D6990 Rotary Foundation Global Grant Scholar, Michael Matthiesen, September Update


Rotary London Scholars

In April 2014, the Rotary Foundation awarded a Global Grant Scholarship to Michael Matthiesen, who will spend a year studying at the University College of London. This prestigious grant was sponsored by Rotary District 6990 and matched 100% by the World Fund for a total of $30,000. Michael sends District 6990 news about the first days of his grant.

Greetings from London!

These past couple weeks have all been about setting up and getting accustomed to a new environment. London is such a big and beautiful city! I keep discovering history in every corner to the point where I feel like I am living in a history book. University College London (UCL) is massive and feels like a museum. Every corner sports a discovery that a UCL alumni has made. I was especially encapsulated by the statue in the UCL Main Library. This is because the movie Inception has a famous scene that revolves around the statue.


The dorm I am staying at, Goodenough College, is one specifically for international postgraduate students and has contributed to my experiences significantly. I’ve never been more aware of my culture as an American — because the environment introduces you to people from around the world. Just to provide an idea of the dorm’s culture, there are hundreds of students — and only 53 Americans. With 53 students America is actually the second most represented country! Canada is the first with 55. The remaining students are generally not from the Western Hemisphere. This international atmosphere forces you to inadvertently compare/contrast cultures and become more acute to the sensitivities of other’s customs as well as your own. Within the past couple weeks that I have been here, my dorm actually held a prominent event in the UK. The Ukrainian Ambassador to the United Kingdom came to discuss the future of the Ukraine with a round table discussion which included foreign policy experts and diplomats. 

Finally, I’ve also been able to meet with my fellow London Rotary Scholars on two occasions now. There are about 20 of us — and they are all very impressive. Half of the group is from North America (US and Canada) and the other half is from Japan and Australia. The group ranges from West Point and Naval Academy Graduates, to scholars with development experience in the third world, Teach for America alumni, to recent Georgetown Medical School graduate. Most of us really got to know each other in Cardiff, Wales when the Rotary Club of Cardiff Bay hosted Rotary in Britain and Ireland’s (RIBI) annual scholars orientation. Being able to see Wales was a treat, and we all enjoyed the generous hospitality from Cardiff Bay. Rotary of Cardiff Bay also invited Terry Waite, a English humanitarian and diplomat who was held hostage in Lebanon from 1987-1991, to speak to us about the importance of Peace Development. 

My host, Ian Balcombe from Rotary Club of London, invited my family that helped me move in and myself to dinner at his house. Mr. Balcombe and his family are friendly and generous — and are frequent travellers to South Florida! They have gone out of their way to make me feel welcome in London. 

I am missing South Florida weather! It’s “warm” here in London right now, but I’m learning London’s warm season is reminding me of the three days of the year when Miami is cold. 

Wishing you all the best!


Michael Matthiesen, B.A 


Michael & his mom in front of Buckingham Palace
For additional information on Michael’s grant, click HERE.

Categories: Happenings in D6990

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