November 05, 2019

Aakanksha Tangri

Which school did you attend at Columbia and why did you choose Columbia in the first place?

I graduated from GSAS (class of 2014), but my courses were split between SIPA and GSAS. I'm a journalist and Columbia was the perfect place for me because it's in New York City — the epicenter of media — and I could access all the resources the school has to offer such as attending classes taught by people who've been in the newsroom or been newsmakers themselves and the evolving roster of world leaders dropping by for talks. These have been invaluable in shaping my career and were an incredible learning opportunity.  


What did you enjoy the most at Columbia?

I thoroughly enjoyed how flexible my program was in terms of letting me choose courses from different schools and specialize in areas of my interest. The program and the professors provided me with the flexibility of pursuing my dream internship at CNN during my final semester while taking classes and working on my thesis. On a personal level, I've met some of the most wonderful people during my time at Columbia who I now call my closest friends and professors who are mentors. 


Did you have a favorite place on campus?

The steps (and sometimes hiding behind the pillars of Low)! It's incredible sitting atop taking in the view and the history that Columbia has. I would often go to the steps to catch up on reading, hang out with friends or just to have a few mindful moments. When I needed to hunker down, I'd go to Butler. 


Could you describe what you do today and how you got to it? 

I’m the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Re:Set, which is an online publication that focuses on stories and resources around mental health, well-being, special needs, education, parenting and gender. We launched in April 2019 and it’s been a very interesting ride so far! Before Re:Set, I was at VICE in their New York and Toronto offices for three years where I worked on documentaries, daily shows and wrote for the website. Prior to that, I kickstarted my journalism career at CNN New York where I interned at Fareed Zakaria GPS, a childhood dream come true!  


How have you been able to leverage the skills and knowledge acquired during your time at Columbia to grow your career?

At Columbia, I studied a diverse range of topics which have helped hone my knowledge base as a journalist. Studying the complexities of the Indian economy and its political history armed me with an in-depth understanding of both contemporary and historical viewpoints while I was reporting on the world’s largest democracy. I’ve also often referred back to  past course material from classes I took on subjects such as the inner workings of the United Nations and the role of peacekeepers as well as the advent of media and technology in developing countries. Of course, writing and editing papers only improved my own writing skills. My final semester involved my internship, classes, thesis writing and applying for jobs (all my own undertaking!) so I’d say I definitely nailed down time management and organizational skills during that period which now comes in handy while running my own business. 


What advice would you give recent alumni who are looking to grow their professional careers? 

The best piece of advice a mentor gave me was, “If you don’t stand up for yourself and ask for what you deserve, then who will?” That has helped me tremendously, especially when I find myself faced with imposter syndrome or plagued with self-doubt. I’d also say don’t be shy in reaching out to people for advice or support! You’ll find they’re more than happy to help if they have the bandwidth. As someone who didn’t do this enough, I’d also recommend people savour the small victories and moments. It’s very easy to be caught up in the daily grind and focus on all the things going wrong so try and train yourself to find the good when you can! 


If you could go back in time, what would do differently during your time at Columbia?

I would take advantage of all the events and extracurricular activities happening around campus, and focus on the experience and less on the hustle. I never got to attend the tree lighting ceremony and I really wish I had! 


Have you connected through Columbia University or CAA to other alumni? How has that helped you in your current career?

I was meeting a professor for coffee who introduced me to her former intern who was a producer at VICE. She forwarded my resume to someone in the news department and that's how I got my foot into VICE! For Re:Set, I've regularly tapped into the Columbia network to reach out to alumni, professors and others to get them to write for the platform or offer their expertise for articles. What I really love and appreciate about CAA is that everyone's so supportive and willing to help and more so, connect you to other people they think are in synergy. As an entrepreneur, knowing I can rely on a strong support network is invaluable. 


Piece of advice to students in the UAE who are keen to apply to Columbia? 

Do your research on the program you want to apply for and speak to people who are either in the program currently or have graduated. I’d say even reach out to professors whose classes you want to take. This will give you a sense of what to expect. Don’t be intimidated by information overload and be very clear about what you want to get out of the program. Columbia is a magical place in one of the best cities in the world, so you’re going to be in for a spectacular ride! Ensure to venture outside of the classroom too and look at all the groups you want to be part of!