We had an amazing privilege of interviewing Sruti Sarathy,
an alum of top private university, Stanford University in California
a violinist, singer, and composer
Sruti shared some advice on: College Life
Here are some of her wise words:
"Your life is not solely dictated by external obligations and values--you decide what is important for yourself, and you find a way to give attention to that, even while other things are going on in your life."
"It’s so important to cultivate personal interests and keep learning on your own."
Q: What clubs/activities were you involved in in college? (fraternities, tutoring, fellows, etc.)
A: In college, I was active as a member and financial officer for Spicmacay Stanford (organization that promotes awareness of Indian classical arts, hosts concert and classes). I volunteered as a tutor with a local chapter of the Boys and Girls club once a week during my sophomore-junior years. I was not officially part of any club related to this, but I was active within my French department (I was a French major) and the larger Division of Literature, Cultures and Languages. I was a research assistant for a French professor throughout my time at Stanford, and I was active in some of the social activities related to the French department and French classes.
Q: How did you find programs to participate in in college?
A: Mostly through my department and my interests--largely music and languages.
Q: Were you aware of these programs before going to college?
A: No--only after starting college and understanding how departments work, etc. did I begin to see what opportunities there were for me to join clubs, etc. It took some getting used to throughout my four years.
Q: What would be one piece of advice you would give to anyone pursuing their extracurricular intensively as/ part of their future career?
A: It’s so important to cultivate personal interests and keep learning on your own. College is a very small part of life. Once it’s over, the responsibility to keep learning and growing becomes yours. It was helpful for me in college to study things I was genuinely interested in, outside of the concern of grades or future career--because I have found that those are the things I’ve kept up with post-graduation.
Keeping up with meaningful extracurriculars is also empowering in that it is a way to affirm to yourself that your life is not solely dictated by external obligations and values--you decide what is important for yourself, and you find a way to give attention to that, even while other things are going on in your life.
Q: Everyone always has an efficient study routine for them (helps them finish things faster, get high grades with less stress etc.) what would you describe yours to be?
A: I like to take notes by hand. I was good at studying in high school. I wish I had studied in a more organized way in college. One thing that took me a long time to learn in college is to ask for help. I didn’t have to do much of this in high school. So when things got challenging in college, I found I didn’t know how to study when the subject was really hard for me. So I’d tell people: make it a habit to go to office hours, to have homework buddies, to get started early on assignments. Don’t be afraid to ask TAs and professors for help. These are the things I wish I had done more of in college.
Q: How did you spend your productive summers? Weekends?
A: I spent summers doing more music, and also research projects at the intersection of academics and music. I also used summers to spend time with family and close friends.
Q: You are very well-known as a versatile artist, both on the violin and vocally; van you explain what carnatic violin is and what it means to you?
A: The Carnatic violin is the Western instrument which has been adapted in terms of technique, playing style, and instrument set-up to suit Indian classical music. For me, my violin is a companion. As I get to know it better and it gets to know me better, over time we learn how to work with each other, understand each other deeply, think through each other.
Q: Not many people in the US do carnatic violin as one would say to the level of sports. How did you stay motivated to continue despite your surroundings and achieve such a high level?
A: It’s helpful to have a supportive family. My parents have always been encouraging of not following a conventional path, if that’s what I want. They offer me every possible support.
Q: What would you say played a bigger role in your success? The environment or self-motivation?
A: I definitely had a very nurturing environment. Definitely early on it was the environment more than self-motivation that drove me. Now that environment is sort of within me, having been doing this for so long….
Want to learn more about Sruti and her music? Check out her website here.