Published: 28th July 2022
Hoping to crack UPSC? Follow 19-year-old Fathima Saniya on Instagram to inch closer to your goal
It hasn't been all roses for Fathima Saniya, but the 19-year-old struggled and here we are, talking to her about how can one rise from the ashes and help others along the way
Union Minister of State for Personnel Jitendra Singh, in a written response, stated that the government did not find it feasible to change the existing provisions regarding the number of attempts and the age limit in the Civil Services Examination. This was a huge blow for several students but Fathima Saniya is capable of seeing both sides.
As someone who is preparing for the toughest exams ever herself, Fathima knows that the Government of India already ensured certain benefits for candidates belonging to specific categories.
"So, I don't see a need to include additional regulations. In interviews conducted by coaching academics interviewers ask aspirants if, at the age of 21, they can handle the responsibilities and powers that come with the position. Reducing the age limit to 18 feels like an irony. However, regardless of the age limit and new regulations, cracking the exam is purely based on the aspirant's merit," asserts the 19-year-old.
Looking at the other side, having mentored over 1,000 students via different social media platforms for UPSC, the avid reader who is preparing for the 2024 UPSC Civil Service Examinations and simultaneously is helping others as well, says, "Despite clearing their prelims, three of my followers, who had tested positive for COVID-19, weren't allowed by the court to reappear for their Mains as they missed it the first time. All they want is for every aspirant to get equal chances and be evaluated on merit."
And that's how we know that 23K followers on Instagram (@aspirant_goals) and 5000 subscribers on Telegram (aspirant_goals_channel) have gravitated towards her for her wisdom and guidance with regard to UPSC. And who has taught her these lessons, you ask? Life.
The youngster who hails from Kerala moved to Dubai briefly with her family before professional failure forced them to return to their home state. She took responsibility of her own education, she borrowed books from the library to study, took classes and amassed wisdom which she began dispensing on social media. And that's how it all began, folks.
But we do the gritty teen's story a disservice if we don't let you hear it in her own words. So read on to learn about how a young woman dared to dream not just for herself, but for others too. Also, the role that Habitat, which helps content creators take their game to the next level, played. Excerpts from a conversation:
Tell us about the initial challenges you faced in your personal life if you'd like to share.
From a very young age, my life has been a rollercoaster. I was born into a middle-class family in Kerala. We migrated to the UAE, where I pursued my secondary schooling. As my spoken English was weak, I had difficulty coping with the syllabus and language in school. I also didn't have a supportive friend circle.
My parents were working individuals until my father decided to put all of the family savings into his restaurant business in Sharjah. As a result, we lost everything to the business, and my father became unemployed. Although my mother was still working, her salary wasn't enough to pay off the loans she had taken or sustain our lives in Dubai. Because my school fees were not paid, I was not allowed to attend class and had to sit in the school library. Some of my happiest days were spent in the library amongst books, and I picked up reading from there.
At the age of 15, I was clinically depressed. Consulting a psychiatrist and changing my social environment was my only way out. Soon after, we moved to India, where I gradually coped with things.
My story doesn't end with my struggles. Throughout those difficult years in school and at home, I remember telling my mother, "I am more than this. The world should know me. I have a lot of dreams, and I am going to fulfil all of them." Today at 19, I can confidently say that I am a financially independent girl with a million dreams.
When did you discover that you would like to mentor? And why did you pick UPSC?
I have always aspired to teach, and preparing for UPSC opened the doors to mentoring. I believe in sharing knowledge and showing students the right path in choosing the booklist and resources for Civil Service Examination.
I believe that our diplomats are no less than the soldiers of our country. Therefore, cracking UPSC and becoming a Foreign Servant has always interested me. Representing 1.3 billion people abroad is a matter of pride, not to mention the power and responsibility that comes with it. Moreover, as a person who loves nature and travelling, I find Diplomatic Services very gratifying.
Tell us when you started your IG page and Telegram channel? Why did you choose the route of social media to reach out to aspirants?
In July 2020, I started my Instagram page @aspirant_goals which was initially a Bookstagram that turned into a Studygram. Soon after, I created my Telegram channel to get to know my fellow subscribers personally. The idea has always been to create content that inspires students across the country; what better way to reach out to Gen Z students than social media.
From becoming financially independent to making friends from across the country, social media has given me much more than mere followers. As a budding creator and a full-time student, it can be hard to manage everything on my own. I am glad I came across Habitat, a community-first platform, that helped me solve the pain points of payment and subscription management on Telegram. From collecting recurring payments to accessing granular insight into my audience, Habitat has helped me stay directly in touch with my subscribers without the hassle of verification.
How many aspirants do you mentor via Aspiriant Goals and your Telegram channel?
I have over 23K followers on Instagram and 5,000 subscribers on Telegram, whom I connect with daily. To date, I have mentored 1,000 students via different social media platforms. In addition, I was able to reach ample students by conducting UPSC orientation sessions and sharing toppers strategies.
What are your plans for your social media pages and channels and yourself as well.
I see my social media page as a source of inspiration for people for both competitive exams and mental health. As every aspirant is unique, I want to personally mentor each of them and give them the attention they need through my Telegram channel. My personal goal is to crack the UPSC exams and do many more talk shows for the youth. However, having experienced depression at such a young age, I give a lot of importance to my mental health. Therefore, I will only do so much that gives me peace of mind and takes me to that place.
Any message for the aspiriants?
As an aspirant, it's unimaginable to see fellow students devoting their entire life to an exam. To them, I want to say that you are more than a competitive exam. Prepare for the worst; finding excuses shouldn't be the quality you possess. As a community, let's learn from each other and strive each day to become the best version of ourselves no matter what the outcome is.