Winona Horton’s Amazing Race

By Amy Huynh

The Dawn Wade Scholarship offers financial support and the opportunity to live at residential college International House (IH) to high-achieving, rural students transitioning into study at the University of Melbourne. It’s an initiation into a global community that stays with you long after graduation. We caught up with current Bachelor of Commerce student, Winona Horton, about how receiving the scholarship has impacted her so far.

The story of how Winona, from Albury, landed the Dawn Wade Scholarship is one of the more unconventional ones, and was a fitting beginning for her journey at International House and the University of Melbourne. “So, I was in Estonia, in a hostel room with four other people, and I was about to have my video interview for the Dawn Wade Scholarship. It was 3.00 AM, and the only place I could go at that time to set up was in the bathroom. We were three-quarters through the interview when Dr Nick finally realised and said, ‘Wait, where are you?’”

-Winona Horton.

She recalls the first few weeks at IH like being at a school camp. “We did drill runs from University to Federation Square, Amazing Races, and all these other activities designed to put yourself out there and get to know the people around you. You can’t help but make friends in that atmosphere.”

This warm welcome set the tone for the rest of Winona’s University experience, where she’s thrived amongst the diverse, global community housed at IH. “I feel like I’ve changed a lot since coming here, I’m more open. You’re around new people all the time, you just develop the ability to say ‘Hi, I’m Winona’ and within ten minutes you’re sharing crazy stories. There’s not a day that I don’t see a familiar, friendly face.”

Outside of IH, the Dawn Wade Scholarship has given her access to the Abernathy Scholars program, where she was able to connect with a whole host of people she wouldn’t have met otherwise. “The program runs a lot of social events throughout the semester, so I’ve made some really good friends there. A friend recruited me into the Economics Student Society of Australia (ESSA), where I’m now Treasurer, and I also convinced a different friend to join CAINZ, both of whom I met in the Abernathy program. It’s become a really big family.”

Aside from promoting network building, IH has a reputation for fostering the personal growth of its students, by encouraging them to be involved in as many activities as possible, like sports, volunteering and musical performances.

“One of the highlights so far, and there are many, was getting to perform at Café International. It’s a major fundraiser that we do each year for a nominated charity – in my year it was the Stroke Foundation. You have musical performances from across the college – the process takes months of rehearsal, with everyone in full costume and makeup. I’m really proud of being part of that, I’d never performed before.”

Winona is now the President of the Political Interest Society, where they are currently working on the second edition of the non-partisan political magazine, Spectrum, a joint effort from 20 contributors, artists and graphic designers. “I don’t think I’d be as involved in University life if I didn’t have the scholarship – logistically, if I had to commute in and out for a few hours per day, I wouldn’t have the time or energy. I’m so grateful because I’ve taken part in so many opportunities that helped shape me as a person, my life would be way more boring otherwise.”