Called to Canada

23 Jun 2020

A semester abroad is a lifechanging experience for anyone with the courage and means to take on the adventure.

Spending time immersed in another culture, maybe another language, but always out of your comfort zone was near and dear to Gus Wiles, the man who represented the heart of UQ’s chemical engineering school for more than four decades.

The value of an overseas experience was all too obvious to him, as he encouraged his students to take a risk and broaden their engineering knowledge and skills abroad, often with the support of his own hard-earned dollars.

When Gus passed away in 2014, his UQ colleagues and friends of the University banded together to raise funds to support the scholarships Gus had created so students could continue to travel abroad with financial support.

Together they started the R.J. ‘Gus’ Wiles Scholarship Endowment Fund, and through the generous gifts from more than 370 donors, the fund exceeded its goal and is now valued at over $600,000, which will provide two $5,000 scholarships to chemical engineering students every semester in perpetuity.

Kailin Graham is one of the 18 recipients of the Gus Wiles Scholarship since 2010. He travelled to Canada to complete a semester at McGill University in Montreal in 2018, studying reactions engineering, catchment hydrology and chemical engineering statistics.

Kailin Graham

“My biggest challenge was adapting to the different university structure, like not having access to online lecture slides and different ways of doing assessment, and balancing uni work with other activities,” Kailin said.

“I think the most valuable thing I gained from my exchange was the ability to quickly adapt to new scenarios and situations I was placed in.

“Not only was learning to live out of home in a new city a big cultural change for me, but I didn’t realise how used to the UQ academic system I was until I started my classes at McGill.

“Having to leave my study comfort zone definitely improved my problem-solving skills and my ability to learn on the fly.”

Kailin also made a close-knit group of friends from Canada and other countries, and together they travelled and made the most of their new home in French-speaking Quebec.

Kailin Graham

“As cheesy as it sounds, I got so close to so many people in such a short time, and that’s what I’ve taken with me the most – friendship,” he said.

The weekend roadtrips to Toronto and Ottawa, a Thanksgiving spent amidst the autumn colours and skiing through fresh powder are what day dreams really are made of, and Kailin is grateful for the opportunities the Gus Wiles Scholarship gave him.

“Without the Gus Wiles Scholarship, I wouldn’t have had this incredible experience. I’m forever grateful for the generosity of all the endowment fund donors, as well as to Gus himself.”

For more information on the RJ ‘Gus’ Wiles Scholarship, please visit UQ Scholarships