Monday, July 30, 2012

The Rhodes informal pre-interview dinner

The Rhodes interview process kicks off with an informal dinner, held on the evening before the actual interviews. The dinner gives the candidates a chance to meet and get acquainted with the judges, some Rhodes alumni and various dignitaries associated with the Rhodes scholarships in Pakistan.
I reached Islamabad on Thursday night. Agha Afzal Hussain had offered the candidates a place to stay at the Pakistan Youth Hostel Islamabadand but I chose to stay at a friend's place. On Friday evening I went to Pakistan Youth Hostel to meet up with any candidates who might be staying there, I found out that most of the candidates were from Islamabad, so only one candidate, henceforth known as Computer Dude, from Karachi was staying there. We introduced ourselves to each other and it turned that he was working in the same company for which I had undergone an extensive interview process before joining my current job.
The dinner was arranged at Marriot Hotel and Agha Sahab, Computer Dude and I went there together. On the way there Agha Sahab gave both of us a quick run down of the guests who would be present there and a bit of background information on the judges. I was reminded of the scene in the Devil Wears Parada movie where Anne is given a big album of guest pictures to memorize before the big ball.
We were the first to arrive and we chatted for a while with some academicians who arrived soon after. Soon the other candidates, guests and judges started pouring in. The candidates included Philosophy Girl, Doctor Dude, Professor Dude, Architect Girl, Economics Girl. There tables were pre designated and the judges on my table were Shaukat Hameed Khan and Cyril Almeida. The talk revolved mostly around Imran Khan's politics and then we learned a bit about what goes on behind the scenes after the application deadline. Turns out that every year around 350 people from Pakistan apply for the Rhodes Scholarship, out of which roughly half don't fulfill the basic eligibility threshold and are dropped. Copies of all the remaining applications are sent to the eight judges, who individually come up with their top candidates list, with the personal statement being one of the foremost factors in the decision making. These lists are then consolidated and the top seven or eight candidates and then called for interview, and so here we were. The food was delicious yet none of the candidates ate much, I think we were all pretty stressed. Philosophy girl wowed the people on her table with a detailed discussion about Iqbal's poetry.
After the dinner the candidates stood around for a while and chatted, we found out that most of us were on the Fulbright shortlist too. The dinner was a wonderful experience from start to finish and further fueled my desire to be part of the Rhodes community.

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