Senior Spotlight Transcript: Diya Nair


Transcript from a student spotlight interview held on October 3, 2022, with Diya Nair, a senior, in Founders’ Hall, Keystone School. The episode is available on the “Cobra Radio” Podcast. Read the Senior Spotlight recap here.


Lorenzo: Hi. I’m Lorenzo Ruiz. I’m co-Editor-in-Chief of the Keystone Keynote and I am joined by Diya. Diya, would you introduce yourself?


Diya: Yeah, sure. Hi. I’m Diya Nair and I’m a senior at Keystone, and I’ve just moved to San Antonio from Singapore in my senior year. And Keystone has been the place that I chose to spend my senior year.

Lorenzo: And we need to get into that. Right. So we’re both seniors. And as you said, you’re coming from Singapore to San Antonio. So can you talk a little bit to what that experience has been like coming from Singapore to San Antonio in your senior year?


Diya: In my senior year. Yeah, a couple of things. Singapore and San Antonio are very different in terms of the city and in terms of how people behave. And it has been very interesting to really notice cultural differences in terms of how you’re treated in a mall or how, you know, there is so much focus on service over here.

That wasn’t the case in Singapore. And it’s been a very culturally enlightening experience so far. And the second thing that I would like to talk about is coming in as a senior has been challenging. But Keystone has made it amazing regardless, and that has to do with the amazing faculty and amazing students that I’ve had the opportunity to meet and really talk to and interact with.

So the challenge, therefore, I think has gotten a lot better.


Lorenzo: I mean, that’s fabulous to hear. That’s exactly what you want to hear as a member of your class, that it’s been a good transition—but not smooth, you say, right?


Diya: Not smooth, but it has definitely smoothened out and I definitely feel more academically capable coming in. And it has not been, you know, very difficult academically so far.


Lorenzo: Are you enjoying the experience of being here at Keystone? Would you say that it’s a good education


Diya: Definitely. I think the experience that each teacher brings to the classes has changed the way I look at a lot of subjects and that involved a lot of breaking of my conventional understanding and challenging myself in different ways that I never thought possible. So it has been an enlightening experience, like I mentioned, and also very challenging academically, which really is something I enjoy doing.


Lorenzo: Oh, okay. Okay. That’s something that’s very unique—oftentimes—to students here at Keystone, which is, you know, really wanting to push yourself to have tough experiences and to grow from them.


Diya: Absolutely. And I’ve had a lot of tough experiences academically because I’ve moved around a lot. I’ve studied in India. I’ve also studied in Muscat in my formative years. It’s in the Middle East. Because of all the moving around, academically, has been challenging, but I always knew that [I] had to stay ahead of the game. And that’s what I did by, you know, working hard and making sure that [I] get all [my] doubts cleared with help from teachers.


Lorenzo: So it’s clear you are a hardworking student, but what classes do you enjoy the most? What gives you the most fun?


Diya: I think I really enjoy Mr. Nydegger’s physics class, Physics, Electricity and Magnetism. It has been amazing. I did have a very brief understanding of this concept from my previous school, but it was very brief and many times wrong. So having to challenge the wrong understanding that I had, being comfortable with being wrong, is something that I learned after coming to Keystone.


Lorenzo: That’s a powerful skill.


Diya: Definitely.


Lorenzo: So would you call yourself mostly a student of the sciences? Or how do you feel about the humanities?


Diya: I definitely enjoy both. I think I really cannot choose. But as for my career path, I’d like to go into sciences and be an engineer.


Lorenzo: Okay. Okay. So I know you do a lot of work outside of school, right? So how are you manifesting, how are you pursuing your passions outside of school?


Diya: Outside of school, when I think of work, I really think about volunteering and making an impact as a student. Many times, we are fed with a lot of information from social media, and I felt numb because I’ve not been able to do anything about it. Right now, I’m involved in tutoring Ukrainian students—and the backstory of that is just knowing that there is this war happening and knowing that so many students have a break in their education, disruptions that cannot be, you know, cannot be solved and cannot be continued.

That’s what really motivated me to go ahead and start tutoring. So when I came across this organization called ENGin which is a nonprofit organization and based in the U.S., I immediately signed up for it because ENGin works with Ukrainian schools and Ukrainian students to connect volunteer educators in the US and in the world. So that’s something that I’ve been up to outside of school.

And we have classes every week and it’s just an hour a day. I think that’s been very helpful.


Lorenzo: And I understand you’ve been working hard to try and bring those opportunities— those volunteer opportunities—to students here at Keystone. So what’s that looked like?


Diya: That has been a smooth experience. So I spoke to Mr. Spedding about this idea and conducted a survey first. I really wanted to see how many people are interested in this, you know, before starting any initiative. So we sent out a Google Form, my team consisting of Nandini and I, we sent out a Google forum, and we got very positive responses more than we had anticipated.

Following that, we connected those students with the organization, gave them the resources to sign up as volunteers. And they’re all in the process as we speak. They’re all in the process of getting set up, and some of them have already started volunteering. So that’s a very nice thing to know that, you know, this is happening.


Lorenzo: You do a lot outside of school. You’re a passionate student. So how do you balance those two things? How do you manage to make them both work?


