Please tell us about yourself

Prashant is an Ashoka University Young India Fellow (YIF), a post-graduate leadership development program, run in collaboration with UPenn-USA and Science Po-Paris. His interest in heritage got him involved with the Indian Traditions and Heritage Society, or ITIHAAS, a Delhi-based educational trust working in the area of heritage education, in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and UNESCO India. Over six years, he worked with thousands of school students from all over India, anchoring modules that focused on Delhi, Agra and Gwalior’s tangible and intangible heritage. Since 2015, Prashant has been participating in Erasmus Mundus’ Tourism Management program, offered jointly by the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) at campuses in Slovenia and Spain. He will be leading the Encounter India travel programme in 2016.

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How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?

Earlier this month, I graduated from the Erasmus Mundus European Master in Tourism Management (EMTM) Program, an academic adventure I had embarked upon two years ago. After completing my year at the Young India Fellowship, in 2013, a two year corporate stint followed, but I was soon drawn back to the domain of heritage and tourism, because that’s where my story really begins.

As a disenchanted 18-year-old engineering student from Gwalior College of Engineering (Computer Science), I started working with ITIHAAS, a Delhi-based organization that allowed me the platform to take heritage education and active citizenship to thousands of school students from the city. An association that lasted throughout my university years, and went from strength to strength, also brought me to YIF, where my efforts were recognized and felicitated with an opportunity to join the program.

What drew me to EMTM, some three years later, was the prospect of another enriching academic experience in three vibrant corners of Europe, the Mecca of global tourism. As I started moving with the program, from Denmark to Slovenia and, finally, Spain, I realized that this was like living YIF all over again.


For a start, can you tell me something about yourself and your educational journey?

I hold a degree in Engineering but I was never very excited about it while I was pursuing the course. I completed my class 12th in 2007 and then 4 years of engineering is something which I never want to revisit in academic sense , engineering was not the right fit , I somehow managed to sail through with it , though I was very keen to write the novels during my first year at college. I managed to pass the engineering front; I heard about YIF, I felt there was no harm in applying. I luckily got the admissions at YIF. 2 years from then I landed up with software companies. I always felt that this particular workforce was never a right place for me, I was looking for something more, something with which I can connect myself with.

You are doing in tourism management, what is your motive behind pursuing the course?

I was looking for things which have a right fit for whatever I’ve done in the past. I applied for it because I could see the very strong connects between what I wanted to do something for myself and the strong exposure which heritage management is going to give me. While I was looking at it from outside, I had certain definition in my mind what being in tourism management is all about and what it is likely to do.  And having studied it for 10 months now I understand how much wider it is and how much potential it has. And of course you can do it very badly, do it for money, destroy environment, destroy communities or you could go about it in a very suitable manner.

From where did you get to know about the Erasmus Mundus Program? What does it actually offer?

I got to know about it from YIF (Young India Fellowship). At YIF there were always these new ideas, new concepts that is floating around. You could touch and feel it, you get talking with people who would share exciting things. I got to know about it from a friend of mine, what he explained to me was that at the post graduate level  ,each of this Erasmus course brings together at least 3 different European university, and they have all together 40-45 courses. In my case EMTM (Erasmus Mundus European masters in tourism management) brings together university of Denmark, University of Ljubljana, University of Gerona which is in Spain. You get to spend a semester in each of the 3 university and a final degree you get has a logo , stamps and signature of the deans of all these university. In our case its very interesting because we can get exposure to very different lifestyle, the way you interact with people is different in a community level.

Who can apply for Erasmus Mundus Program?  What is the eligibility criterion?

It is open to any and every person across the planet that has an undergraduate degree. Like I said, all the 40-50 master programs are unique. So its like 3 university representative sit together to realize what the eligibility criteria for a particular exam will be. For instance if you are applying in media you have to have done some journalistic work, some portfolio which is required.

In my case what I had was by the way off was U.S.P was my work with ‘Itihaas’ and YIF. I didn’t have to show my portfolio that was not the part of requirement here. So therefore you see, you have to analyze what your strength are and then you try to understand what the best fit would be. If somebody is keen on it , they probably have to sit through , look through all the option that EM offers and they all have individual websites where they can find it out. I had liked its Facebook page because that is a great way to be constantly exposed to updates from organization and entities that you are keen on associating. So that’s a tip I think anybody will find it useful.

What is the protocol for applying to the Erasmus Mundus scholarship?

Erasmus Mundus is mostly a brand which has lead all these master program to flourish in its own unique way. So if you are interested in any program going through the website , fetching that PDF ;and suppose say you want to apply for a Media studies, there’s an eligibility section for it and there they will explain whether they accept any undergraduate or somebody with a degree in journalism . Age is not a criterion; they expect you to submit a whole document which includes motivation letter, reference, CV’s, mark sheets, TOEFL score and so on. It again depends on kind of course you are applying for.

What kind of abilities you think you possessed which has helped you to get through with this scholarship?

I think they look for diversity. They want as many different nationalities represented as possible. There’s usually like a 50-50 percent divide between European and Non-European students .So I basically highlighted the strength that I bring to the table. I know my country well that I can represent my culture. I know enough about the domain I’m interested in, which is a cultural tourism where I see myself building a career.

Does studying in Europe leads to a financial burden for students and their family?

If you don’t come from a well off background, you must not go to the foreign program with your own money. You should always go for stuff where you can get a scholarship; I mean by and large that’s my opinion. If you come from a background where affording a decent education even in India is challenging then you should remember that its not only the tuition fees, you also have to survive here for getting a bread and butter. You have to live here with a very little allowance.

How was the experience at EMTM?

With ‘Sustainability’ steadily becoming our academic raison d’être, the multiple perspectives and diverse opinions continued to be very much in place, as I shared space with classmates from 22 different nationalities who wanted to learn about tourism through the lenses of History, Art Appreciation, Hospitality, Consumer Psychology, Sports and Marine Biology! I was fortunate to get the chance to enrich my experience further by receiving an Erasmus+ grant to move to the Voronezh State University in Russia, for the last semester, to work on my Masters Thesis that explored the influences Bollywood movies have on the travel behaviour of Indian tourists in Europe.

My time in Europe overlapped with several historic events in this part of the world, from the Syrian Refugee Crisis to Brexit, and now the Catalonian Independence Movement in Spain, and the multilayered realities of these issues have demolished and rebuilt my worldview many times over!

After having shared rooms, meals and conversations with countless individuals from the most unexpected parts of the planet, while travelling around over 15 countries in Europe, I have come to realize that beyond the façade of cultural differences and ethnic unfamiliarity lie the most essential human reality – extend a slice of warmth and sincerity, and you are sure to strike upon an immense reserve of kindness. Here’s to never losing sight of this mantra as I continue to engage with life and its many wonders.


Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?

(Laughs) I don’t know maybe doing some quality work, a work where I don’t have to struggle, work I don’t have to do just because it pays enough money to survive. Something I’m very passionate about, something in tourism hopefully.

My program is such that I can explore slightly related field like development sector, education and so on. There has to be a right balance between decent income and quality of work you are doing, work you are proud talking about.