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Edited by: Ananya Khandelwal

To have a Her Campus chapter at your university is a dream come true for people in international campuses. However, in campuses of a country like India, Her Campus is relatively unheard of. And to bring it here is surely a mammoth task.

Yet somehow, two undergraduate students, Aanchal Setia and Aqsa Pervez, here at Ashoka, could make it happen and could successfully make Her Campus Ashoka one of the most active forums on campus.

And here, in this article, is their story:

I: Hi guys! What prompted you guys to collaborate with HC Media to create HC Ashoka? Why didn’t you opt for writing for something like the Edict or Kalinga?

Aanchal: There was this workshop in Wellesley, where we had a friend called Becka and she really wanted this internship with Her Campus at their Boston Office and she was really excited about it. And during that time, she told me all about what Her Campus is, how inspiring it is and a lot of things about her Chapter in college. And at that time, I thought that I really wanted to bring something like this to Ashoka.

The funny thing was that we were meeting Stephanie (one of the three co-founders of Her Campus Media) after the workshop—a one-on-one—and Aqsa was just behind me. And we didn’t talk about pitching an idea for a Her Campus Ashoka. Then I pitched this idea to Stephanie and right after I did, Aqsa pitched it and then we realized, both of us can do it together.

Aqsa: We thought it would be a great addition to Ashoka because I think Her Campus in colleges abroad is about empowering women,, we wanted it to be a little more diverse and include not just women, but men also, since there are many issues to be addressed in India.

That’s why we thought it would be a good place for people to write about what they think, and it offered a greater flexibility in content in comparison to the Edict, the college newspaper. There have been many platforms that have come up since Her Campus’s inception in 2017, but at that time we didn’t have a lot of options.

I:  Was it difficult to kick-start this from the scratch?

Aanchal: When we talked to Stephanie, it felt like it would be really easy. But when we came back, there were a lot of rounds and that time we got a little scared as well, because we had these editing and content writing tests we had to undertake.

Aqsa: The process was long, and we thought that it’d be scarier, but honestly, they were really receptive and they really wanted someone to take the initiative to start a chapter in India. And I think we were at the right place at the right time to have had this opportunity, because a lot of my friends in other colleges in India don’t know about it, since Her Campus’s reach in India is not that much.

Aanchal: At the time when we were doing it, we thought, “Maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t happen.”

I: So you guys didn’t face any opposition from the admin here?

Aanchal: No, since this was going to be an international programme, everyone at Ashoka was very receptive. They wanted us to write about Ashoka and promote it on an international space.

Aqsa: Yes, they were very receptive about it!

I: What were the greatest hurdles you faced in your journey so far?

Aanchal: When I spoke to Katie, Her Campus Media’s Outreach Head at Wellesley, she told us there was just one article per week. And then the guidelines came, which stated that there would be six articles per week. On knowing that, we went, How would we get six articles per week? And we had never seen anyone at Ashoka come up with six articles per week.

So the first challenge, according to me, was to bring so many articles and motivate our teams to publish six articles per week.

Aqsa: I was very pleasantly surprised and very happy that people were motivated to write more articles. I really wanted to go to them and thank them personally, “Bhai, thank you so, so much!”. I was really, really happy.

Another hurdle that we had to conquer was ensuring member accountability and member satisfaction. I want now—at least, now that we’re leaving—a feedback mechanism to ensure that they are happy with what they are doing and they are trying to fulfil their requirements. I understand that it can be chaotic because there is so much flexibility in Ashoka, but I just want to make sure that there’s more of communication between the team.

Aanchal: To increase member motivation was a difficult task. So we came up with the internship certificates, which were pretty successful for the first year, but in the second year we couldn’t implement it due to member fluctuations—both at Ashoka and at the Her Campus Media.

I: What were your major successes throughout your journey at HC?

Aqsa: Something that comes to my mind is how our team expanded from 7 to 50 people in a span of 5 months. Getting 50 people at Ashoka is a big deal. We were really proud of it! By the time our first year ended, we were a silver level chapter—that is, we were at the top ten per cent of all the worldwide chapters!

We were so happy! It was so unexpected to get this offer and our team was so motivated and dedicated! We were really, really proud.

Aanchal: It was the first year and there was not even once that we weren’t able to deliver—for that, we want to thank the Content team personally. For me, that was a big deal.

We also had a lot of events: the Chaat sale was really good and the Pen Pal event in Spring ’18 was a success as well.

Aqsa: Our successes, majorly were because of our team—they were so motivated and inspiring. I’m just really happy and blessed that we had such a dedicated team.

I: Looking back, what has been your most memorable HC memory?

Aanchal: I think the party that we had at the end of the first year—we got a lot of food, good music and everyone spoke of the experiences that we had. It was more of how we formed a team with people we wouldn’t have met otherwise.

Aqsa: It was a wonderful evening, actually. I met so many people and that just made me feel so satisfied that I was able to create something like that and be a part of this amazing community of individuals. It was a great time. I am really nostalgic.

I: What have been your key learnings?

