My Journey – Charushilla Narula Bajpai

Please tell us about yourself

Motherhood defines me and keeps me in humility. It also defines my processes professionally. I am a Career and College Planning Mentor, an Edu Speaker, a College Essay Expert, and a Communications Coach with more than 15 years in the education sector. I believe that career decisions are life decisions and I work with students, parents, and young professionals to make their dream career choices a reality.

Share about what you do

My mission: Empowering Career Choices. Making dreams come true. In an age where agent-centric guidance dominates university counseling, I started a lonesome but resolute journey of unbiased career counseling just from my living room. With the blessings of parents and students, in less than five years, we have a strong presence in the heart of South Delhi and Gurgaon and cater to students across the country and even in Dubai and Netherlands. Today, with more than 3000 students impacted, an impeccable placement record to top universities such as NYU, COLUMBIA, UC BERKELEY, USC, LSE & more, and more than 15 million dollars in scholarships, a nationwide school outreach to some of the best institutions in the country – University Connection has become highly sought after career and college planning for students aiming for colleges in India and abroad. I’m a true believer in fair-minded, unbiased career guidance as the way forward for young minds aiming for nothing less than the best. My articles on careers, mentorship, overseas education and even Edu-preneurship in The Hindu, The Tribune, The Financial Express, Higher Education Review and more have been widely circulated across the country.

Say something about your beginning

As a 4 year old, when you learn to feed your baby brother because mom is at work and earning a living, your development takes a new turn. My journey as a child was laden with hardships typical to a single parent upbringing. My mother, a doctor, did everything in her capacity to provide for us but the void of a father continued to lurch; perhaps because it was an era when a divorce alienated you – suddenly you were labelled as being from a ‘broken family’. No one realised that the only thing broken was our fragile hearts and by labeling, there was no mending happening. Nevertheless, I grew up with one of the strongest woman I’ve known, my mother. I matured to become self-reliant, responsible student, aiming to be the best at everything from academics to sports to extracurricular. From Mater Dei to the Lady Shri Ram College – theatre, activism, debates, womanhood, righteousness – became the keywords surrounding me. The next phase of life, matrimony, brought in another tyrant in life. Without getting into details, I’d just say that life had more lessons to teach me and so whether it was dealing with alcoholism, criminal intent, breaking the law and everything else, including the very fabric of marriage – trust – for ten years, life was an ordeal. The only poetic justice out of this sojourn was the birth of my daughter – it transformed life in more ways than one and instead of establishing a strong career in mass communication, I moved to Education. I realised that the reason women suffer at the hands of people like my husband (at the time) was because ‘parenting’ is considered a default trait, whereas, it needs to be learnt and developed – bringing up another life, a citizen of the world should never be taken for granted. So when the absolute test stared at me in the face – a sick man, drugged and promiscuous – I took charge. I didn’t want history to repeat itself, but I found myself at a similar crossroad where my mother was many years ago. Was I hurt? Yes. Was I sorry? No. Was I scared? Yes and No. Every fabric within me began dancing with the possibility of creating a new life for myself and my daughter. I knew it won’t be easy but then the sunset has so many colours: I just held on to all of them before it got all dark. Keeping the focus on growth, I tried to imbibe lessons from every interaction, forum and personality who has come in to my life for a reason, season or a lifetime. I was in the United States for a few years where I worked with some American Montessori organisations, I came back and explored the editorial domain and launched books, I’ve been part of forums such as the American Creativity Association and much more. Before beginning my journey as an entrepreneur, I’ve been the Head of admissions for the LSE programs in New Delhi. With over the fifteen years in education and as part of my venture University Connection, I’ve helped thousands of students meander through and make sense of their life journeys – careers, life and happiness. Did I lose faith in love or marriage? Hell, no! I’m in love and married to my soulmate, Lt. Col. Vivek Bajpai, a serving Army Officer. We complete each other in more ways than one. From childhood dreams to adulthood pitfalls, pain and hurt have only fueled my ambition, and built hope. It’s not been perfect but every child, every student that I’ve mentored, has served as a milestone reinstating my faith in the human spirit. I’ve learned to “climb mountains not so that the world can see me, but so that I can see the world.”

What have been some of your achievements

Today, the success of my students is my success. It feels great to have enabled families to garner millions of dollars in scholarships. I’ve also been awarded for ‘Pioneering Contribution to Career Counselling’ by the Federation of Industry, Trade and Services. Previous to this, I’ve been the chief editorial coordinator for a number of book projects.

The difference you have made to others

Today, with more than 3000 students impacted, an impeccable placement record to top universities such as NYU, COLUMBIA, UC BERKELEY, USC, LSE & more, and more than 15 million dollars in scholarships, a nationwide school outreach to some of the best institutions in the country – University Connection has become highly sought after career and college planning for students aiming for colleges in India and abroad.

What do you want to be acknowledged for

Enabling individuals. Making students believe in their dreams. Making parents realize their crucial role in building the citizens of tomorrow. Revolutionizing career mentor-ship in the country.

Anything else you wish to share

Women are my favourite kind of earthlings, after dogs ofcourse!
 Charushilla is the Founder Director of Delhi based University Connection, a career and college planning platform
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