We’re pleased to announce that Betsy Sutherland (M.A.T. Elementary Education) was accepted for the prestigious Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship to study at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. Betsy was recently featured in the Post & Courier’s Moxie section, and she’s also been busy informing readers of her travel preparations on her blog. She was able to spare some of her precious pre-travel time to tell us a bit about the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship, and what she plans to do while in South Africa:
Rotary has provided me with a fantastic opportunity to be a goodwill ambassador and continue my studies in Education in South Africa. I chose to study in South Africa because it will undoubtedly put me out of my comfort zone- new people, new foods, and a different way of living. I specifically chose the University of Cape Town because they offer education courses that will complement and enhance my learning from my Masters degree at the College of Charleston and are ranked in the top 200 universities in the world. The fact is this: I know no one in Cape Town, I know nothing more about the city than what I’ve read, but I look forward to learning about the people, the various cultures, and their Rotary clubs.
I’ve always wanted to study abroad, but unfortunately missed the opportunity in undergraduate studies. So when I saw an email announcing the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship, I immediately started the application process. The Ambassadorial Scholarship is Rotary’s best known program worldwide. It funds students to study abroad and promote international understanding and friendly relations among people of different countries and geographical areas. During the scholarship period, I will be expected to give presentations to Rotary clubs about my experiences at home and in South Africa. Upon returning to the United States I will also give presentations to Rotary clubs about my adventures that will lead to a greater understanding of South Africa.
The process of applying, interviewing, and receiving the scholarship was quite lengthy, but certainly worth it. After receiving the email announcing scholarship opportunities in October of 2008, I called the Summerville Rotary Club and asked if they would sponsor me for the scholarship. I had some connections to the club since a friend of mine had applied and received the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship in 2002. The Summerville Rotary Club was very excited and met with me about the requirements and took me under their wing. It took me several months to complete the application because it so intense. After submitting my application, the Summerville Rotary reviewed it and submitted it to the District (April 2009). The District then reviewed it and accepted me for interviews which were to take place in July 2009. I remember being incredibly nervous for the interviews—everything I had worked for was riding on this. The interviews took place over two days- complete with a meet and greet, essay, and discussion. I was one of 21 finalists, and only 6 were going to be chosen. I poured everything I had into my answers and left feeling really good. I found out in August of 2009 that I was one of the chosen scholars and I jumped for joy! But the hard work was not over; I still had to be accepted by Rotary International and by the University of Cape Town. Needless to say I was finally accepted by both and now my travels will finally begin!
I am feeling an extreme sense of anticipation right now. I started the process of applying and interviewing for this scholarship almost 2 years ago, so I am really excited to soon be in Cape Town! While in South Africa I hope to gain a broader and richer view of Education. I plan to study graduate level courses in Education, but more importantly visit and work with the schools in Cape Town and around the country. I expect the differences between our Education system and one in South Africa to be stark. In the US, the government provides all children with a free education and requires them to attend school. But I’ve read that South Africa is very different because there are annual school fees on top of the cost of school uniforms. With these expenses even the smartest children from disadvantaged families do not have the opportunity to go to school.
In her Moxie interview, Betsy says that she hopes to use the knowledge she gains from her travels to help her not only in her plan to pursue a PhD in educational leadership, but also in her future pursuit to be an elected official who advocates for educational policy. Betsy, we wish you the best with your aspirations, and as they say in Afrikaans, Ons wens jou ‘n veilige reis toe (we wish you a safe journey)!