America was students’ trip of a lifetime

Siobhan Walshe and Joanne Durber

Siobhan Walshe and Joanne Durber

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Two university students from the Isle of Man have just returned from the trip of a lifetime to study for a year in America.

Joanne Durber from Peel and Siobhan Walshe from Onchan were both funded by the annual Ella Olesen scholarship to study for a year at the University of Idaho.

Siobhan, who went to Ballakermeen High School before studying history at Edinburgh University, said: ‘It’s the perfect opportunity because over the course of a three-year degree you discover new interests and this scholarship gives you the opportunity to follow some of them.’

Joanne, who went to QEII then to university in Chester to study English Literature, added: ‘You just spend the whole year engrossed in the experience. You don’t really think about what is coming next, it’s just so exciting.’

Ella Olesen, whose mother was Manx, was a registrar at the university of Idaho before she died in the 1980s after setting up a trust in the early 1970s to fund study each year for girls from the Isle of Man. The girls were selected from numerous applicants by a panel of judges which included Education Minister Tim Crookall.

During the year at Idaho, the girls were both able to choose from a range of subjects which need not be academic but are designed to widen their experience. For Siobhan the experience has given her some new ideas about a career path.

‘I became very interested in town and city design and sustainable living and I am now considering a possible career in that area,’ she said.

For Joanne, it gave her the chance to study media related topics that she had not done before. ‘I was able to get experience of broadcasting and camera techniques and reporting, so I went down a media route,’ she said.

For both girls the experience went far beyond the mere academic. They were accommodated in the University halls of residence where there were multiple nationalities represented and the experience of American culture was also an eye opener.

The 21st century advantages of Skype and the internet made home seem a lot closer while they were there and will also be an advantage now they have left.

Both took the chance to go travelling in America while they were there, visiting such landmarks as the Grand Canyon and New York, and both have made a large number of friends from around the globe whom they hope to visit.

‘If the opportunity arose to go back, I’m sure neither of us would hesitate,’ Siobhan said.

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