Interview: Gautam Bhatia- NLSIU Student, Rhodes Scholar 2011

Two fifth year students- Shreya Atrey from NALSAR and Gautam Bhatia from NLSIU have won the coveted Rhodes Scholarship for 2011 which entitles them to pursue a law course for one year at the University of Oxford.

We bring you an interview with Gautam Bhatia.

1. The inevitable, how do you feel?

Truth be told, it hasn’t sunk in yet. I feel as though I’m in a dream.

2. What will you be studying in Oxford?

Public International Law. In particular, courses dealing with international law and armed conflict, international economic law, and settlement of international disputes.

3. Did you plan your time in law school with the Rhodes in mind?

No. I decided to apply for the Rhodes sometime towards the end of my third year. Neither prior to that, nor subsequently, did I engage in any activity for the purpose of getting the Rhodes – apart from ensuring that my grades remained high enough to give me a good chance.

4. What does it take to be a Rhodes scholar?

I must state at the outset that the entire Rhodes application process lasts for four months (July to October), and was most certainly the most trying and nerve-wracking time of my life.


Objectively, an application must demonstrate tangible evidence of academic excellence. The best criteria for determining this are one’s grades and one’s rank in class. This is possibly the most crucial factor in making it to the final interview.

Extra-curricular activities

Beyond that, it always helps to have engaged in a few co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. In my case, it was mooting, and a bit of debating and tennis. There is a common perception that one must have an exceptional record in a particular sport, or dramatics, theatre or music, but I must confess that my application had none of that.

The statement of purpose

A Rhodes application also requires an statement of purpose, which is vitally important, as it is read carefully by the entire panel, and often forms the basis for questions in an interview (my final interview was entirely based on my statement of purpose). Academic and personal reference letters also play a role.

The interview

As far as the interview goes, I don’t think there’s any single blueprint for success, and I also think that good fortune plays an important part in determining the course an interview takes, and what answers a given panel on a given day at a given time finds convincing.

Nonetheless, I do feel that it is imperative to stay true to oneself and one’s convictions at all times, and that this invariably helps in one coming across as a genuine and committed person in the interview.

In my personal case, apart from being constantly supported, advised and encouraged by my parents, I have benefited immensely from being in the company of some very inspirational seniors.

In particular, Mr. V. Niranjan guided me in almost every activity I have undertaken in Law School, influenced my attitude towards, and love for the law, and was in constant touch with me throughout the Rhodes application process.

Thanks are also due to my professors at Law School, some of whom agreed to be my referees, and some very good friends.

5. What are your plans after this?

My performance in the BCL permitting, I wish to continue with an MPhil (also at Oxford), and a Phd or a DPhil, and then enter academia and teaching.

This is courtesy Aruj Garg and Sahana Manjesh, our college managers from NLSIU.

Check out our interview with Shreya Atre here.

Check out the news item on Rhodes Scholarship 2011 by Legallyindia here.

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