Becoming a Scholar


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Tips and suggestions for becoming a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar

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Becoming a Scholar

  1. 1. Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholarship 2009-2010 Scholar Lauren Williamson From District 5790, Gainesville RC, Texas, USA Contact me! / 07818.345.916 Check out my blog! • What is a Scholar? An Ambassadorial Scholar is a Rotary Foundation-funded representative who is sent from their home Rotary district to a host district in a different country. There, the Scholar studies and serves as a cultural ambassador to their host country, working toward improving relations and understanding, learning the host country’s culture and educating their home district Rotarians upon return. This scholarship program, which began in 1947, is the world’s oldest and largest privately-funded scholarship. Each Rotary district across the world sends one Scholar (sometimes two) on this year-long abroad experience. The Scholar receives a flat US $24,000 for a year of study, regardless of the exchange rate. So the scholarship will go much farther for someone studying in Africa as opposed to someone studying in London. The Rotary Foundation supports around 600 students on this program annually. The Scholar must fund any portion of their year that is not covered by the scholarship. • How do you get the scholarship? First, get a club to sponsor you. You can ask your local club where you live, a club where you used to live or one where you work or do a lot of community work. There may be tough competition among candidates in districts where there are a lot of college students, or high awareness of Rotary and this scholarship program. Second, be ready for a long application process with two essays, interviews, tough questions, and TONS of paperwork. It’s all about proving yourself under pressure, smiling, and being diplomatic even when things get chaotic and confusing. Skills that Rotarians are looking for in future Scholars will vary, but generally they want someone friendly, who will be a good representative of the home district, who shows a clear record of educational, professional and charitable accomplishment, who communicates effectively and clearly through conversation in interviews and through written words in essays. Sometimes they seek someone who is well-traveled; sometimes they seek a candidate that demonstrates financial need. They want someone who employs Rotary values in their everyday lives and wants to make the world a better place (think Four-Way Test)! They want someone they can trust to use the scholarship toward sincere personal and professional development and then bring those skills back home to enhance their home district or contribute to the global professional arena. • Who has been a Scholar and what’s expected of one? You should ask around and see if you know any former scholars, you might just be surprised. My journey started when I was producing news in Dallas, because my boss at KDFW-TV/FOX had been a scholar and witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall with an international group while studying in Australia. He said it changed his life and gave him a more cosmopolitan perspective for his career. Also, a member of the Ealing London Club, my host club here in London, was also a Scholar and now works with the BBC.
  2. 2. Bill Moyers, a prominent TV journalist in the US (for Public Broadcasting Station), was a Scholar, as was Sadako Ogata, former UN High Commission for Refugees. Lots of UN notables have served as Scholars, actually. The Ambassadorial Scholar alumni network is 40,000 strong and growing. • Where do Scholars go and for how long? Scholars choose 5 countries and universities and list them on the application in order of most desired. You must choose countries where you speak the official language. You can list the same country twice, with a different university, but must have at least 3 different countries on the list. (Mine were England, Wales, India, Australia, South Africa.) From there, your Rotary International coordinators determine where you will study and will notify you via email/letter/phone call. Scholars stay for a minimum of the academic year in their host country. For master’s students, with the dissertation, this usually means 1 full year. Also, if you decide you’d like to stay longer, you can also ask the Foundation if they will allow you to stay, but no more money is awarded to your stay. • What are the responsibilities for a Scholar? The Scholar must give 10-15 presentations to Rotary clubs, Rotaract clubs, or other public groups during their year abroad. These presentations include talking about the scholarship, about Rotary charity works you’ve been involved in, your professional experience, your personal life (family, culture etc), and what you’re learning about your host country. The Scholar must engage in charitable service and must participate in host club events, as well as keep close contact with their home club (via email, letters, etc). I personally am keeping a blog to keep Rotarians, family and friends updated on my life abroad. There are also documents, written essays and reports, photographs, and other paperwork that are due at several intervals during the year. Upon return to the home country, the Scholar must give at least 5 presentations to their home district. • When should I start? NOW! Each district and club is different in deadlines, number of candidates that approach them about the scholarship, and how they choose to conduct the application/interview process. It could be a brief and speedy process, or it could be long and laborious, like my experience. I started the application process very early in the winter of 2006. I applied for a 2007 scholarship and my district, being extremely competitive, awarded me “alternate status.” They encouraged me to apply the following year—so I did. I finished application and interviews with Gainesville in fall 2007, had district interviews in spring 2008, was notified of the location Rotary had chosen for me in fall 2008, had Rotary training in spring 2009, and finished pre-departure documents in summer 2009—now I’m finally here! • Are you excited to apply? You should be! This is financial support for a LIFE CHANGING experience! Read more at Click on the ‘Students and Youth’ tab, scroll down to ‘Educational Programs,’ click on the link for ‘Ambassadorial Scholarships.’
  3. 3. View the application at