Aanchal: I think I’ve never ever headed a team this big and we learned a lot about it. Last year, I had a lot of friends in my team and now, we have so many different people. Creating a balance between friends and co-workers was a huge learning experience. Then the teams changed, a lot of dynamics also changed, so that was a huge learning experience. The entire experience taught me to manage teams and to be more solution-oriented. It was like Aqsa and I gelled really well. The best part was that we had two CC’s so, when one person was in a hyperactive mode, the other person could handle it well.

Aqsa: You need some kind of balance—with a team as huge as this, you need two people to handle that.

Aanchal: And we had a good cop-bad cop thing. (Laughs), When I felt like I’d said a lot, I’d tell her, you should enter and then when she thought she’d said a lot, she’d go, and now you should enter!

Aqsa: (Laughs) I was a bit more professional and I’d ask, “Guys, why isn’t it happening?”

Aanchal: It was a good balance—you can have the other person to deal with things when you were busy.

Aqsa: It was a lot of work to juggle, with deadlines and everything. That way, having two CCs really helps.

Aanchal: We had an option to have one CC, but then we decided to have two, because we pitched it together and we decided to collaborate. This year, we have two CCs again.

Aqsa: I completely agree with her. With such a big team, you have a lot of communication gaps sometimes that keeping up with deadlines becomes hard. How to praise people, how to ensure that all the deadlines are met are very valuable skills you need when you work for a corporate or go to grad school.

I: Do you guys plan to enter into journalism?

Aqsa: I never thought that I wanted to go into journalism. I have always been bent on Eco-Finance, so I’m going to go ahead with that.

Aanchal: Yeah, me too. I wanted to do social psychology and I still want to do that. But journalism was never the reason why we started it. It was more of an opportunity to experience new things, meet new people and bring international chapters to Ashoka.

I: How was the experience of collaborating with international chapters?

Aanchal: We collaborated with two last year and one this year. A lot of exchange goes on and now we have a team for it—we don’t do it actively now, they do it. Initially we used to do it via the Campus Correspondents’ Facebook page, now we have a dedicated team.

Now, we’ve thought of concrete collaborations such as the Pen-Pal and the Social Media Swap. We thought of sending stuff to another chapter, but that’s really expensive.

Aqsa: It’s like the Buzzfeed exchange, but there are a lot of charges. The challenge of collaborating with international chapters is to manage the time zones, and there are a restricted set of things you can do. Still, it has been really great. The Harvard exchange was really great, because after all, it’s Harvard!

Aanchal: We hope now that we get a lot more international collaborations.

Aqsa: It has a lot of potential and we’re definitely getting there because the team is super motivated.

I: Now, I’ll move onto my last question: What is your message for all the succeeding CCs and the new members of Her Campus Ashoka?

Aanchal: (Introspectively) That’s a difficult question.

Aqsa: I basically just want them to know why I started it. I’m very thankful that the members chose to be a part of this. I’m just really emotional right now since I’m not only leaving HC, I’m also leaving Ashoka! I just want them to know that I’m really thankful and I really appreciate them.

To the incoming members, I hope you enjoy your time at HC. Write about what you want to write. Let yourself be heard. It is also a great platform for you to meet new people from different cohorts who will definitely introduce you to new perspectives and experiences. To the CC’s – I really hope you enjoy the HC experience. If you have taken up the responsibility, it is going to be tough at times. But it’s gonna help you learn a lot of things. It has helped me develop patience, empathy and ensuring that everyone is comfortable in their teams. I’m sure that the current CCs can do it because they are amazing women. Be patient, be empathetic and have a lot of fun.

Aanchal: For me, when we first started the WhatsApp club, I wanted it to be the Her Campus Family. I wanted it to be an interactive club – where people get to know each other and write about what they love. Her Campus abroad is more about women empowerment. We wanted to bring out a lot more other things in Ashoka. And that’s why we’ve told our authors to not to worry about censorship. We told them we’ll deal with it. Write whatever you want, that’s our motto.

With other teams, it’s like, just have fun and get to meet a lot of people and stay in touch, not like other clubs where you’re just a part of it and you don’t actively interact with a lot of people. I want to keep continuing that.

As for members, we had super motivated, amazing members. As CC’s, you always want to implement new things and that can be only done if the members and the heads are motivated.

For the new CCs, always have a clear vision with the members. Don’t have a hierarchical structure. Always have ideas pitched together and create ideas together and have a collaborative process.

And the new members should always approach the CCs if they have anything to say, whenever they want.

Aqsa: Just ensure that there’s no disconnect. Stay connected and collaborative.

Aanchal: And have a lot of parties at the end of the year!

Aqsa:  Yeah! Team bonding is important!

***

With their sheer optimism, indomitable will and empathy to create a strong and supportive system for the club, Aanchal and Aqsa have proven to be excellent leaders who have made a newly founded chapter to be one of the most successful ones across the world. In a span of two years, both of them, with their Ashokan spirit, have expanded this little club of seven to a wide, popular group of strong, creative individuals with a deep bond.

Their collaborative leadership is what we all should aspire to inculcate in our lives and I hope their spirit lives on in the teams to come!

Chitra Nair

Ashoka '19

You know that cheery little harpy who's bouncing along with a big fat book in her hands and talking super loudly? Well, that's me.
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