First-year engineering student experiences campus life from 11 time zones away

When first-year engineering student Riddhi Singhania starts her day at Vanderbilt, many of her peers are turning in for the night. And when she’s taking part in an event for Sutherland House on The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons or practicing with the Vanderbilt Lakshya dance troupe, other students are still fast asleep. That’s because Singhania is experiencing her first year at Vanderbilt remotely from her home in Indore, India.

“I’m making the best of it and I’m excited,” said Singhania, who is learning remotely this semester due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. “Though there are some things in which we’re missing out and we have the time zone difference, it doesn’t actually matter if you really want to connect. So, basically, we can manage.”

Singhania is contemplating a major in computer science. She said she greatly respects her fellow students on campus in Nashville for taking precautions to help others.

“When I think of the students at Vanderbilt, I get a feeling that they are the actual warriors and fearless because they’ve come to the campus and they’re being responsible,” she said. “Because I’m at home, I don’t have those same responsibilities. It’s really a privilege. And if everyone stays safe, then we would get to come, too!”

Riddhi Singhania and her family in Indore, India. Riddhi is taking part in Vanderbilt classes, clubs and research sessions remotely.

Finding community online

Singhania is not letting distance make her feel disconnected from Vanderbilt’s vibrant communities. She spent the summer getting to know other students by participating in special events at the Wond’ry, Vanderbilt’s Innovation Center.

“We asked questions to professors in breakout rooms, and I talked to seniors and learned a lot about the campus. I felt very welcomed,” she said.

Singhania presented two high school research projects and was asked to help facilitate some brainstorming sessions using human-centered design processes.

“Riddhi has been so fun to work with over the last several months. She’s participated in multiple DIVE boot camps and brainstormed great concepts including reimagining our outdoor community, even though she hasn’t even been to campus,” said Kevin Galloway, director of making at the Wond’ry and research assistant professor of mechanical engineering.

That project inspired Singhania to join Vanderbilt’s Design for America, a project with the goal of “seeking to create social change through interdisciplinary design.” She’s also volunteering with Vanderbilt Best Buddies to continue her interest of connecting with teens with special needs.

Riddhi participated in an online DIVE boot camp over the summer focused on on reimagining Vanderbilt’s outdoor community.

Connecting through culture

To keep herself moving and connect with others who share a love of Indian culture, she submitted an audition video and was accepted into the Vanderbilt Lakshya Bollywood fusion dance troupe.

Riddhi submitted an audition video to join the Vanderbilt Lakshya Bollywood fusion dance troupe. The group rehearses with a mix of remote and on-campus dancers.

“I love dance, and specifically, I like Bollywood dance. I thought that could connect me to India and home, as well as help me meet other people interested in my culture,” she said.

Singhania connected with other international and domestic students online over the summer to build friendships early knowing there was a chance that travel would not be possible.

“I’ve attended Cafecito with my faculty head of house, and we played games and talked. I attended office hours for one of my classes yesterday, and I had my first tutoring session and it went well. Although we are remote, we have many things, many resources, with which we can connect.”

Looking ahead

Singhania is a self-proclaimed food lover and says she can’t wait to try the food at Vanderbilt and around Nashville.

“I immediately followed Vanderbilt Campus Dining on Instagram, and I was looking at the food blogs and different things. I was excited because I’m a vegetarian and I love food!”

She also can’t wait to see a true Nashville autumn.

Singhania said she’s also looking forward to “the campus itself, because it’s really beautiful, especially the fall part. Though I’ll be missing it, I’ll be able to experience it the next year and I’m looking forward to it.”

By Amy Wolf

Contact: Brenda Ellis, 615 343-6314