Two law students from India - Anupriya Dhonchak and Misbah Reshi - have bagged the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to pursue post-graduate studies at Oxford University next year..Anupriya Dhonchak is a final-year student of National Law University, Delhi. Presently, she is engaged as a fellow at SpicyIP..Misbah Reshi, originally hailing from Kashmir, is a final year student of Campus Law Centre, Faculty of Law, University of Delhi. She is also a Philosophy Honors graduate from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi..In this conversation with Bar & Bench, the duo give insight into what drove them to apply for the Scholarship, how the selection process played out amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and more..Tell us a little about yourself, for our readers..Anupriya Dhonchak: I am reading law in the final year at National Law University, Delhi. Outside of the law, I am interested in literature, poetry and philosophy. I have also played five national Badminton championships throughout middle school and high school, and I enjoy competitive sports. At law school, my interests have been versatile and I have worked on intellectual property, equality law, criminal law, free speech and privacy law..Misbah Reshi: I am a final year law student at Campus Law Centre, Faculty of Law, University of Delhi and a Philosophy Honors graduate from St. Stephen’s College. I regularly write briefing papers and reports on human rights as a Researcher for Citizens Against Hate and Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society. I am from Kashmir, but was born and raised in Delhi..What inspired you to apply for the Rhodes scholarship?.Anupriya Dhonchak: Everyone in law school becomes aware about the Rhodes as a very prestigious scholarship by hearing about it from seniors, professors etc. During various stages of my journey, I was told by professors, friends, and people I interned with that I must apply for it. I always considered this advice as a huge compliment. I started thinking about it in earnest only by fourth year. I had it in my mind that if all goes well, I will try for the Scholarship. .I wanted to read for the Masters because four years of law school had given me an idea of what subjects really excited me. I got a chance to pick my own courses for a semester exchange program at Osgoode Hall Law School, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It also bolstered my desire to study the subjects that fascinate me in greater detail. I would not have been able to afford higher education abroad without a scholarship. Further, the BCL course at Oxford aligns perfectly with my interests and the Rhodes community is immensely inspiring, so I was motivated to try sincerely for the Scholarship..To be part of a globally diverse cohort of students with whom I could learn and build solidarity on issues that are close to my heart was one of the biggest reasons for my application.Misbah Reshi.Misbah Reshi: I always wanted to study at Oxford University and was keen on studying specifically at their Faculty of Law. The Rhodes Scholarship is a prestigious scholarship as it not only funds your education at Oxford, but also, through it, you become part of the Rhodes community. To be part of a globally diverse cohort of students with whom I could learn and build solidarity on issues that are close to my heart was one of the biggest reasons for my application..What was the selection process like this year? Was it any different, given the pandemic situation?.Anupriya Dhonchak: We had a written application process which requires submission of a personal statement of 1,000 words and a CV along with six letters of recommendation. I went through three interviews with panelists from diverse fields such as economics, history, anthropology etc., besides the law. The entire process was online this year due to the pandemic. Usually, there are only two interviews, but we had three, as the Selection Committee wanted to know more about the candidates, since the entire process was online..Misbah Reshi: Owing to the pandemic, all interviews took place online over Zoom. Instead of the usual two rounds, we had three rounds of interviews and our panellists were scholars working across the world. With the universities being shut, there was slight leeway in the format of sending our letters of recommendation..What was the most challenging part of the selection process?.Anupriya Dhonchak: I was focusing on only the next immediate stage throughout the process. Once I was selected for the final interview, however, it was a little overwhelming since you’re then trying to prepare your best but also bracing for possible rejection in case things don’t work out, despite getting so close. .It’s crucial to focus on what you can do, take adequate rest and do things that you have fun doing because you cannot possibly be working the entire day. Having a positive state of mind is incredibly important to actually optimize the time that you end up working. A senior that I look up to had told me before another important interview that they won’t be testing what I can do in the preparation time available, but making a decision based on what I have done throughout law school. That’s always comforting to keep in mind. .Having a positive state of mind is incredibly important to actually optimize the time that you end up working.Anupriya Dhonchak.It is easier to prepare more rigorously if you’re trying to have fun while you’re at it instead of obsessing over the outcome. For instance, I really enjoyed watching YouTube videos of lectures by persons whose work I admire on areas of law that fascinate me. The application and interviews also require you to introspect deeply and it’s alright to take your time to process your feelings and emotions in order to arrive at honest answers..Misbah Reshi: Given that all interviews took place virtually, it was difficult to connect with the panellists in the way one would usually in an interview. It was harder to make a connection and convey enthusiasm..Since there was an extra round of interviews this year, it added to the nervousness and anxiety of the process. Luckily for me, the newly introduced second (of three) round was extremely interesting as the chair of the panel, an anthropologist, had extensive knowledge on my area of interest. We discussed the arguments made by various scholars who had contributed to the subject. It felt little like an interview and more like a conversation..Usually, the final shortlisted students are invited to a formal dinner event along with the members of the Selection Committee. It is a good opportunity for the students to bond with their panellists. I felt bad that the same could not happen this year. The Rhodes