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'In whatever field you are, just try to be best', says Future Unlimited winner Uttam Kumar

Interview with Austrade's Win Your Future Unlimited winner, Uttam Kumar, including advice for future international students.

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A student from India has beaten almost 40,000 other students from around the world, to win an opportunity to study at an Australian university for free for 12 months.

Uttam Kumar, 22, entered Austrade’s Win Your Future Unlimited competition to win a year’s free tuition, as well as return flights, accommodation and an internship opportunity. Entrants had to create a digital postcard explaining how studying at an Australian university would help them realise their dreams. A current final year student at IIT Delhi, Uttam decided to focus his entry on his dreams of developing renewable resources in the future.

Uttam’s win was announced last month at a ceremony in Sydney, following an appearance before a panel of experts, alongside his six fellow shortlisted candidates from around the world. Since then, Uttam has been enjoying a tour of Australia and finishing his current course, before beginning his MA later this year.

Uttam spoke to us about how it feels to win such a grand competition and prize, his future plans, and advice for those interested in studying in Australia too…


How does it feel to beat nearly 40,000 other entrants to win the Win Your Future Unlimited competition?

‘I still can’t believe that I won this. This is just too amazing to believe. I am very happy. The thing which gives me most joy is that my parents and my whole family & friends are very proud of me. Whenever I pass through streets in my town, I hear people talking behind my back, “Look he is the one who brought pride to our country and town.” That is the best feeling one can feel, even better than the feeling when my name was announced as the winner in Sydney. It makes me feel great to think that I could become a reason for happiness for my family, especially my parents. I believe that whatever I am today is all because of my parents. So, all of us should respect our parents.’


Why did you decide to enter the competition? 

‘I had already planned to go for higher studies. When I saw the advertisement for the Win Your Future Unlimited Competition, I thought, it was a great opportunity to fulfill my dreams. Also, I am of the belief that Australian universities are very good in the field of Materials Sciences. That’s why I applied for this competition.’


What did you think were your chances of winning? 

‘I could not even think of it!! There were thousands of entries each week and only 1 person was to be selected out of them each week. So, I couldn’t even imagine getting selected as a finalist. It came to me as a big surprise when I got an email about this. But after I was selected as one of the final seven, I started to have a feeling that I can win this.’


What do you plan to study and why?

'In India as well as in the world at large, pollution is a major problem. I plan to study Materials Sciences with a focus towards waste recycling and the development of high value products using such waste as well as using renewable resources. Non-renewable resources like Petroleum (used in production of synthetic polymers) will run out very soon. So, we need to find alternative resources for product development. Also, the materials designed using renewable materials and waste will be nature-friendly and help in alleviating the environmental pollution.'


What does this opportunity to study in Australia mean to you?

‘I see this opportunity as an entranceway to my “Future Unlimited” and also as an opportunity to do something for the community. I met some professors during my study tour of Australia. They are doing very fascinating work towards waste management and environment sustainability. After winning this competition, I will get the opportunity to work with such eminent professors.'


What are you looking forward to most about studying in Australia?

‘Australian universities provide unmatched research ecosystems, excellent learning environments, personal attention and extensive academic resources, along with very diverse research opportunities in the field of polymers, composites and the development of high value products. Research is supported by full suites of modern facilities and state of the art laboratories equipped with latest instruments and testing machinery. I firmly believe that a graduate programme in the academically challenging and advanced research environment of such reputed universities will help me realise my goals and my future unlimited.’


Where do you hope to be in 2 years time? What would you be doing?

‘In 2 years time, I, most likely, will be in my final year of PhD, probably at the University of Queensland, Brisbane or University of New South Wales, Sydney. I will be working towards the development of high value products from natural and renewable resources.’


What advice would you give to school students in India (and around the world) who dream of studying abroad in the future?

‘In my opinion, foreign education is a great way for cultural exchange, to meet new people, explore the world etc. I believe that one should work hard during the time he/she is studying in his/her home country. If you are good in your field, then there is no dearth of good scholarships anywhere in the world. So, in whatever field you are, just try to be best in that. Envy others, don’t be jealous on somebody’s success. Believe in your teachers and parents, and respect them.’


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