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The usually unassuming SASTRA Satsangh in Kodambakkam wore a festive look on August 19, 2023. 8-foot banners, posters, advertorials in creative designs greeted passersby. It would not be hyperbolic to say that the sea of crowd that descended here rivalled even the typical Indian wedding extravaganza. It was the day of the Global Education Meet 2023. Learners Cortex, in collaboration with Magoosh, organized this grand affair.

Food for thought

The event kickstarted at 10 AM with a welcome address presented by Ms. Sakthi of Learners Cortex followed by Mr. Sriram Rangarajan delivering the keynote speech. The primary motive of this meet was “to educate, empower and enhance students’ experiences of studying abroad”. An education conclave of such a scale was possible only to the sheer will of Mr. Senthil Kumar Vinayagam and Mr. Anand Shankar, who serve as the business head and academic head of Learners Cortex respectively.
The timing of this education fair couldn’t have been better. 2023 is after all the year of standardized test revision beginning with the introduction of digital SAT in March, the enhanced TOEFL in July, the shortened GRE in September, and GMAT Focus Edition in October. At such a dynamic time, invariably, prospective aspirants would have numerous questions and clarifications. All their doubts were laid to rest at the sprawling auditorium where a composite audience comprising both parents and students were privy to insightful workshops conducted on the GRE, GMAT, SAT, IELTS, TOEFL, and university admissions in USA, Canada, and Germany. Mr. Sriram remained a constant presence as the host of the seminars, wherein he waxed eloquent about the importance of the GRE, university admissions timeline, and quizzed the audiences in mathematical funda. A flurry of questions soon followed, keeping him on his toes. The staple questions pertained to the revised GRE format and university admissions parameters. The audiences were visibly impressed. The presenter could barely conceal a smile when a young student, hardly out of his teen years, remarked “That was an amazing speech, man”. As the audiences exited, one could witness their apprehensions dissolve, giving way to a newfound confidence.

Choices galore

A huge political map of USA greeted visitors before they met the representatives. For a second, it looked like one was in the US embassy. Dapper business suits, blazers, pencil skirts, and stilettos were the most perceptible sartorial choices. Interestingly, each of the meeting halls were named after historical figures: Rosalind Franklin (at last someone remembers her), W.E.B. DuBois, and M.C. Escher.
At the 3 halls, a host of university representatives from USA, Canada, the UK, and Australia were present at their most enthusiastic selves. Some of the universities included Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Australian Technical and Management College, and the University of Findlay. Partners of Learners Cortex included educational technology companies such as ApplyBoard, Global Study Partners, EduCo, and Study Group. Both parents and their wards were at their interactive best posing incisive questions to the presenters. Aside from answering questions and offering niche insights, the university representatives evaluated students’ profiles, explained the pivotal university selection parameters, and even outlined the steps to attain merit-based scholarships. More notably, representatives from both ETS (the administrator of the GRE and TOEFL) and GMAC (the administrator of the GMAT) were present. Ms. Shruthi and Ms. Seema answered the volley of questions from the students with spirited ease and suggested official preparatory resources in tackling the revised GRE and GMAT exams. A cursory look revealed that the Germany helpdesk was bursting at the seams thanks to the aspirants, who thronged it. Ms. Harini, a specialist in master’s admissions in Germany, became known for her trenchant expertise and exuberance in equal measure. The organizational staff at Learners Cortex consisted of Mr. Sarath Kumar and Ms. Kalaivani—both of whom deftly chaperoned the steady stream of students and parents and facilitated them to the respective helpdesks. They were also instrumental in unfailingly answering their questions. It quickly became apparent that this element of human interaction, perhaps, distinguished this education meet from all those virtual summits.

The Devil is in the details

It has become somewhat a cliché to say that the little things matter. But actually, they do. What set this event apart were the small things that put a smile on every visitor’s face: a bowl of chocolates at every helpdesk, an installation featuring colourful cards with GRE words, and the perpetual smiles and endearing curiosity evinced by the support staff. The highlight of the day was an interactive laboratory painstakingly set up for students. One could work on GRE sample questions from the flagship Magoosh portal, test his/her vocabulary, and get instantaneous scores. Visitors could also take up a computer-based IELTS/TOEFL test in any of the 4 modules. The environment was reminiscent of an arcade video game parlour popular in the early 2000s with students jostling for space. A casual glance revealed the coveted American International Recruitment Council certification hanging on a wall and beaming proudly. Learners Cortex is part of an elite club that is certified by the AIRC.
As twilight approached, the crowds started to filter. It was estimated that more than 200 people attended this conclave over a span of 7 hours. Lalith, a student from SRM, Chennai was profuse in his compliments. “I have got a clear roadmap thanks to Ms. Manimekalai (a specialist in USA admissions)”. One alumni of SASTRA quipped tongue-in-cheek “I feel like a kid in a candy shop”. I think all of us felt the same way.

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