh says life at the height of the pandemic “was horrible.” He spent his entire sophomore year in India. He attended online classes and even though his professors were accommodating, he had to stay awake well into the night. “It was also hard to stay in touch with people,” he says.

Antariksh Sharma?23 celebrating Diwali with students on campus. Antariksh Sharma’23 celebrating Diwali with students on campus.Now a junior, Antariksh finds life at Beloit just as dynamic. People have been eager to reconnect after being away for so long. Since returning to campus, he has organized events with student funding such as a viewing of the recent India-Pakistan cricket World Cup match and a student celebration for Diwali, the Indian festival of lights.

Antariksh says that the size of the campus allows for a sense of familiarity. “It’s easy to make friends, to come together with my peers at club meetings, and to envision the kind of life we want to live together at Beloit.” He is involved in the International Club (I-Club), the Black Student Union (BSU), and the Spanish Club. And as the newly elected Beloit Student Government (BSG) Co-President, he wants to highlight student concerns to the administration.

Along with his academic and social successes, Antariksh has been planning and executing solo projects through his different work positions on campus. At this year’s Beloit & Beyond Conference, with the help of the staff at Career Works, Antariksh organized an “escape room” event. Students had to look for clues by solving puzzles that helped build their professional skills. He also really enjoys working at the boathouse and at the Powerhouse. Antariksh is also a Resident Assistant in an upper-class dorm.

About to enter his senior year of college, Antariksh wants to translate his experiences at Beloit into a career in data ethics. “I want to find ways to regulate how our data is being exploited.”

Rajvi Thakkar’21
December 22, 2021

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