Secretariat alternatively organised an orientation call where I met the shortlisted students. It was great to interact with a group of remarkable students..How important was the extra-curricular aspect in this process?.Anupriya Dhonchak: Extra-curriculars are crucial for the Scholarship since the candidate must demonstrate the energy to use their talents to the fullest, truth, courage, and instincts to lead, in addition to academic excellence, in order to meet the requirements of the Scholarship. I have played sports, and been a part of debating, mooting and competitive negotiation competitions. I also realized that I enjoyed being invested in projects beyond just these activities, sometimes in fields entirely unrelated to the law such as journalism. .A major part of my work at University was with the excellent Research Centres at NLU Delhi, including the Centre for Constitutional Law, Policy and Governance, the Centre for Communication Governance and Project 39A. This allowed me to work on action-oriented policy projects in diverse formats, concerning rights-based approaches to a diverse range of issues..There is no specific activity that is valued more than another, but it is important that the interest is conveyed well.Misbah Reshi.Misbah Reshi: It was a significant part of my selection process. The Rhodes Scholarship is not only looking for students who perform well academically, they also want students to be actively engaged in extra-curricular activities. There is no specific activity that is valued more than another, but it is important that the interest is conveyed well..Did your law school experience help in anyway?.Anupriya Dhonchak: Absolutely! I cannot thank my institution enough for the growth I have had over the past few years. From very early on, I was fortunate to be taught by some exceptional professors, who became generous mentors along the way. .When I was appreciated for the first time for a term paper that I wrote, I had absolutely no clue that the papers that we write could be published. I was only thoroughly enjoying the class and didn’t want to disappoint the Professor who I really looked up to. I ended up publishing the paper because of ample encouragement and support from people whose work had left me awe-struck. Gradually, I started getting immersed in research and realised that writing provides me clarity. .Academic writing is not the solitary enterprise that it is made out to be. Most of my long-term writing projects have been the product of conversations and dialogue.Anupriya Dhonchak.Academic writing is not the solitary enterprise that it is made out to be. Most of my long-term writing projects have been the product of conversations and dialogue that my mentors, professors and peers generously engaged in. I have been able to revise my positions and question my prejudices because there were classes and discussions that compelled me to look beyond what I felt I had always known. The Vice-Chancellor, administration, professors and peers have been so incredibly supportive. I am very grateful for the space that they provide for growth and self-examination throughout the time we spend at law school..There is always the possibility of being delighted by something new, doing well at something, even failing a couple of times, but having different activities to try out, which kept me thoroughly busy and happy during the time I’ve spent at NLU Delhi so far..Misbah Reshi: My experience at Campus Law Centre played a key role in my selection for the Scholarship. I am currently heading the Legal Aid Society of my college and have been a mentor at the Moot Court Society. The support of some of my professors and their teachings that made classrooms liberating and challenging pushed me to explore law from perspectives I had not before..Being a Kashmiri Muslim woman, my interpretation of the law and its purpose was limited to my experiences. But my friends at law school, all from diverse backgrounds, helped me immensely in understanding and learning about issues beyond my lived reality. With them, I became more sensitive to concerns I had not experienced and was able to convey my dreams and aspirations as radically as I wanted. My peers, my work at the Legal Aid Society, and work I did with various organisations and lawyers contributed to the universalisation of my opinion on the inability to access justice and the need to contribute to correcting it..What field of law are you looking to pursue at Oxford?.Anupriya Dhonchak: I am interested in studying Equality Law and Intellectual Property Law as part of the BCL course at Oxford. I think of substantive equality as not just a distinct subject but as a valuable lens to perceive other seemingly unrelated areas of law, such as Intellectual Property..Misbah Reshi: At Oxford, I am interested in studying Human Rights Law, Public International Law, International Law and Armed Conflict, Constitutional Theory, and Islamic Jurisprudence..Any advice for future aspirants?.Anupriya Dhonchak: Try to be honest with yourself. Creating distorted versions of ourselves to conform to a set of expectations is natural, but retaining the space to question these expectations is vital to feeling at home with the world. .If you pursue things you can imagine being truly interested in and passionate about, you’re likely to do much better than when you’re doing things only for the sake of ticking checkboxes. Rhodes Scholars are not hundred percent perfect, ever-efficient people. I used to think they were, but now I know better. It’s important to bear in mind that these are all processes that can go either way. .So, please apply if you’re on the fence about it, do shoot your shot with honesty and sincerity, and I hope it takes you to the places you’ve always dreamt of wanting to go..Misbah Reshi: My experience with the selection process has taught me that there is no particular way to be a Rhodes Scholar. While the characteristics required in a Rhodes Scholar are clearly stated on the Rhodes Trust website, its embodiment in each person is unique and it is important to reflect them well in your statement of purpose. .Rhodes Scholars are not hundred percent perfect, ever-efficient people. I used to think they were, but now I know better.Anupriya Dhonchak.I would recommend law students to read beyond their academic books so they get a holistic perspective on law. I have a background in Philosophy, which has really shaped my understanding of law, the courts' interpretation of it, and its impact on people..For the Rhodes Scholarship, academic excellence and engagement in extra-curricular activities are valued, but more so is the drive to contribute to society and bring meaningful change. If one does so truly and with dedication, it will be recognised.