D6990 Rotary Foundation Global Grant Scholar, Michael Matthiesen, January 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.

January was a very busy month!

After celebrating New Years in Miami with friends and family, I flew back to London and got to work on turning my final essays in for my classes. While in the American system you have to complete your final exams before the end of the term, in the British system you have all Winter Break to complete your essays. I discovered this had it’s benefits and it’s hurdles. The good thing is you have more time to complete an essay you can be proud of. However, during Winter Break there are so many things going on you have to be very disciplined to find time to sit down and focus on your essays! That and I think most American students had to battle the old habit of thinking that Winter Break is a holiday, because in the British system it’s crunch time!

RC of Pall Mall Selfie

A selfie I took with the Rotary Club of Pall Mall (it was the RC President’s idea)

After completing my essays, I got right back to my Rotary Global Grant Scholar duties. The following week after turning in all my essays I gave back to back presentations with to the Rotary Club of Pall Mall and the Rotary Club of Redbridge. Speaking at both clubs consecutively was a jaunting reminder at the diversity that is encompassed under the Rotary umbrella and how different clubs do things differently! On January 19th I spoke to the Rotary Club of Pall Mall. I had become friends with the President of RC Pall Mall through Rotaract of Westminster events, and he asked if I would like to come speak at his club. Pall Mall is a very young club, located in a English Pub that is very close to the London School of Economics. Which is very busy and beautiful area of London. Pall Mall is actually the street on which Buckingham Palace is located — so I’ve been told. The club is very international with members from Italy, Germany, Sweden, and Turkey who all work in London. The meeting was very casual, short, and to the point. I spoke for ten minutes without a PowerPoint, and all the members seemed very receptive. However, once the meeting was over, they stayed for over an hour talking, catching up, and planning out more things they wanted to do together. You could tell the group was very close, and Rotary was the link that connected this very diverse group of friends.

RC Redbridge Presentation

Presenting to the Rotary Club of Redbridge

On January 20th, I gave a speech to the Rotary Club of Redbridge. This club was in the suburbs of London at a very nice Italian restaurant named Luigi’s. It was an older club, with members who retired from very prominent careers and now focused on Rotary and other activities they had taken up. Redbridge was more formal then Pall Mall and followed all the Rotary meeting requirements, dotting every “I” and crossing every “T”. I sat between Sandra Davidson, the very charismatic secretary for RC Redbridge and the Redbridge President Steve. After a delicious three course Italian meal, I stood up to give a 20 minute formal presentation — this time utilising the PowerPoint I made. The Redbridge members were very receptive and inquisitive about my presentation, one member even offered to drive me back to the tube station in order to continue our conversation! I was very grateful to the RC of Redbridge for their hospitality.

RC Redbridge with President Steve

RC Redbridge President giving me the RC Redbridge Banner with the Club Seal

I got to see my host Ian Balcombe for the first time since he visited in Miami, as he invited me to the Rotary Club of London’s Robert Burns Supper that was hosted at the Royal Over-Seas League. The event was in commemoration of the famous Scottish poet Robert Burns who had a major impact on Scottish culture even though he only lived into his 30s. Not only the Rotary Club of London, but organisations across the UK hold events, ceremonies, dinners, and more commemorating Robert Burns around this time. As a surprise guest Ian brought the previous scholar that the Rotary Club of London hosted, Unur Ulaankhuu. After flying all the way from Mongolia and attending her graduation from King’s College London that morning, Ian invited Unur to join the Rotary Club of London one more time. We both took a picture with the bag piper player who was present throughout the event, and Unur and I spent the whole dinner swapping notes on our Rotary experiences and she even offered me some tips on how to spend the rest of my time in London.

Mike, Bagpiper, and Unur

(From left to right) Myself, the Bagpiper, and Unur at the RC London’s Robert Burns Supper

Back on the UCL campus, I got to take a class with Sir Michael Marmot — the man who discovered social determinants of heath in the famous Whitehall Studies. His work is one of the reasons I came to study in London, and probably the reason I am one of only two Rotary Scholars that are studying at UCL (the rest are studying at LSE). The class was invigorating, and on the first day of class I asked him to sign my friend’s copy of Status Syndrome (the book he wrote 10 years ago that made him famous) and he let me know that he had a follow up book that would be hitting stores in September 2015. What was really impressive is that after class he would casually mention that he had to catch a flight to Geneva because he was working with the World Health Organisation and the United Nations in Geneva on how they could address social determinants of heath in third world countries. In fact, WHO created a Social Determinants of Health Department based on the research Sir Marmot has done. In the US, the CDC is even dedicating funding to national research on social determinants of health as well.


Michael Matthiesen, B.A 

Categories: Happenings in D6990

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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