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Alumna's gift opens the door to a student's European experience

October 20, 2011

Gift opens the door to a student's European experience
Peter Verlinden stands on the spire of Church of Our Saviour, overlooking Copenhagen.

Exploring the cobblestone roadways of Copenhagen and immersing himself in a new culture never would have been a possibility for Peter Verlinden were it not for the Diana Beattie Exchange Scholarship.

The grateful recipient of this year’s award is unreserved in his gratitude for the award which allowed him to study for a year in Denmark’s capital and also travel Europe. “It gave me powerful educational experiences I never could have had in my homeroom class. These lessons have changed the way I live my life.”

Peter, in the midst of a five-year combined English Literature/Honors Business Administration program, says the scholarship’s benefits were enormous. “I lived in a new country studying master’s level courses at a world-class university with students from around the world.”

His exchange experience at the University of Copenhagen, Humanities Campus, afforded him a view of the "bigger picture". “Instead of bridging the gap between ‘us and them’, I’ve learned to see us as ‘we’ and be excited to learn how we’re different and also the same. Copenhagen’s focus on social welfare has made me more open-minded to different political models.”

While Peter sees several career possibilities ahead of him – marketing, consulting or working in the publication industry – his exchange experience has exposed him to the way of life of European students who take time travelling, furthering their education or gaining life experiences before settling down – a different and exciting path to follow.

Diana Beattie, Honors BA’71, the scholarship’s founder says, “It’s good for students to get out of their comfort zone. The best way to do that is through a study-year abroad. There’s an idea of tolerance of different things that comes from living in a different culture.”

For her, the scholarship is a wonderful way of investing in the young people of tomorrow. She is happy to see the impact of her gift, today.

“I love getting a little email from the student who benefitted from it; it brings tears to my eyes.”

GO Awards

In 2010-11, Western offered 28 donor-funded student exchange awards and 120 Ontario government supported exchanges. Currently, the University has exchange programs with 85 institutions in 20 countries.

Western wants to offer more Western students an international experience by attending university outside Canada, participating in an exchange program, building communities around the world and learning new languages.

With the goal of offering 400 students this opportunity by 2016, Western has established the Global Opportunities (GO) Awards, a program where the University will match qualified donations starting at $500, or the payout on endowed funds, to support an award for years to come.

For more information about the plan to offer the world as a classroom to our students, please contact Carole Stinson, Executive Director, Development Programs at 519-661-2111 ext. 85696 or email cstinson@uwo.ca.


This article appeared in the Fall 2011 edition of Impact Western
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