Khushboo Shah (Class of 2016): Using artistic talents to connect with others | Aga Khan Academies

Khushboo Shah (Class of 2016): Using artistic talents to connect with others

Khushboo Shah is an aspiring writer, visual artist, and the current alumni representative of Aga Khan Academy Hyderabad 2016 batch. She is a recipient of The Aga Khan Youth Award for Excellence, and plans to begin her undergraduate studies this fall.

In August 2014, I migrated from my hometown Goa, India and traveled to the Aga Khan Academy (AKA) in Hyderabad to begin my International Baccalaureate education. In retrospect, AKA Hyderabad taught us all how to be independent in our own unique way. It strengthened my intellectual roots and taught me that it is okay to question. And because I questioned, I was able to learn.

At the Academy, I ardently loved studying English, history and visual arts – they groomed me to be a principled thinker and ethical person. The Academy under the vision of His Highness the Aga Khan does an excellent job of grooming each one of us to be a risk taker and a leader. Prior to joining the Academy, I was always interested in visual art, but I did not know how to pursue my passion. Under the apt guidance and encouragement from my art teachers, I learned how to weave my passion for history and literature into art. I also received an opportunity to present my artwork to the Premier of Ontario, the Honourable Kathleen Wynne, on her visit to the Academy in Hyderabad in early 2016. The Academy’s brilliant framework allows each individual student to pursue his/her inner talent and vision. I had always wanted to develop my writing and leadership skills, and I was able to do so by serving as the editor of the Academy’s 2014-2015 Yearbook. I also served as the elected Student Council President for the 2015-2016 year. Serving as an editor gave me confidence to take my writing seriously, while being a student leader allowed me to become a responsible and thoughtful individual. 

In January 2017, I was awarded the Aga Khan Youth Award for Excellence, which has humbled me and allowed me to believe that with the right balance of determination, hard work and guidance, an individual can achieve immensely. I also serve as the alumni representative for the Class of 2016. I believe that because of the Academy’s presence in my life, I have truly been able to strive towards my goals. From April 2017 to June 2017, I interned at the Naryn campus of the University of Central Asia (UCA) in Kyrgyzstan. When I was in Kyrgyzstan, I experienced the overlapping of multiple cultures, faiths, nationalities, and ideologies. I was able to share meals and go trekking with more than eight nationalities at once! My circle now includes friends from Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Canada and the United States, making me extremely grateful for all my experiences and encounters. 

At UCA, I was also required to assist with Student Life activities and other administrative work. Along with the University Counselor and other Student Life team members, I planned the cultural excursion to Lake Issyk Kul; and under the guidance of the Student Life team, I also organised the Hakuna Matata festival, which was organised partly on the Easter weekend as an arts and craft night, and as an Amazing Race all across Naryn town. Never before had Naryn seen such a race where the students were asked to complete tasks like building sand castles by the river, wearing traditional Kyrgyz clothing, competing against other teams over the game of foosball and conducting interviews with local people. All students were given a budget through which they had to complete their tasks. Students had to take cabs, the ‘mashrutka’ (local bus), or share a ride to reach into town. The race was a great experience as the students were not only challenged to try new things, they also learned to enjoy working collectively in teams. All the leadership qualities which I had acquired at AKA Hyderabad helped me to positively lead this activity. I believe that the Academy’s dynamic vision has allowed me to believe in my imagination, passion and curiosity while pursuing ambitious projects. 

His Highness the Aga Khan emphasises that for one to become a global citizen, one must be multilingual. In Kyrgyzstan, I picked up some Russian, and thus was able to communicate a little with the local citizens – once on a taxi ride back from the local bazaar, a local lady whom I had never met before, moved me as she invited me to her house for lunch! That day I understood how by trying to speak the local language, I was not only learning a new skill, but was also breaking the barrier between myself and local citizens, and in a broader perspective – between two communities. Furthermore, on helping the UCA students to organize the first ever TEDxUniversityofCentralAsia, I truly understood the importance of embracing the diversity of different cultures as the event saw the coming together of over nine nationalities, and this collaboration truly humbled me.

When I look back at my Academy years, I often feel humbled and nostalgic. The time spent amidst those red bricked walls, with lovely friends and extremely supportive teachers has been one of the best times in my life. I have realised that an individual can continue to grow, learn and excel throughout their life. I am extremely grateful for the wonderful education I have received – it has been my sincere effort to try and improve in everything that I do by striving to become a more resilient and grounded person.

By Khushboo Shah