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Dream year on dive scholarship for Austrian student of Arctic Studies at Argyll’s SAMS

A marine science student has been given a ‘dream ticket’ to spend the next year diving in the most stunning underwater locations around the world, thanks to a prestigious European scholarship.

Felix Butschek, a student at the Oban-based Scottish Association for Marine Science [SAMS UHI], has been selected as the European representative on the Rolex Scholarship Programme, run by Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society. The year-long scholarship, which annually attracts applications from across Europe, will allow Felix to train in underwater research, photography, marine conservation and equipment design and testing in global locations of his choosing.

The 24 year old, who is originally from Insbruck, Austria, has already devised a wish-list of scuba diving experiences, including cave diving in Mexico, cold-water dives in Antarctica, wreck diving in Alaska and exploring the marine life around the Galapagos Islands.

‘Winning this scholarship is definitely a dream come true for me,’ says Felix, who officially begins his scholarship later this month. ‘Recreational divers might get to do these things in a lifetime and I get the chance to do them in a year. It is a huge privilege.

‘It is a really exciting time and I am still trying to work out what is possible but it is also a really busy time for me. My dissertation deadline is April 13, the same day that I fly to New York for the annual gathering of the scholarship society. I fly back on April 18 and will present my dissertation at SAMS UHI two days later.’

Felix said his time at SAMS UHI, which hosts the UK’s National Facility for Scientific Diving, has prepared him well for ‘a year on the road’ and he plans to return to Oban during his scholarship year to enrol in the commercial scuba diving course run by SAMS.

He said: “There are lots of opportunities open to me but the planning will be a mammoth task. The current scholar has advised me to do a lot of good planning but also to be spontaneous and be ready to change my plans at the last minute.”

Elvin Leech MBE, Vice President of Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society, says: ‘Felix was chosen to be the European Rolex Scholar 2016 as he proved to the selection committee that he possesses the character attributes we are looking for in our potential Rolex Scholars such as determination, forward thinking outlook, independent yet able to work as part of a team.

‘Most of all a desire to work and establish his future career around the underwater environment and helping to improve and conserve our marine and fresh water habitat for future generations.’

Applicants for the Rolex Scholarship Programme are, among other criteria, required to have high academic standing and have Certification as a Rescue Diver or equivalent with a minimum of 25 dives logged in the past two years.

Felix is currently in his fourth year of a BSc in marine science with Arctic studies at SAMS UHI, where he set up a branch of the British Sub Aqua Club and also helped in the discovery and identification of several WWII flying boats near Oban.

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