Photo Courtesy of Gustė Gurčinaitė

Spotlight: Gustė Gurčinaitė, NYUAD’s Newest Rhodes Scholar

Gustė Gurčinaitė, Class of 2023, has been chosen as one of the two 2022 UAE Rhodes Scholars. In conversation with Gurčinaitė, The Gazelle finds out more about her journey.

Nov 21, 2022

Gustė Gurčinaitė, Class of 2023, a student from Lithuania majoring in Political Science, was chosen as one of the two 2022 United Arab Emirates Rhodes Scholars. Gurčinaitė plans to do an MPhil in Environmental Change and Management at the University of Oxford. The second recipient of the award is Sara Fekri, a student from the UAE majoring in Physics at King’s College London.
Gurčinaitė expressed her gratitude to the UAE for the opportunity. “As a Lithuanian I would not have this opportunity to apply for Rhodes in Oxford, because Lithuania or any of the other European countries don’t have a constituency, so I’m just very grateful to the UAE for being open-minded enough, and being so inclusive in its selection process,” she expressed.
For her, applying for the scholarship was a process of introspection that helped her get to know herself more intimately. “It pushed me to connect the dots of why I have been making the choices that I have been making in the past four years, what values and principles were driving those choices, what I have learnt throughout the process, how I want to move forward.”
Gurčinaitė shared that the biggest challenge for her was preparing for the interview. The interview required her to focus on how to convey her genuine passion in the areas of climate crisis and environmental justice while rooting her interest in data and real world examples. Therefore, Gurčinaitė had to learn about the recent developments in the world in these areas by listening to podcasts to help her orally communicate what she learnt academically.
Being a student at NYU Abu Dhabi is an essential component of Gurčinaitė’s interests and journey up to this point: “At NYUAD, I was really pushed to sort of imagine new, for me unfamiliar, ways of what an actually inclusive and equitable future entails, and so in Oxford I want to continue this questioning, especially with regards to the environment justice question.”
At Oxford, she is eager to explore how the Global South can play a very important role in shaping the global climate conversations, and how the voices and concerns of minorities can be incorporated into decision making. “[The] Rhodes community really stood out to me as being this very diverse, rigorous, but also very public minded, so I’m really excited to join this community and find allies that are also passionate about either social justice or climate change, and deepening my understanding of the questions such as what is justice, what good governance entails, what king of solutions do we need to advance environmental justice in collaboration with my peers.”
Gurčinaitė spent time preparing with her mentors, who by asking her as many questions as possible helped her feel equipped to face all possible scenarios. Gurčinaitė is profoundly grateful to her friends, mentors, professors, and everyone for the words of encouragement, the time spent with her when preparing for the entire process, and for accompanying her in the journey of understanding who she is. She also thanks the applicants, who were very supportive to each other throughout the process, mainly the last days before the final decisions. She is especially grateful to Doug Cutchins, Director of Global Awards at NYUAD’s Career Development Center, for organizing mock panel interviews and their support in general.
One piece of advice she offers to anyone thinking or applying to the Rhodes scholarship is to have fun with the process, to see it as an opportunity to enrich yourself with knowledge about what you are passionate about, be it academic papers that you didn’t get to read because you didn’t have time or listening to people you admire. This way, regardless of the final outcome, the application process would contribute to your growth.
Scarlette Jimenez is Deputy News Editor. Email her at
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