Dubai: India-born Rohan Sampath knew he would do well in his Grade 12 exams but becoming the ICSE topper worldwide with 99.5 per cent marks was unimaginable. The 17-year-old now looks forward to joining Stanford University and unlike many brought up in Dubai, he really hopes he can return to India some day.
"My first reaction was disbelief. I thought it was a typo. I didn't expect it," Rohan, a science student of Dubai Modern High School, told IANS in an interview.
Born in Mumbai, Rohan scored 100 per cent in mathematics, 100 per cent in physics, 100 per cent in computer science and 98 per cent in English, becoming the highest scorer in the history of the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) examinations.
Private tuition classes have no place in Rohan\'s study mantra, defying a trend among a majority of Indian families.
His parents, who have been in Dubai for 18 years, are naturally overjoyed but say they were more elated when he got through both Stanford and Yale universities in the US.
"We were not that concerned about marks. He has been topping in school every year with 98 per cent. My elation was higher when he got through Stanford and Yale. Only later when we realised that he had topped ICSE across the world, then of course we were very happy," said his mother Sandhya Sampath.
Rohan has chosen to attend Stanford University and study either economics or engineering.
Private tuition classes have no place in Rohan's study mantra, defying a trend among a majority of Indian families.
"I've been an opponent of tuitions. Teachers in school have been instrumental in my success. I look at private tuitions as an insult to my teachers as I trust them completely," said Rohan.
"I think the hours spent in tuitions should be spent in studying yourself with focus or on extra-curricular activities," he added.
Contrary to the image of a topper, Rohan doesn't believe in studying long hours or cramming either. In fact, the teenager was busy organising an international debate competition in his school just a week before his exams.
"We were hosting the Modern World Debates, which saw teams coming from the UK, India, Qatar and Singapore. It was a responsibility we had to fulfill," said the bespectacled youngster who is also the president of the school debating society.
He might not have been worried, but his mother sure was anxious.
"Believe me, I was very worried but we had no choice," Sandhya told IANS, adding that Rohan is a good tennis player and swimmer as well.
Rohan's school principal Darryl Bloud too is all praises for him. "Rohan Sampath has re-defined the word 'full potential' by raising the bar at Modern High with his phenomenal achievement at the ISC Examinations 2012. We salute this outstanding member of the Modern community," Bloud said in a statement.
Despite having grown up in Dubai all along, Rohan says he has a special connect with India. Recalling his holidays with grandparents to teaching underprivileged children in Mumbai as a volunteer for an NGO called Aakansha last year, Rohan hopes he can return to his country some day.
"I have always wanted to return to India after my education.
On adjusting to life in India, he said: "I don't think it will be that tough. I don't find much difference between me and kids my age in India except that we don't talk much Hindi.
He credits his parents' upbringing and his school for inculcating in him "the Indian value system with a global perspective".
Rohan's parents originally hail from Tamil Nadu but they too were brought up outside their home state. His mother, who worked as an IT manager with Emirates Airlines till last year, was brought up in Mumbai. And his father, an independent consultant in the banking sector, grew up in Pune.
Rohan's success has suddenly shifted the spotlight to the thousands of Indian expat children around the world who study and compete with their Indian counterparts for top honours at school level.