Seven Questions with... Isha Kulkarni

This week we caught up with fourth-year MEng Civil Engineering student Isha, who is President of the the UCL chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB). Here, Isha dishes on some of her favourite spots around London - including a hidden gem near campus.

What are you studying, why are you interested in this subject and what do you plan to do in the future?

I’m currently in my final year studying an MEng in Civil Engineering. It excites me how the subject has shaped the world we live in today. Not just buildings and bridges, but also all the processes we never really think about, such as transport, sewerage, and water supply - it’s all civil engineering!

I particularly chose to study at UCL due to how I get to apply everything I learn in realistic group projects throughout the degree. It’s helped me realise my interest in environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive infrastructure. I now want to pursue a career in sustainability, a field rapidly gaining importance with the public and private sector both taking climate change more seriously.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve done, seen or got involved with while at UCL?

I joined the UCL chapter of the NGO Engineers Without Borders (EWB) in first year, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that’s made me who I am today! I got involved initially as an outreach volunteer, delivering workshops aiming to demystify science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in local schools. I continued as a part of the committee in my second year, helping with our other activities as well - such as speaker events on international development, workshops on sustainable technology, and open-source projects developing software for humanitarian organisations.

Although I went on a year abroad right after, I got elected as President last March. It’s been an incredible journey working on expanding the society further. We’re now EWB’s largest university chapter, directly support students pursuing international volunteering in the summer, and have established numerous new collaborators in the sustainable development space. I have learnt so much, grown so much - and worked with many highly passionate people in the process!

Have you discovered any hidden gems during your time at UCL?

While I only discovered it recently, the food co-op at SOAS is certainly a hidden gem. It is organised every Wednesday in the SOAS Junior Common Room (JCR), and is not only zero-waste, with ethically produced products - on an average, it’s also cheaper than conventional grocery stores!

Give us your top three things to do/see/go to in London:

  • The India Club! It has been described as a living, breathing museum of Indian culture in London and I find myself there every once in a while, relishing some really authentic food. It’s also surprisingly easy on the wallet.
  • Richmond Park. While all of London’s parks are beautiful, I have a soft spot for its views, landscapes, flora and fauna - particularly the deer!
  • Concerts. I love how many musicians and bands I’ve been able to watch live in the last few years. It’s simply rare to be in a city brimming with so much talent, and it’s overwhelming how much music I’ve been able to discover!
  • If you were Provost for the day what one thing would you do?

    The world is now slowly but surely understanding the value of all people and the planet. As Provost for a day, I would work to integrate an understanding of environmental and social responsibility within each degree at UCL.

    Zero Tolerance workshops are compulsory, and Sustainable UCL has made immense strides towards students’ awareness of environmental issues. Many degrees already include ethics classes as well. However, it is important for students to gain an additional understanding of how connected and systemic each of these topics are, for example, and how they are relevant to their degree of study. I also believe it would make students more employable in the coming years if they gain sustainability skills!

    Who inspires you and why?

    I’ve been able to become friends with some incredible people, starting from my last few years of high school, to my time at UCL and my year abroad at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. They’ve supported me through thick and thin and I’ve made memories with them that I will always treasure. Their kindness, their tenacity, their hopes and dreams - everything about my friends awes me. Each one of them inspires me every single day!

    What would it surprise people to know about you?

    For the longest time, civil engineering was probably one of the last things I wanted to study! I read a lot and spent a lot of time writing short stories and poems, so I always thought I would end up working in the arts. Who knows, though? Maybe one day I will publish a book after all!


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