By Sara Pinette Contributing Writer
Drew Kelso, a Senior and double major in Actuarial Science and Math, will spend his last semester of undergraduate studies at the University College of Cork in Spring 2019 with a full scholarship from the George Mitchell Peace Foundation.
The scholarship was created after George Mitchell brokered peace between Northern and Southern Ireland in 1996. Kelso received the scholarship in late February of 2018 and was almost in a state of shock as he read the email notifying him of the news.
“I remember being so ecstatic,” said Kelso, grinning from ear to ear recalling the moment. “ I kept thinking about what a great chance this was for me to travel to a new place and all of the potential experiences and learning opportunity.”
Kelso accomplished many things at UMF which made him an ideal candidate for the competitive scholarship, as it awards only one student in the entire UMaine system each semester, full tuition and expenses to study in Ireland.
In addition to attending and assisting almost every men’s basketball practice and game since he was a Freshman while being student assistant for the team, he also has also been a supplemental instructor and tutor for a philosophy class. Additionally, Kelso founded and became the president of the Actuarial club on campus all while maintaining high distinction honors all 6 semesters that he has been at UMF.
In addition to participating in community service, Kelso has practiced and developed leadership skills through his three internships at insurance companies across the country by taking on many roles and working with different teams.
Kelso has been gearing up for his time in Ireland by planning the logistics of his trip such as classes and finances. “I want to enjoy each moment as they come and not have to worry about any of the boring things,” said Kelso.
“ It feels great to be a George Mitchell Scholar,” said Kelso in a confident and enthusiastic tone. “ I am very excited to study abroad and explore Ireland and some of Europe. I’m also grateful for all of the opportunities that this scholarship has presented me with.”
Kelso has traveled to countries connected to the United States such as Mexico and Canada and has cruised in sections of the Caribbean but has never traveled to Europe. He has been interested in traveling abroad since he was a freshman but was not able to because of financial restrictions and says, “This is a dream come true for me.”
He has also been researching the University and the country in order to understand the Irish culture he will be immersed in for four and a half months.
His interest in the scholarship began about a year ago in November of 2017 when he went to a presentation where he heard a now alum, Lindsay Gorman, speak about her experience as a George Mitchell Scholar and her time in Ireland. Gorman graduated in the spring of 2018 and is now volunteering with a nonprofit in Guayaquil, Ecuador teaching English to students who live in poverty.
“ I can definitely credit my experience in Ireland that gave me the confidence to take this opportunity,” said Gorman in an online interview. “I gained a lot of confidence in myself through my time there. I ran into some minor problems (trying to find out what building to turn my paper into, missing my flight from Paris to Dublin, etc.) but I learned how to problem solve.”
Kelso also has plans to travel in other parts of Europe but he has a list of places he wants to visit in Ireland including the Ring of Kerry, the Cliffs of Moher, and Blarney Castle. While visiting these tourist attractions, he also plans to truly dive into the culture and make lasting connections with students, faculty, and locals in Cork, Ireland.
“ I’m looking forward to meeting people not only from Ireland but from all across the globe while I stay in the international student dormitory,” said Kelso. “ I think I will have a lot of opportunities to do so on campus by participating in clubs, meeting people through classes, and other events.”
Gorman mentions that she made lasting friendships during her semester in Ireland. “I made some great friendships that came out of it. I now have friends all over Europe, and one of my former roommates is still a best friend of mine to this day,” said Gorman. “The best part about studying at UCC was definitely the connections I made.”
Kelso will leave for Cork, Ireland on January 6, 2019, and will return to the U.S. the week of graduation in hopes to make it back in time to graduate with his friends and peers of UMF.
“ At UCC they have a much bigger campus so I will miss the close-knit community and small family vibe been here at UMF that has enabled me to make great connections,” said Kelso. “However, Ireland presents a lot of opportunities to learn and grow and as a person.”
For those interested in finding out more about the George Mitchell Peace Scholarship, they can go to https://www.us-irelandalliance.org/mitchellscholarship to get information about the award and apply.