York is “destiny” for scholarship winner

By Elaine Smith

“I think I was destined to be at York,” says Arsh Dharani, who calls himself a “true international” student, since he was born in India, grew up in the Congo and went to boarding school in Kenya before coming to Toronto.

“I had always been interested in coming to Canada, since I have a lot of family and friends here. The York scholarship opportunities were really attractive because I wanted to be independent looking forward. I didn’t want to put myself into debt or financial pressure as I was starting my career.”

Arsh, who is studying financial and business economics in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS), wasn’t sure it would be possible for him to attain a full scholarship, because there was no response from York about the scholarship decisions until the very last, and his family kept encouraging him to make a decision quickly

“I remember asking my dad to let me wait just one more day and the email from York [awarding him a full scholarship] came at 3 a.m.,” Arsh says. “Life works in mysterious ways.”

Arsh was awarded a President’s International Scholarship of Excellence, given to international high school students who demonstrate academic excellence, commitment to volunteer work and extracurricular activities and leadership skills. At his boarding school in Kenya, Dharani was a residential captain, in charge of 50 international students, addressing any issues they had and organizing activities to keep them engaged.

It’s a skill he hopes to hone at York where he joined the volunteer team at his residence, working with the residence dons. He plans to apply for a don’s position next year. He has also joined the Schulich Finance Club, another step along his path to becoming an entrepreneur one day.

“My big dream is to have my own firm and add value to people’s lives,” Dharani says. “When I’m older, I want to be able to lead huge companies. I want to start with investment banking, then look forward to having my own firm. I’m leaning toward specializing in finance, because understanding it is very important if you’re running your own business.”

Arsh has already been an entrepreneur on a small scale. A passionate chess player, he created a chess academy in the Congo to teach chess, both online and in-person, and eventually ran a tournament for participants.

“I love the game,” Arsh says. “It bleeds into real life a lot. As a chess player, you’re always making decisions fairly quickly and you can’t go back; you need to face the consequences. I always ensure to look at the board and attempt to make the best possible decisions in life.”

He plans to find a chess club at York, or, if necessary, start one. He’s certainly pleased to be here in Toronto.

“Canadian culture is much more welcoming and inclusive than I’m used to,” Arsh says. “People are very polite, even about small things like holding the door open, and there are a lot of ‘Thank-yous’ and ‘Sorries.’ It’s a beautiful campus, too.”

For now, Arsh’s goal is to keep his head down and work. He says would like to take full advantage of this wonderful opportunity he has gotten and his focusing on increasing his network and connections with likeminded people. He remains grateful to the university, his parents, and his friends who have supported him throughout this journey.