Four current or recent Princeton University students whose areas of study range from classics to mathematics to public health policy were named Rhodes Scholars for 2012, the Rhodes Trust announced Sunday.
"Surreal" and "numbing" were among the adjectives used by the students to describe their reactions to the news, which came Saturday after a lengthy day of interviews and (mostly) nervous anticipation.
Elizabeth Butterworth, Miriam Rosenbaum, Mohit Agrawal and Astrid Stuth are among 32 American students who will be awarded scholarships to attend Oxford University beginning next fall. They were chosen from 830 applicants endorsed by 299 different colleges and universities.
Agrawal hails from West Lafayette, Ind., and holds a mathematics degree from Princeton and has been studying economic policy evaluation at the National University of Ireland. He told The Associated Press one interviewer threw him a question out of left field that didn't faze him.
"They asked me about the BCS and whether it was fair," he said Sunday, referring to college football's bowl ranking system. "I'm familiar with the BCS, and I told them that there's no perfect ranking system and that it's proof of that."
Butterworth, of Auburn, Mass., is a senior classics major who founded a music education program in nearby Worcester for children who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford lessons. She was motivated by her own experience with the arts in high school.
"I gained a lot of skills that apply to my work ethic now," she said. "Those are really important to have."
Rosenbaum, of Bronx, N.Y., observes the Sabbath and its ban on using cellphones before sundown, so she had to wait an hour to notify friends and relatives Saturday. The senior is pursuing a master's degree in public affairs and plans to study public health at Oxford. She said she hopes to work in the federal government focusing on public health policy for underserved populations.
"I'm so excited, because not only is the university embedded with so much history; it's a very international university and I'm looking forward to meeting people from all over the world," she said.
Stuth, from Hubertus, Wis., is a senior East Asian studies major who plans to study international relations at Oxford.