Diya: I think the key is to really balance it. And when I say balance, it’s very vague, but it is to understand what amount would be the right amount. I’ve had challenges balancing extracurriculars and my academics previously, but what I’ve learned from that is that priority and prioritizing those tasks that you have has been what would be the best way to go about it.

So what I do is I tend to forget tasks that I have. So I immediately write them down when it comes to my mind and I have a list by the end of the day and I try to get you know, I use Notion, the app, and it’s been very helpful and, you know, really scheduling and getting all my work done.

So that’s how I’ve been able to balance my time.


Lorenzo: Making a list.


Diya: Yes, making a list.


Lorenzo: That’s good advice for everyone, I think. Do you still have free time?


Diya: I definitely do have free time where I, you know, like, speak to my parents and talk with my sister and that’s how I spend it.


Lorenzo: Are there any unproductive hobbies you have, like watching television?


Diya: Of course. I think everyone would have something like this, and I’m not afraid to admit it. I scroll through Instagram, sometimes endlessly. But I’d like to say that I follow a lot of educational Instagram pages, you know, world news and critical news and critique articles. So that’s how I’ve been able to not feel that bad about my unproductive habits.

And that’s how I stay informed, you know, I’ve lived in a lot of different places, but I’d also like to know what’s happening there. It’s every time I move around or every time I move to a new place, I still have that part of me that wants to, you know, think about the previous place.

And that’s how I stay connected, reading the news and keeping in touch with my friends and talking to them about these policies that come out and that interests me.


Lorenzo: That’s a very mindful way to use your free time.

The last big question I’d have for you—last big, serious one—is what do you want to spend the next five, ten years of your life working on?


Diya: That is a very important question, and I have a goal of starting a startup and after graduation, I plan to gain experience, either through my industry experience or through my master’s. I still haven’t decided because I’m going into engineering. I definitely feel the need to continue my education up to a master’s. And if research interests me, I would do a Ph.D. as well.

But after that, I have the goal of starting a startup that focuses on clean energy for developing countries and a way that I want to do it, or some goals that I have for my startup internally, is to have a one to one ratio of male to female engineers, and have employees where it’s equal, you know, for all genders, not just male and female.

So I think that it’s very important to have that sort of diversity in my startup and that is something that I don’t see in schools, especially colleges in STEM heavy majors. And I wonder what if I could, you know, be the change as I create my own organization in the future. And that’s a policy that I’m, you know, really looking forward to and really looking forward to implementing.


Lorenzo: So trying to bring about change on multiple fronts?


Diya: On multiple fronts, yes. One is obviously focusing on making clean energy more accessible to developing countries. And the second one is internally for the organization having that equal distribution of gender and in diversity.


Lorenzo: That’s inspiring to hear—That’s a very good plan. And don’t forget about me when you launch that startup. So now let’s move into kind of rapid fire questions, quick questions and quick responses. Keeping it light.


Favorite movie?


Diya: I don’t think I have one.


Lorenzo: Favorite song?


Diya: It’s “Sold” by Lana Lubany, and it’s the song that I’m currently listening to.


Lorenzo: Favorite ice cream flavor?


Diya: Cookies and cream,


Lorenzo: Favorite season?


Diya: Summer, because that’s all I’ve known.


Lorenzo: What are summers like in Singapore?


Diya: It’s the same throughout the year. 365 days it’s tropical weather, so that’s why I say that’s all I’ve known.


Lorenzo: If you could pick one historical figure to have dinner with, who would it be?


Diya: Mahatma Gandhi.


Lorenzo: Why?


Diya: I want to understand how he came up with those ideas for nonviolence, what was his thinking process like?


Lorenzo: Favorite book?


Diya: Five Point Someone by Chetan Bhagat


Lorenzo: Favorite curriculum? 


Diya: AP.


Lorenzo: Said nobody ever.


Diya:  Let’s do that over.


Lorenzo: No, I think that we’re going to leave that. That’s a good response. I think that that’s enough rapid fire questions.


Diya: I’ve taken a lot of curriculums and AP’s pretty decent.


Lorenzo: Oh, really? Really. Okay. Okay.


Diya: So four, five, six, maybe. Throughout my high school experience.

Lorenzo: So you have, you know, a way to gauge it. Most people don’t.


Diya: Exactly.


Lorenzo: AP’s pretty bad when you just compare it to AP. I think that that is a fantastic note to leave off on. Unless you have anything else to say?


Diya: No, I just wanted to thank Keynote for making this happen and inviting me to interview for their podcast. And it’s been a wonderful 15 minutes of my life.


Lorenzo: Yes, perhaps the best 15 minutes of your life.


Diya: Probably. I should restate that. It’s been the most amazing 15 minutes of my life and I really enjoyed being on this platform and being interviewed by Lorenzo, who has been an amazing interviewer.


Lorenzo: Oh, wow. Thank you. Thank you for hyping up my skill. Well, thank you so much for being a fabulous interviewee. This has been a great conversation and I really look forward to seeing how the rest of our senior year goes. And people need to keep tabs on you for the rest of your career because it sounds like you’re going places, Diya.


Diya: Thank you. Thank you, Lorenzo.


Lorenzo: Okay, that’s it. Hopefully that was recording.