Published on: 30 July 2021
Written by: Lelia Erscoi

Welcome to this AI* interview and congratulations!  Can you introduce yourself?

Hi everyone, I am Ishani, I am 19 years old and from Abu Dhabi but originally from India. I’ve been a part of multiple CognAC committees such as the OrC,  LC, SymCo, AlmanaC, SC, and now the PC as well, and I am also the future Chief of Education for CognAC!

So exciting! To begin, how did you decide to join AI?

I think it might be the case with most first-year students but I had no idea of what I wanted to do. My parents wanted to help me and showed me possible majors that I could take. This one night, my dad asked me to get the iPad and when I opened it, it had one tab open that said “Cognitive Science”, so I decided to research a bit into it. That’s when I saw AI and how it is a mix of math, philosophy and psychology, which I thought was very interesting. That’s how I ended up here, because of one opened tab!

That’s still a long road from Abu Dhabi to Nijmegen! Was that difficult?

A bit, when I moved out I was 17 and had never lived apart from my parents so it was kind of hard in the beginning. For the first week, I didn’t even know where I was supposed to get my groceries from, so I only survived on breakfast that my roommates would give me. (what??? Glad you made it out alive!)

As to why Nijmegen, I knew that I wanted to study abroad, so I looked at universities from the UK, USA, Canada, and the Netherlands, and ultimately, I decided to come here because the course contents seemed very interesting. The Dutch culture was something that I had no idea about so I was pretty curious, also because I had never met a Dutch person before. During the whole application process Radboud had a very personalized approach and that made me feel comfortable, I also read that Nijmegen was a relatively small city but still had an active student life so I decided to check it out. Although, in the beginning, I was very worried, my mom met a Dutch person and told them her daughter is going to study in Nijmegen and the Dutch person answered “where? I never heard of that place.”

Haha, that’s a red flag right there. What is your favorite thing about the Netherlands, now that you know it a bit more?

I think the student life because it’s very different compared to all the different places I’ve been to. In the UAE or even back in India, people feel like student life is kind of dead. I like the openness and how warm and welcoming every Dutch person I met was. Also, it’s a very pretty place when it’s not raining. I like that we can bike everywhere, but the fact that there are hills in Nijmegen when the Netherlands is overall flat makes me feel the universe played a very petty move to make me exercise.

It is a nice excuse to work out a bit! Do you have a place here in Nijmegen?

I might have one from November if it works out, but until then my options here are homelessness and Airbnb-ing. I tried moving somewhere with my housemates but the place wanted a couple and that our income was 3 times the rent, and we are 2 unemployed people and 2 students. My friends asked if I want to move to the Hague with them, but as things are opening up on campus and me being in the board it didn’t really make sense. At some point, we even looked into caravan prices but turns out they are pretty expensive as well so never mind that.

Maybe you can claim the board room or the inventory and pray it doesn’t flood again!

I learned how to swim for that particular reason!

Very well prepared haha. What can you tell us about your family back home?

I am an only child, so I live with my parents in Abu Dhabi. The rest of my family lives back home in India in multiple different places. I’ve wanted a pet but since I live in an apartment it wouldn't really be fair to the pets that I want, and having a fish or a hamster kind of defeats the purpose in my opinion. We were considering getting a dog but my mom doesn’t like animals so me and my dad have a master plan that, when we go back to India, we sneak in 2 dogs and my mom will have to accept it.

What kind of dogs do you want?

I even have a list! Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been doing research so at this point there are 5 dogs that I know that I want. I do want to adopt because it’s nicer, but if not, I already know the breeds and names I want. For example, there’s a Samoyed, the one that looks like a giant cloud, and I want to name it Fuyu, which is winter in Japanese. Then, a Shiba Inu named Aki, which is autumn also in Japanese. I also want a Doberman, a German Shephard, and maybe a Golden Retriever.

With also Japanese season names?

I haven’t thought of names for all of them, but for Doberman, I want to call it Kaiser because it sounds really cool. I found it in my 10th-grade history book, so you can tell how much attention I’ve been paying to that course.

