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

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 his grant experience.

Happy New Year!

December was a month where most things were winding down and at the same time everyone was getting busier. The month kicked off with some of the scholars hosting an Ugly Sweater Party to raise money for a Rotary Fundraiser. Two of the American Scholars decided to participate in a marathon and get sponsored in order to raise money for some Rotary charities. We all met at one of the scholar’s apartments that just a couple blocks away from Buckingham Palace. Both American and British traditions were mixed into this party which consisted off minced pie, mulled wine, and holiday cider which were all homemade by some of the talented scholars. From what I hear the two scholars hit their fundraising goal, and successfully completed their half marathon as well.

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Rachel Pearce and myself eating fish and chips at the London Rotary Christmas Dinner in York Gate

The last official Rotary event of 2014 was the Rotary Christmas Party that was held at London Rotary Headquarters in York Gate. Most of the club presidents were in attendance, as well as all the London scholars and even some scholars from neighbouring districts. London Rotary decided to treat all the scholars to our first authentic fish and chips meal! To my disappointment, it wasn’t served in newspaper. It still tasted great though! Then Rotary asked all of the scholars to go around and say one funny or unique thing that happened during their time in London thus far. We found out that some scholars had broke Guinness Book of World Records for most spidermen in one room (which I also took part in), other’s had traveled to Cambridge or Oxford, and more. I shared that I attended my first official English Winter Ball at Goodenough College. The theme was the Oscars and the event was black tie. Everything was designed to the nines, and there even was a professional photographer there to take pictures.

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All the Goodenough College lads taking a photo at the Goodenough College Winter Ball

Though the Christmas Dinner at York Gate was the last official Rotary event, I was invited to attend one rotarian’s Christmas party for an organisation they coordinate with outside of Rotary. Dr. Vasi H-Daniel, a rotarian with my host club the Rotary Club of London, invited me to attend the Commonwealth Countries League’s Christmas dinner. It was an amazing event hosted at an authentic Lebanese restaurant in Hammersmith. There were some great entertainers, amazing food, and interesting company. In attendance were council members for the City of London and the former Kenyan High Commissioner to the United Kingdom — both of whom were sitting right across from me! We had a long and intriguing conversation. Dr. H-Daniel was an excellent host.

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Former Kenyan High Commissioner Joseph Muchemi, his wife, and msyself at the Commonwealth Countries League Christmas dinner
The Michelmas Term (a.k.a Fall Term) ended on December 12th, and I planned to go home to Miami, FL for the holidays. But before that, I decided to take advantage of my break and travel around Europe for a bit. Two friends, one Canadian and one Australian, and I (an American) decided to visit Brussels and Amsterdam before joining our families for the holiday season. We left London on Saturday December 13th, and took a four hour bus to Brussels. Taking a bus gave us the unique opportunity of going into the Euro Tunnel and under the English Channel. How the Euro Tunnel works is all cars, trucks, and buses drive onto a large train and park into one of the train’s carts. Once everyone is loaded on then the cart doors close, the drain pursues into the tunnel, and we go straight under the water! Being parked in a train gave passengers the ability to hop off and stretch our legs. Immediately after getting off the bus I ran to one of the train windows to see if I could see anything. But since we were in a tunnel everything was dark. After 30 minutes we emerged on the other side and into France. The bus pulled out of the train and we drove straight into Brussels.

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The bus I traveled on from London to Brussels while we were in the Euro Tunnel (under the English Channel)

My friends and I had a great time in both Belgium and the Netherlands. While we were in Brussels we saw the European Parliament, other EU buildings, and took a day field trip to go see Brugge and the UNESCO headquarters. Amsterdam was also beautiful to visit with all it’s canals and unique building structures. The funny thing about Amsterdam is that all the buildings are kind of leaning forward — because the city is sinking into the water! After Amsterdam, we flew back to London where I stayed for one day to meet up with some friends from the University of Miami who also happened to be in London. Then I flew back to Miami.

While I was in Miami I found out my London host Ian Balcombe and his family were visiting South Florida as part of their holiday vacation! It was an interesting turn of events. With that said, my mother and I invited the Balcombes, and Anita Sandler, to dinner at Villagio in Dadeland. I had forgotten how busy Dadeland is during the holiday season, but nonetheless we had a very enjoyable visit!

-Michael 

Michael Matthiesen, B.A 


Categories: Happenings in D6990

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