HuffPost India Features Manvi Chaudhury ’21, of Uttar Pradesh, India

September 7, 2017
Wellesley student Manvi Chaudhury walks through her village in Uttar Pradesh, India

“I am excited about everything.” That’s what Manvi Chaudhury ’21 told HuffPost India when asked what she was most looking forward to about attending Wellesley this fall. She said that she could not choose a favorite thing—and with good reason. The 18-year-old is the first person from Dhanauri Mafi village in Uttar Pradesh, India, to attend college abroad. And Wellesley is providing her with full financial aid.

Chaudhury was interviewed at her house in the village outskirts, where she lives with her parents and three younger siblings. Dressed in a green “NYC” T-shirt, she was sitting on a traditional woven bed with extended family all around her.

“I chose Wellesley because it is so dedicated to women,” she told Daily Shot writers. “The school builds confidence in women, to empower them and make them ready for the world. I also appreciate the many opportunities Wellesley provides to help students grow and evolve as human beings.”

Chaudhury’s journey to Wellesley would not have been possible without hard work and perseverance. She said that while most of her friends completed their primary school education, many of them did not continue schooling in order to assist their families at home.

The 2011 census shows that female literacy in Uttar Pradesh is 59.26 percent, 19.98 percentage points lower than male literacy, the HuffPost reported. In the state’s villages, fewer than four out of every 10 girls are enrolled in school, and more than half of those drop out after 10th grade.

With the support of her parents, Chaudhury followed a different path. After coming home from the local government primary school, Chaudhury would practice that day’s work with her mother, Sunita Devi, who told HuffPost India, “I didn’t study much when I was her age but I wanted my daughter to get the best education. There are more opportunities for girls now.”

When Chaudhury was 10 years old, in the U.S. equivalent of fifth grade, her father filled out an application to a new, privately run school that sought to help gifted students from rural areas of Uttar Pradesh reach their potential. Chaudhury was among the 10 students chosen from her district of Amroha to attend the school in Bulandshahr.

Six months later, when Chaudhury returned home for her winter break, her mother remembers noticing a huge change in her daughter—her confidence had soared. From speaking a few words in English, she was soon communicating confidently in the language. She excelled not only in her academic work but also in sports, including basketball and handball. She was selected to be part of the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program five years later, in 2014; and that funded her study for a year in a public high school in Minneapolis.

Chaudhury told HuffPost India this was a big break.  She recalled that traveling to the USA opened up the world for her. It was that year, while visiting various college campuses, that she decided she wanted to study abroad. “Earlier, I’d dreamed of finishing high school and going to college somewhere,” she said. “But after that year I started dreaming of doing more.”

Before leaving India, Chaudhury had connected with some of her future Wellesley classmates on Facebook, and she knew that her roommate is from Indiana. Her classes began this week.

Planning to major in international relations and economics, Chaudhury said she hopes to be a diplomat with the United Nations some day. “I could not imagine any other college but Wellesley for my subject,” she told Daily Shot writers. “I’m interested in organizations that work internationally to empower women, the poor and downtrodden—to create a positive change in the lives of many people who need support.”