Sanya Samtani’s journey towards cracking Rhodes Scholarship

Reported by B. Varun Reddy
  1. Congrats Sanya. How do you feel on winning the Rhodes Scholarship?                                                                Thank you. Initially I was a little overwhelmed, but I feel thankful that I have been offered this opportunity to study at Oxford.
  2. Did you have this as a dream from child hood or did you think about this scholarship after joining NALSAR?                                                                                                                                                                          I thought of the scholarship once I joined NALSAR as a lot of our seniors had applied for it, and been successful in the past.
  3. Do you think that the environment at NALSAR and faculty of NALSAR had an impact on your thinking?            It definitely did, to a very large extent. NALSAR allows you to choose what sort of law student you want to be – I owe a lot to the institution for providing me with the kind of exposure that it did (and still does), in terms of the kinds of conversations that I have had with some of the professors, and the classroom interaction that is heavily encouraged. My interest in subjects such as critical theory, political philosophy and international law were definitely honed by the same.
  4. How were students and alumni of NALSAR helpful to you while preparing the SoP and Interview?                 I think I have my seniors to thank the most – all of them replied to the emails I sent them (quite extensively), and set aside time for the Skype calls that I made to them. Also, some of them put me in touch with alumni of other law schools who also very kindly helped me by talking to me about their experiences. My friends were incredibly helpful in terms of having long drawn out discussions about various things in the news and about myself, reminding me to take a break once in a while, and of course being there for me to offset my nervousness.                                                         
  5. Who were there on the panel for your interview and please share your interview experience with us?  The interview was an interesting experience. There were ten distinguished members of the Selection Committee who took the final round of interviews. The interviews were related to the personal statement that I was required to write as a part of the application process, as well as introspective questions about myself. The night before that, the Rhodes Trust India had organized a formal dinner wherein we interacted with the members of the Selection Committee, in a different setting. Overall, it was an enriching experience and an introspective journey.
  6. Apart from academics and moots in which other activities did you take part in NALSAR or outside NALSAR?There are a variety of on-campus student-run discussion groups that I am a part of. Further, I have also been involved in the Debating Society as well as in the organization of the NALSAR IV Debating Championship as well as the NALSAR Film Festival. Outside of NALSAR, I used to learn Kathak as well as take part in and organize Model United Nations Conferences prior to joining law school.
  7. We also heard that you were also teaching assistant in NALSAR for Public International Law. Please tell us about your teaching experience and your interest for Public International Law.                                           The teaching assistantship programme is what I found to be most fulfilling. A friend of mine applied as well, and the both of us used to conceptualize different methods of discussing a particular concept and trying to make sure that we get through to everyone in the tutorial group. The tutorial group was a smaller group of sixteen, and we tried as much as possible to address the concerns that they raised – as some people are more comfortable speaking in smaller groups. We used various case studies, as well as visual aids and as many application-based activities as possible, since classroom learning is usually saturated with concepts. I have been broadly interested in Public International Law since school, at which point I was involved with Model United Nations conferences. I realized that certain power hierarchies were inherent in the system itself, and that the system was constituted by law. It is at that point that I decided that I would study law – and international law in particular. 
  8. What is your message for other law students who want to excel in their careers?                                         Of course, one shouldn’t take advice from me, I’m still in law school and still trying to figure out how to begin my career! But I guess my personal philosophy would be something along the lines of keep asking yourself if this is what you want to do. If your answer is yes, you’re moving in the right direction. If not, then there’s no harm in changing your mind as long as you’re happy and passionate about what you’re doing.  

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