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Ice hockey and volunteerism brings exchange student to UMaine

Abbey Friars, a third-year kinesiology student from Acadia University in Nova Scotia, is spending this semester at the University of Maine as a part of the Killam Fellowships Program. The Killam Fellowships Program provides an opportunity for exceptional students from universities in Canada and the United States to spend either a semester of a full academic year as an exchange student in the other country.

An extremely competitive program, the fellowship applicants are assessed based on their program of study, their personal statement, record of academic achievement and most importantly their involvement in the community. “I’m pretty involved in the community at home,” Friars said.

While studying kinesiology, Friars is involved in multiple groups at her home university, where she spends time volunteering every week. One program that Friars is involved in is called the Smile Program. “You’re paired with a child with an intellectual or physical disability, and you play with them or go swimming,” Friars said. “It’s a huge part of our school at home.” In addition to the Smile Program, Friars is a member of another Acadia University volunteering organization called Large, which provides jobs and housing for adults with disabilities. “A lot of my degree is based around people with disabilities, so that’s where I’ve done most of my community involvement.”

Friars was told about the Killam Fellowship by a professor at Acadia University and applied for the program last year. “It’s a cool program, I met everyone accepted into the program in Ottawa in September, and in the spring we’ll all go to D.C. and meet again.” There is also a cultural awareness program offered by the Killam Fellowship program which will meet in Nashville, Tenn. this year. “I applied for that as well,” she said.

The vast benefits of the fellowship program, which covers almost the entirety of the individual’s university expenses, extend after a participant’s undergraduate career. The program offers opportunities for graduate students in the form of grants, which could potentially benefit Friars in the future, as she hopes to apply to either physiotherapy or medical school.

The applicants for the fellowship apply to three schools throughout the United States or Canada and from there the applicants are selected to attend one of the three schools of their choice. “I’m a hockey player, so that’s kind of what drew me to Maine,” Friars said, who also applied to the University of Texas and Clemson University in addition to the University of Maine.

Friars, who plays hockey at Acadia University, is currently an active member of UMaine’s Women’s Ice Hockey, practicing and traveling with the team every week. “It’s like I’m on the team,” Friars said.

Having family in Maine, Friars had been to the University of Maine before for hockey games. “A couple of girls that are on the hockey team are from Nova Scotia, and I’ve played with them since I was fifteen, so it was nice to know a few people coming in.”

Friars, who initially was only supposed to stay at University of Maine for one semester, hopes to possibly extend her fellowship for the academic year. While in Maine, the hockey player hopes to visit Acadia National Park and Cape Cod: “I want to go on little road trips,” she said.

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