That sounds like a really cute doggo family!

That’s one of my biggest goals, to have a good enough life to be able to provide for the dogs.

Indeed, nothing can beat that. What’s up with the Japanese names?

In high school I had an anime phase and I kind of still do (*insert Pikachu surprised face* are we the same person??) I started watching at 13 or 14 and I went through this phase of only watching anime and it ended up to the point when I learnt Japanese to a decent extent. That was nice, but in school, we had to study the Arabic language and do translations of English-Arabic and during this one exam I could only translate English-Japanese in my head. For 10 minutes I just had to stop and really focus to get a passing grade.

The struggle is real! What’s your favorite anime?

I have a top 2, one is Shokugeki no Soma or Food Wars, and then the second one is Haikyuu (Wait you also had a a Haikyuu phase because of playing volleyball in school?). Yes!!! and it fit right in my sports anime phase.

Do you still play it now?

No, I stopped in my last year of high school because of exams and I haven’t really gotten back into it. Right now, I don’t play anything actively but I enjoy badminton a lot and I’m not sure if you can call it “playing” but I like swimming a lot. There’s just something about being in the water that makes me feel really nice. I also really like to dance! In high school, I did Indian classical dance for 8-10 years, and now I just take classes at the RSC for either hip-hop or burlesque with friends, which is very fun!

That sounds very exciting indeed! Do you have any other hobbies for your free time?

I like to pro binge-watch Netflix movies and shows. It’s amazing! I might have a small problem but… I can finish 3 seasons in 4-5 days.

How much free time do you have???

Apparently, a lot if you take it that way but also not at the same time so I don’t know what’s happening! I have a time machine and just go back in time, watch some episodes, and then continue with my day.

Other than that, I like watching food videos and I am also trying to get back into reading, which I’ve been able to do this holiday so it’s very nice. I also like going to cafes and restaurants with my friends, it can be hard for them to convince me to leave my place because I can be an intense homebody sometimes.  I like experimenting with food and I also have a group of friends that I play DnD with.

Did you invent any interesting recipes so far?

Sort of, there was this one recipe that I saw on Food Wars but I didn’t have any of the ingredients for it. The original was an apple risotto but I ended up making rice with vegan chicken, a little bit of carbonara sauce, and fresh green apple slices. If you add some spices like Cayenne, pepper, a little bit of salt and lime juice, it tastes pretty decent. I was very surprised especially because I never measure the portion sizes and instead go with intuition but it worked out pretty well! I just opened my fridge, saw something edible, and decided that’s what I’m gonna make! (a true mad scientist)

Now more about CognAC, how did you first become active?

My very first experience was the intro week, some of my favorite CognAC memories are from that time. I remember feeling super confused because there were so many things happening. It almost felt like we had no time to stop and think, there was just activity after activity. With all that, and socializing, and trying to find a bike, trying to remember how to get to places in the city, and having CognAC as a point of focus was super amazing. I also got to meet some of my best friends here so I am very happy how it turned out.

I didn’t really become an active member until after half of my first year because everything was pretty overwhelming, and then I attended the mentor drink and realized CognAC activities are so much fun! I ended up joining the OrC in January 2020, after which the pandemic hit. Around that time, I had this thought that I wasn’t doing enough with my life and because of that I decided to become more active and joined the LC and then the SymCo, Almanac, and SC in my second year, and now Chief of Education, I guess!

0-100 queen right here! What motivated you to join these committees?

With the OrC I wanted to recreate my orientation week but from an organizational point of view, with the LC it was the exclusivity of it, having an event that only comes every 5 years sounded very special so I wanted to be part of something great. I joined the SymCo because it is very similar to TED Talks and in school, I’ve helped organize a TEDx event, for the AlmanaC I enjoy creative writing and I didn’t find another outlet for me in the study, and then SC and PC I joined because of my future function in the board.

What a collection right there! Do you have any others in mind?

