In conversation with Adrija Ghosh on winning Rhodes Scholarship

Adrija Ghosh from the Class of 2021 WBNUJS has been awarded the Rhodes Scholarship for the year 2022.

With this achievement, Adrija will be sharing the ranks of other Rhodes Scholars from the University which includes Shibani Ghosh from the Class of 2006, Amba Kak from the Class of 2013, Gauri Pillai from the Class of 2017, and Mihika Poddar from the Class of 2019.

In her five years at NUJS, Adrija took an active interest in mooting and was also an Associate Member of the NUJS Law Review for two years. In her final year, she served as an Editor of the Journal of Indian Law and Society and was the Director of various academic societies, during her time at NUJS.  

Adrija’s interests lie in the areas of equality law and human rights law, having extensively written and researched on topics like the constitutionality of the marital rape exemption. She is currently working as a Consultant (Research), on projects related to the death penalty, at Project 39A, National Law University, Delhi.

 

She has been interviewed by Tushmi Udyalak, EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador who is currently pursuing law from NUJS.


1. Congratulations on your Rhodes Scholarship! It has been an incredible journey since law school. How did you feel after accomplishing this dreamy feat?


Thank you so much. It has taken some time to sink in. I am just glad to have made all those who have supported me throughout this journey, proud. I am also very grateful for this opportunity and am looking forward to making the most of my time at Oxford.

 


2. What are the things one should keep in mind before applying for this process? Could you throw light on the constraints, and interests that should be considered before applying?


One should be mindful of the eligibility criteria, which may be found in the Rhodes India Memorandum, which is released every year before the applications open. Anyone planning to apply must ensure that they meet the eligibility criteria regarding nationality, age, education, and academic achievement.

 It must also be noted that the Rhodes Scholarship is only for the University of Oxford. Both the Rhodes Selection Committee and the University typically look for students with a strong academic record. Besides this, it is important for your application to reflect the four criteria for selection, namely, outstanding intellect, character, leadership, and commitment to service.


3. What is the procedure of applying for this prestigious scholarship? Was it a fun ride?


 

The application process was rigorous while also being enjoyable. The first stage was the written round, where I was required to submit an academic statement of study (750 words) and a personal statement (1000 words), along with my CV and four letters of recommendation. Once I was shortlisted, I had to sit for three rounds of interviews, all online on account of the pandemic. The preliminary interview was a technical round, where I was asked questions specific to my field. The panellists were all lawyers. I had a panel that was primarily drawn from the humanities in the second round. In the final round, I faced an interdisciplinary panel. In the last two rounds, I was asked questions not just about my academic and professional interests but also about my opinions on current events and questions aimed at gauging my level of knowledge and self-awareness.

The process allows for a lot of introspection, which I think is very important when planning to pursue postgraduate studies. Knowing what you want to study, why, and how that contributes to your long-term goals, is very important. I found that I had a lot of clarity on these questions at the end of the process.


4. What was your interview for the scholarship like? What are the types of questions asked and what, in your opinion, are the standard replies?


I thoroughly enjoyed all three of my interviews. I found the questions to be challenging yet insightful. The panellists had made it a point to go over my application material in great detail in order to ask me extremely pertinent questions about the issues that I had worked on or written about.

I do not think there is a template for the kind of questions that one might encounter in a Rhodes Interview. However, I would say that thinking deeply about the broad themes underlying my research interests, namely, human rights law, gender equality, citizenship law and the death penalty; and being prepared to respond to questions about the debates relevant to these fields, stood me in good stead. Therefore, my advice would be to know one’s area of work and interests very well. In addition, it is good to be prepared to answer questions about one’s goals and ambitions and how the Rhodes Scholarship contributes to those goals.


4. Having been an active student at NUJS, how do you think that acted as an advantageous point for you as against competitors from equal capabilities? What would you call your personal gem that worked in your favour?


One of the Rhodes selection criteria is the energy to use one’s talents to the full. In this regard, my involvement in co-curricular pursuits probably helped, especially those that demonstrated my ability to work well in teams and my leadership capabilities. At NUJS, I participated in moot court tournaments and headed academic societies. I also was a member of the NUJS Law Review and served as an Editor of the Journal of Indian Law and Society in my final year. These experiences contributed significantly to the development of my research interests while also teaching me to thrive in teams. While I cannot claim to know if my co-curricular activities were what worked in my favour in the final selection, they helped me broaden my interests and learn from those I worked alongside.


5. What inspired you to take up higher studies? Who would you recommend it to?


I always knew that I was academically inclined. Right from the first year, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the process of research and writing. Further, the courses that I enjoyed most at law school were those that required me to engage with the text critically and build arguments using logic, reason, and relevant authorities, legal as well as non-legal. Therefore, for me, pursuing postgraduate studies was the next logical step.

Those who enjoy research and want to undertake research-intensive work should definitely consider undertaking postgraduate studies. However, I do know that a postgraduate degree is a massive undertaking, in that it is a rigorous and intensive process. Hence, I would say that one should pursue higher studies only if one is inclined to do so; not just to tick another box.


6. You have seen the offline libraries to online SCC-EBC shift which has made accessing research material, and other legal resources easily. What is your opinion on the importance of legal research to excel at law school? 


I believe that access to legal databases is non-negotiable when it comes to undertaking quality research and legal work as a law student. I was fortunate to be enrolled in an institution where most of the essential legal databases were accessible to me.


7. What are your ambitions at Oxford? Any plans after masters? 


At Oxford, I wish to build on the research that I have undertaken and the skills that I have acquired as a law student, so that I may use them as tools for the protection of the rights of individuals, especially minorities. I hope to continue working at the intersection of research and litigation.


8. What advice would you want to give for students dreaming like you, to study at Oxford in the coming years?


My advice would be to spend time thinking about what drives them and reflect on what they want to study and why. Clarity of thought and honesty of purpose will make one stand out from a competitive pool of applicants. Of course, it is also essential to maintain good grades and engage in work that demonstrates one’s interest in the areas that one wishes to study further at Oxford.


9. Who have been your motivators, and/or if you would like to thank someone in this process?


 

My family, friends, seniors and juniors from NUJS, professors, mentors, and colleagues have all been sources of strength, support, and motivation. There are, of course, some people who have made immense contributions to my academic and professional journey. They have read drafts of papers that I have written, taken mock interviews before my Rhodes interviews, generally shared advice, and been very encouraging all along. I want to thank them for their kindness and express gratitude for their interest in my work.

Thank you Adrija, for taking the time to fill these answers out and taking this interview. I am sure it will inspire a lot of readers and students who aspire to become like you, one of them being myself. I look forward to your growing successes in life, and wish you the very best with the new chapter in Europe.

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