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Opening doors

Killam Fellowship recipient spends semester as U.S. exchange student

Student Life

By Kelly Foss

Word came late on a Friday night in April 2022.

Katherine Dibbon, a joint bachelor of arts/bachelor of science student at Memorial, had been waiting to hear back on her application letter to the Killam Fellowships Program.

“I had been constantly refreshing my email for weeks and I remember it came at a weird time,” said the St. John’s resident. “I wasn’t expecting it when the notification finally popped up.”

Exceptional undergrads

The Killam Fellowships Program provides an opportunity for an exceptional undergraduate student from each of 20 universities across Canada to spend either one semester or a full academic year as an exchange student at one of 16 participating American universities.

The program includes a cash award of US$5,000 per semester and health insurance allowance and allows participants to apply for an in-country travel grant to undertake an educational field trip.

Students are also invited to take part in a three-day orientation in Ottawa in the fall and a three-day spring seminar in Washington.

Prestigious award

Ms. Dibbon chose to spend her semester abroad at the University of Washington.

Katherine Dibbon stands on a snow-covered mountain on a sunny day
Katherine Dibbon in Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington State
Photo: Submitted

“The campus is absolutely beautiful,” she said. “The buildings are gorgeous and many have stained glass windows. My classes were a little larger than my average class at Memorial and they were very heavily participation-based. It was like taking seminar courses, which I loved, but on a much larger scale.”

During her visit, Ms. Dibbon became friends with a group of international students.

Together, they took a spring break trip through Oregon, California, Arizona and Utah and visited several national parks.

“Meeting international students was a huge part of my experience in Seattle and now I have a lot of connections around the world,” she said.

She also met up with another Killam fellow studying in Arizona. They took advantage of the program’s travel grant to travel to Hawaii.

“We went to Maui and it was one of the best trips I’ve been on,” she said. “Being on the West Coast also gave me a lot of flexibility to travel on the weekends, which is very different for someone coming from an island.”

On her path

Ms. Dibbon is currently majoring in political science and biological chemistry and just completed her fourth year of study.

“I had always intended to study political science, but I was awarded the Memorial University alumni entrance scholarship coming out of high school, so I started looking for a five-year program,” she said.

A young woman in a black shirt leans against a glass half wall.
Katherine Dibbon spent the 2023 winter semester studying abroad at the University of Washington.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Ms. Dibbon says she first heard about the Killam Fellowship from a Gazette article in her first year at Memorial.

One of her friends received the fellowship and encouraged her to apply.

“I received a lot of mentorship from Hannah and I knew the people I would meet would have similar minds and would be studying similar things, which was really attractive,” she said. “There’s also the prestige of a Fulbright fellowship and the extra opportunities that came with it, including the scholarship, the orientations and an alumni network of past Killam fellows.”

Ms. Dibbon has one piece of advice for students considering applying for the Killam Fellowship.

“Just do it! I loved my experience and it’s opened an amazing number of doors for me. It’s way more than just a study abroad. It’s a whole program in itself.”

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