Quite a few actually. (whoa there, Ishani, time to breathe when???) I want to be part of the BAC because it seems very fun and intense, the FC, maybe the InC as well, maybe even the XC.

If you join the FC, you definitely need to organize an anime food competition! Are you planning to collect all committees by the time you’re done with AI?

Definitely, I want to be an elite CognAC Trainer!

That sounds very nice! So far, you’ve had quite the journey, joining CognAC after half a year and then straight into corona! How did you decide you wanted to add joining the board on top of all that?

Same thing with me thinking I’m not making the most of my university time. With the pandemic, I realized that no matter how much you plan or not, most things are not in your control but you can make the most of those that are! I figured if these were the opportunities I could take up, why shouldn’t I?

*Record scratch* Wait, how can you say you aren’t doing anything? Weren’t you doing Honours this year?

Yes, which was also after my internal talk about doing nothing! Oh, and I was also an APS mentor this year.

Wow, you were really unstoppable this year, weren’t you? How was it?

So much fun! With the Honours Programme, it was very nice because I got to meet people who were not in my faculty and to work on projects in no way related to AI and then see how AI could fit in! For example, I learned how to develop a populist campaign, which I would have never done otherwise. With the second half being the mental health think tank, we focused on the students at Radboud. I could learn how AI would help and then come up with a project that would help both the department and the students.

With APS it was very weird because we had to work offline and online and we kept switching between them. I’m not sure I had the full mentor experience but I really loved my group, they were very wholesome and amazing people. It was very rewarding to see them grow from new university students to people who enjoy AI and want to do more. I got to know all of them well and make them into mini me’s, even though some of them were older than me.

An army of Ishani’s would be unstoppable! Remind me to never upset you ;))) Do you have any plans for next year?

Well, definitely CognAC board, the most epic thing of all time, 10/10 recommend. Other than that, maybe take up 1 or 2 more committees. But I will be an editor for the Turning Magazine next year, I applied this year and I am very excited to join next year. I do want to do more, but I need to stop and evaluate if I have enough time for myself. I want to first experience a quarter with all the things I will be starting and see how that goes.

That does sound like a good plan! How was it so far with being in the candidate board?

Well, my predecessor made it amazingly easy for me to transition (education best function!!!). I didn’t really feel like we were working on a policy plan for an association that big, but as the time grew closer to the Election GMM it started hitting in that we were responsible for a loooot of people, which is pretty cool but also scary at the same time. Luckily, I have the most amazing fellow board members, and the fact that we can rely on each other so much and figuring out how to become the best people for CognAC was very fun.

That’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard!!! What are you most looking forward to?

Definitely coming back to uni and having more physical activities, hopefully. I’m very excited to meet our members in real life and have fun together. Besides that, I am also looking forward to meeting people from different studies and cities. I had a meeting with people from Groningen and Utrecht, I didn’t realize that would happen!

I’m also excited to explore my role as it’s the newest function in the board and it’s pretty young and flexible. I want to do well in terms of diversifying the function even more to make it a more well-rounded one. But it’s already the best one!

The education function is in such good hands, I can retire in peace!! With all these projects in mind, do you have any motto that motivates you going forward?

It’s a reminder that I have on my phone wallpaper as well that says “you are already enough, all you have to do is believe and choose to be more”. Many times, I have this feeling that I’m not functioning the best that I can but it is nice to take a step back and just believe in myself and believe that things will go work out in the end.

That is so sweet and great advice! With that, I think we’ve reached the end of the interview and of course, it’s time for shout-outs!!!

I have so many! Definitely first shout-out goes to my fellow board members for being an amazing group of people, shout-out to the 30th board for helping out during our candidate period, and especially to Lelia for being so amazing (no u!!!!), shout-out to the OrC for going through so many changes and still going through so many for the upcoming intro week, also to all my other amazing committees, the LC, AlmanaC, SymCo, PC, and SC. Shout-out to my APS group as well!! Oh and shout-out to my friends and everyone who’s been a part of my life so far!