A recent speech given by Jon at the 2016 RMIT scholarship awards ceremony perfectly sums up the opportunities provided by a scholarship. We found this speech truly inspiring and hope other GAF scholars and alumni will also be inspired to sets their sights high.
Ladies and gentlemen, good evening. My name is Jon Allemand and I am one of the grateful and extremely fortunate recipients of the George Alexander Foundation Scholarship in 2015.
I’d like to begin by giving well deserved public acknowledgement, congratulations and sincere gratitude to the vast number of people who have made occasions such as this possible.
Firstly, I would like to congratulate each and every scholarship recipient. Tonight is a testament to your endeavours and resilience in your field of passion – not only while at RMIT but into the future.
Secondly, a sincere thank-you to the generous donors of tonight’s scholarships. Your support provides great encouragement to RMIT students to continue forging a path of genuine experience, innovation, development and leadership.
Finally, a truly heartfelt thank you to every person who has supported our scholarship recipients –friends and family, loved ones. Without your constant reassurance, optimism and support many of us simply would not be here tonight.
Too often award ceremonies such as tonight focus solely on acknowledging the past achievements of recipients. Tonight however, I would also like to look to the future. These scholarships can and should be used as tools for future success. Whether that be academic, professional or personal.
A scholarship may provide you with a sense of confidence in yourself and reassurance that the work you have been doing is taking you in the right direction. It can ease the financial burden and offer the freedom to pursue opportunities that you previously thought were unavailable to you. It may even motivate you to push yourself more than ever before, and create your own opportunities for success.
For me it came in the form of all of these. I’ve pursued various opportunities including going on exchange to Hong Kong, paid internships with NASA, international conferences in Prague, and was even heading to China for a summer school until it got cancelled due to lack of numbers. Although I did not do any of these, I encourage you to persist at pushing the boundaries of what you can do with the support of this scholarship.
I didn’t let those missed opportunities stop me. I was fortunate enough to attend industry conferences in Queensland and Victoria, network with world leaders within the field, and check up on friends in a remote village in Vanuatu after Cyclone Pam. I had worked in their village on the island Tanna as part of a volunteer program over the last four years. During this recent trip I attempted to track the trajectories of lava bombs by filming on top of the neighbouring active volcano crater for a potential honours research project.
Now when I say the volcano is active, I don’t mean lava bubbling away at the bottom of a crater; I mean explosions which when atop the crater you have to crane your neck to double check that the chunks of molten rock fall back within the crater. The benefit, though, is that on a good night and from the right spot in the village 5 km away, you can see the eruptions over the tree line on the horizon such that they appear as a firework display.
My biggest achievement thus far, and one that my scholarship has enabled me to do, is being chosen to work on a research project with some of CSIRO’s top scientists at the Queensland Centre of Advanced Technology. In my time there, I found myself doing things that I never would have pictured myself doing if you had asked me at the start of my degree, let alone in high school.
I found myself writing computer code, performing simulations on data I fed into it and producing plots which accurately communicated the data; I hadn’t touched programming until my first year of university. More importantly my 12 weeks work at CSIRO culminated in an in-depth technical report on the problem I was investigating. Not only was this report reviewed and published in CSIRO’s ePublish system, I was able to contribute my work to a conference paper submission as a co-author which has been accepted subject to changes requested.
During my final two years of secondary school, English was my least favourite subject and I only scraped through with the minimum score required for direct entry into university. Right up until the point when I received my scholarship, if someone were to say to me that I could have two peer reviewed publications as well as achieve everything else that I have during my degree, I would surely ask if they were pulling my leg. I was always confident that I could complete my degree, but I can truly say that I would not have achieved all that I have had it not been for the scholarship I received.
So once again, I would like to personally thank the George Alexander Foundation for the support they have given me, and all the donors for their generous support of the scholars here. Finally, I would like to congratulate all the scholarship recipients here tonight and I hope that if you take anything out of my speech, it is to always push yourselves; genuinely surprise yourself with what you can achieve through the support of your scholarships.
Speech given by Jon Allemand at RMIT University Scholarships Award Ceremony, 18 May 2016