The scents of cinnamon and mocha greeted me at the Ann Arbor coffee shop where I scanned the crowd in search of a stranger: Aditya Ravi, a University of Michigan freshman who had promised me an hour to talk student life, music and the college search.
Aditya graduated last spring from Novi High School, where he was a National Merit Semifinalist, DECA Champion and bassoon player — yes, bassoon. Agreeing that the noise level wasn’t conducive to an interview, we headed next door for omelettes and a conversation — the first in The Indian SCENE’s NextGen interview series.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
The Indian SCENE: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Aditya Ravi: I’m a freshman at The University of Michigan studying computer science and business. I’m originally from Novi and am eighteen years old. I am really big into sports — not so much playing them — but love to watch. I’m also really into music and play three different instruments: the piano, the bassoon and an Indian instrument called the chitravina, which I’ve been playing for as long as I can remember.
IS: As a bassoon player, do you still practice at school?
AR: Actually, no. I don’t have my bassoon anymore, which has been really tough for me. I’ve been playing since sixth grade, but was using my school’s bassoon, so I had to give it up when I graduated high school. It’s been kind of tough not having it with me and being able to play it. I’ve always felt that practicing instruments is a really good stress reliever for me. I do still play the chitravina and brought it to college because I couldn’t stay away from it. I just wanted to keep practicing. I play as much as I can.
IS: These days high school culture can be very tense and competitive. How did you successfully navigate four years at Novi?
AR: I think Novi is known to be more competitive, in general, than a lot of other high schools around the area. Coming from Novi, I know that the culture there is super, super competitive; everyone at the school is extremely smart and we were all pushing each other. That pressure can sometimes get to a person and they might resort to cheating and other kinds of things. The way I was able to get through it was — and I pride myself on this — my strong work ethic. I would get my work done and not worry about anything else. Sometimes, it was difficult to see where I was and then look around and see someone else at a higher level. I worried about this in middle school, but in high school I realized that if I just do my own thing, everything else will work out.
IS: Any particular class that you enjoyed during your senior year? Any teacher who inspired you?
AR: For me, especially during the four years of high school, the class that was the de-stressor was band. It was my only outlet every day during third period, where I could just play music how I wanted to. I was also part of the marching band for four years and was a drum major for three years, then became the head conductor during my senior year. It was a really big deal for me since I was able to have the leadership experience. By the end of the four years, there was a community that was built, which was so valuable to me. It helped me to get through whatever I was going through. In terms of the teacher who inspired me, it was my band teacher and director, Mr. Hourigan — the best teacher that I have ever had. He is overqualified for his job and what truly made him different was that he taught me life lessons. You might see that he is teaching music every day, but he was really teaching dedication and work ethic. He demanded we all be the very best that we could be.
IS: How did you begin the college search?
AR: It started at the end of junior year. I thought about what I wanted to do, not trying to limit my scope. I think that was the biggest deciding factor: what did I want to do? I really love analytical thinking and problem solving. Engineering seemed like a great fit, especially with my experience in DECA and the business class that I was taking. I think the ideal situation is one where I can pursue both engineering and business. For that reason, I channeled those passions and began to look for colleges that offered those things. The University of Michigan, of course, offers both of those things and so I was interested in applying there, Berkeley, Stanford and UPenn.
IS: Why Michigan? What specifically attracted you to the university?
AR: Michigan offers such a great diversity of things to do. Like I said before, I am really interested in engineering and business. The engineering school has such a great tradition of excellence and so many people have gone through that. I knew that it was rigorous and crazy difficult going in, but I think that’s what really attracted me. My senior year of high school I took a computer science course and really learned to love it because I see myself as a problem solver. Computer science to me is just logically solving problems. That’s what attracted me to the engineering side. In terms of business, Ross is a big name among business schools and is one of the best in the country. Aside from the academics, Michigan offers so much. I think that the really big thing is that it offers that Big Ten vibe — it’s awesome. I’d never been to a Michigan game before — it was amazing to have that energy in the stadium.
IS: When did you learn that you were accepted to both the engineering and business programs? How did you manage to be successful at achieving a foot inside each door?
AR: I found out I got into engineering in December, and then found out about Ross in early March. I think that I was fortunate enough to be accepted to both because I had shown a passion for both in high school and reflected upon how I would utilize the combination of both fields in my essays.
IS: Describe a day in your life as a student.
AR: On a typical Monday, I have a class that starts at 10 and then after I have a small break for lunch. I then go to the library for about three hours and need a really quiet place to study — it’s where I am at my best. Around 4 p.m., I have another class, so I take the bus there and back and then go to a club meeting after dinner. After that, I do whatever homework I have and study for tests. I try to get all of my work done by 10:30 so that I can watch Netflix and destress.
IS: With any free time, what do you do for fun?
AR: I am really, really big into watching football, a huge Detroit Lions fan, which can be very traumatizing for me (laughs). Sunday for me is keeping track of football, and I’m into fantasy football too, which is stressful. I like to say that I’m a competitive guy and that’s when my competitive side comes out. I am constantly checking my phone to see how many points I have in fantasy football. Aside from that, I love to read. Not so much books, but random articles that I find.
IS: What are your plans following college?
AR: I don’t really know exactly what I want to do after college. My plan is right now to do something in software engineering. I really want to work in either California or Seattle for a big tech company — that’s the goal. But, we’ll see where life takes me. I still have four more years to figure things out.
IS: Describe what being Indian-American means to you.
AR: To me, being Indian-American in this age means to have access to a vibrant and rich tradition at all times. From my earliest memories, I’ve been surrounded by Indian culture, be it through religion, music, or food. I am fortunate to have grown up in a household that celebrated our Indian heritage, and also am lucky to have found a further connection to my Indian musical roots with the chitravina. These connections to my heritage have broadened my world perspective with new ideas, and also allow me to contribute unique viewpoints in a diverse educational setting. I’m thankful and proud to be an Indian-American today.
Ravi’s “Best” List
Best Place for a Meal: Pancheros Mexican Grill — I have an unhealthy obsession with their burritos.
Best Local Store: The M Den, it’s the one that I frequent the most.
Best Place to Study: The 2nd floor reference room in the Hatcher Graduate Library is extremely quiet, which is great for me.