‘I could learn a lot from these people’

30 October 2015

"Palace of Westminster, London - Feb 2007" by Diliff. Licensed under CCBrand new Menzies Engineering Scholar, Liz Killen, who will be studying a Master of Science Communication at the Imperial College, London in 2016, was invited to the annual Menzies Scholars’ Dinner at the House of Lords in London. Liz gave us her report on the annual gathering, which allows UK-based Menzies scholars to meet and share their experiences.


Menzies Scholars’ Dinner 2015, House of Lords London – a scholar’s perspective

Menzies, speaking at the Australasian Medical Congress in 1958, said “Let us have more scientists, and more humanists. Let the scientists be touched and informed by the humanities. Let the humanists be touched and informed by science.”

I think Menzies would have been pleased to see the complement of sciences and humanities in the mix of engineers, lawyers, Lords and more who attended the Menzies Scholars’ Dinner at the House of Lords in London last week.

Liz Killen's ticket to the House of LordsHaving arrived in London a year prior to the start of my program, I was surprised and excited to receive an invitation.

This was my first encounter with the Menzies Memorial Scholars Association, and my overwhelming first impression was: “I could learn a lot from the people in the room”. The alumni were a pleasure to meet – personable, enthusiastic, inspiring people, with a wealth of experience. I also enjoyed meeting current Menzies scholars, including my 2015 counterparts, Anna Gould and Quan Lau, who have been enjoying their first semester of Engineering in Cambridge.

The past and present trustees were also a pleasure to meet. Our host, the Rt Hon The Viscount Slim OBE (son of Australia’s former Governor General, Sir William Slim), gave a toast “To Australia!” which was returned eloquently on behalf of the scholars by Andrew Currie, the 2015 Menzies Scholar in Law.

I was right in thinking that I could learn a lot, and I started even over the course of the evening. I learnt that to outdated radar equipment, wind turbines can look an awful lot like low stationary airplanes or freak storms. I was recommended to go for walks in north Scotland (I will) and surfing off the west coast of Wales (I won’t). I learnt that it doesn’t matter if you are a Lord or a student, the Rugby World Cup is always a safe topic of conversation (despite the recent elimination of England by Australia).

But perhaps my favourite thing I learnt is that the Menzies Memorial Scholars Association is not just about these inspiring people gathering in the one place. The alumni of scholars creates a support network, with the idea of doing something good for someone, because you were once granted the same opportunity.

And this “pay-it-forward” mentality isn’t new. Menzies alumnus David Bond gave a great example of this – after attending a Menzies UK Trust dinner as a scholar 20 years ago, he received an unexpected invitation to membership of the Worshipful Guild of Engineers, a prestigious Livery society (whose membership carries certain privileges, my personal favourite of which is the right to drive a flock of sheep without charge over London Bridge).

Before even commencing, the value of the Menzies scholarship has exceeded anything I expected; it is far more than the financial support to study overseas. It’s a network that I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be a part of. I’m looking forward to learning a lot more from our alumni – and hopefully in 20 years I’ll be able to pay-it-forward to the new generation of scholars myself.

Image credit: "Palace of Westminster, London - Feb 2007" by Diliff. Licensed under CC