If you overhear Commonwealth students conversing about football, there's a fifty-fifty chance they're chatting not about the New England Patriots but about the sport commonly called "soccer" in America—and that's in no small part because of Arjun ’24.
An ambassador for "the beautiful game," Arjun's devotion to football is strong both at Commonwealth (including as Football Club founder and as a documentarian for Project Week) and outside its walls (as a sports entrepreneur and nonprofit organizer; more below...). But Arjun's aim to "try everything" reflects interests extending far beyond athletics, too. Read on to learn about the unlikely start of Arjun's love of football, why he's awed by George Orwell's writing, and how he takes on roles in Commonwealth Theater.
Getting to Know You
You've lived all over the world! What country do you consider "home"?
My family is Indian, and I lived there for seven years, but I was born in the U.K. So I consider myself both Indian and British in different ways. I also used to live in Malaysia, when my parents were in India, and now we're all kind of settling into the United States. Whenever someone asks me where I'm from, I just say, "Everywhere."
What is your favorite book (or a book you've re-read)?
One book that really resonated with me was 1984 by George Orwell. I first read it in class, but I've read it many times since then. It struck me as so powerful how he describes this dystopian society in a way that strikes fear in you, even though it's just words on a page. It's so easy to visualize the mental torture and manipulation that everyone has to go through in that world, where you don't know what's true and what's not.
What's your favorite music?
To be completely honest, most of my music comes from the FIFA video game series [unsurprisingly, football-related]. My brother and I have been playing it for so many years that our music tastes have acclimated to the game.
What are your favorite comfort foods?
Home-cooked foods. My grandma used to make some really great Indian food; that's my favorite, but I love Asian food in general. When I was living in Malaysia, some of the best food I had was just fried rice or bok choy. It's easy, comfortable—something you can eat anytime, anywhere.
What's your favorite Commonwealth class?
Either [Rob] Sherry's Precalc last year or Physics [with Chris Spalding] this year. I came into Commonwealth knowing nothing about precalculus. I didn't do well on my first Commonwealth precalculus test, so I was super worried. But Mr. Sherry's class really helped me acclimate to the Commonwealth way of teaching and learning, and he's such an incredible teacher. This year, physics interests me, and Mr. Spalding is such a happy guy—all of his classes are filled with energy.
What's your favorite Hancock activity?
Cooking. I'm not a cook at home—my parents and my brother won't let me step into the kitchen and say I'd burn the house down. But at Hancock, I don't know what turns on; it's like a new mode comes into play when I cook, and I'm a beast in the kitchen. I think I might try to be a head cook next year.
Coffee or tea?
Oh, tea. One hundred percent. I think my British side kicks in. And my mom's Indian tea is just the best.
Life as a Commonwealth Student (and Beyond)
What was your first impression of Commonwealth and how has it mapped to your experience?
I came to Commonwealth as a tenth grader, right after moving from Malaysia, so everything around me was new. I like change, and I was used to change, but such a drastic change was a little jarring. The fact that everyone was so welcoming and accepting allowed me to acclimate really quickly, and it was so easy, like a hot knife cutting through butter. I love Commonwealth for what it is and who I am at school.
You're well-known at Commonwealth for Football Club; where did your enthusiasm for the sport come from? What happens at club meetings?
People ask me all the time where the interest came from; I couldn't tell you! My uncle is a huge fan, but we don't see each other much, and my parents aren't big on sports, so this obsession with football must have just come from outside exposure to the game. But it's such a huge part of my life now, and I don't think I could live without the sport.
At Football Club, we play games, learn about the business aspect, look at highlights, talk about tactics—it's a haven for learning about the game if you're new to it. It's almost like a football class with no homework.
At Commonwealth, I saw the opportunity to try and instill a culture of football here. The Boys' Soccer team had a great season [in fall 2022], and the World Cup was so big last year—we were watching it everywhere. I love that the sport has a presence at the school and that people want to learn about it.
Over the summer of 2022, you co-founded a nonprofit to make football more accessible to others. How did you organize that?
In March , I made a documentary detailing why football isn't popular in the United States [like it is in much of the world], and it seemed to come down to the fact that it's a pay-to-play model. A lot of kids don't have access to the kind of money you need to play the sport at a high level. I realized that's not only the case in the United States but in Asia, too, and I wanted to do something about it. My family was going back to India for the summer, and the place we live there has a school right next to it without any [football] facilities. Public schools in India usually don't have any resources for sports.
My brother [Aadi ’26] and I thought we'd raise money online, go to the school, and teach them the basics of how to play. We decided to call it the Vaidy Project, named after our late grandfather, whose nickname was Vaidy. We thought we would have succeeded if, by the end, the kids enjoyed playing and could set up a basic game for themselves. I know how much of an impact football has had on my life; maybe it could have an impact on those kids' lives as well. It was such a beautiful experience, because, going three or four times a week to be with them, we could really see how much it meant to them to have the opportunity to play and have fun. We'll definitely bring it back next year if we head back to India.
After the Vaidy Project, your initial idea expanded to a new app. Tell us about it!
I went to Thailand for a business bootcamp [Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp], where you needed to have an idea for a business that would create a sustainable way of solving a problem. I was obviously coming off the emotional high of the Vaidy Project, and I thought, "We can expand this. We can get more Asians into the footballing world and really create an impact." My idea was to create a bunch of academies just like the Vaidy Project but at a much bigger scale. We'd create a system of scouting where kids can upload their videos onto an app. If they showed potential and willingness to learn, they'd be admitted into the academies to learn to play the sport at a high level. We'd be the transition between playing on the streets and playing professionally, and hopefully that would create a culture.
My team won the competition. It was a big deal to me, and I was really happy. Now Mirai ['24] and I are creating the app for Project Week; we're hopefully going to try it out in the United States. We're partnering with football clubs and looking at how to get people onto the app through advertising.
You're playing Benedick in Commonwealth's production of Much Ado About Nothing this spring; when did you enter the world of theater?
On the second day I was at my old school, I saw a poster for The Jungle Book: The Musical. I had not acted a single day until then, but I was a pretty good singer. I thought, "Might as well audition," and I got the part of Bagheera, the panther. That was a brilliant experience, because it got me into the acting world. I did so many plays at my old school; then I came to Commonwealth, and I was in Macbeth and joined the acting class. In Macbeth, I was so many different people—a guard, a porter, a murderer, a noble. You have to create a different demeanor for each person, and when you try your best to relay that persona in your head on stage.
How do you make time for both academics and all your activities?
I make sure that I sleep enough to have energy throughout each day, and that I leave time for myself and my own well being. Everything else comes along the way, because you're so much more productive when you have enough rest and time with your family.
I also think if you keep track of everything you have going on, you can plan to dedicate a certain amount of time to each thing. It's about finding a balance of commitments. What you prioritize more and less can change at any given time, but it comes with practice.
What's your advice for prospective students considering Commonwealth?
Try everything. The success I've had at Commonwealth so far has come from trying different things: singing, acting, boxing, coaching. I've tried getting into all the stuff I can, and it's gone well for me—and even when it doesn't, I know I gave it a try. The important thing is putting yourself out there. When you do that, you'll really know what you're good at.