How does it feel to be a winner of “It’s About Time” Scholarship from the Abingdon Foundation?
By Kateryna Sikulska
My experience during virtual Women in Aviation International (WAI) conference 2021:
First of all, this scholarship is unlike many others and not awarded in cash. “It’s about time” scholarship provides full financial support for attending annual conferences in STEAM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Arts/Mathematics) fields, mentoring, networking, and assistance to see all of the different avenues in a particular area. Applicants are not required to be experienced in that industry but should be passionate and genuinely interested. Moreover, you choose the application format. Multiple ideas and creativity are encouraged. Still, it must be something that Abingdon Foundation can further utilize to promote their mission to empower and accelerate the female pursuit of more than just STEAM fields.
I was lucky to find this scholarship through the WAI website while searching for flight training scholarships. Being passionate about a pilot career but unsure of where to start and what prospects to expect, I realized that Abingdon Foundation could help me leading through my flight dream. At the same time, I knew what I could offer instead. Before I get into my conference experience, I want to tell you a little about me.
While obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Records Management at National Aerospace University “KhAI”, Kharkiv, Ukraine, I still looked for my desired career. As I liked to make clothes, I put myself into the Fashion design path. For about three years, I trained myself as an entrepreneur running a small clothes company with my friend. After two years, I worked as an assistant purchasing manager with big apparel companies. However, I realized it was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. In the summer of 2018, my husband, an aerospace engineer who was obtaining a master’s degree at Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, FL, showed me aviation perspectives and the possibilities of becoming a pilot. After some research, I set up goals for achieving my new cherished dream of flying! I focused on English learning and started to work as an airline ticket agent. To express my excitement for aviation, I started to make paintings, focusing on aircraft and aircraft-related themes. When I moved to the United States in August 2020, I continued making art and exploring possible ways to start my flight training and dive into a pilot career.
I was beyond happy to receive a precious e-mail from Denise Wiktor from Abingdon Foundation with congratulations on winning the “It’s about time” scholarship. It was my first ever scholarship in the United States and my first time at the Women in Aviation International conference. After being in shock for a while, I reached out to Bethany Miller, the Director of Operations at Abingdon Foundation, to share my excitement and ask about conference details. Firstly, we did not know what to expect since the conference was held online for the first time. However, we tried to prepare ourselves as best as possible for effective engagement. Although we were disappointed that we could not meet in person, I was thrilled to take advantage of the inspiring content, educational opportunities, and networking during the 2-day conference and beyond.
The conference started with Coffee Connect via Zoom with WAI leaders, staff, and all other attendees. Following that, Abingdon Mullin, the President of Abingdon Foundation, and I spent a lot of time on the phone talking about the aviation industry and career opportunities in aviation. She guided me through the exhibitors with whom I could talk and connect. Since I aim to become a pilot, this helped me a lot to get more familiar with prospective flight careers. She also introduced me to other aviators who shared their experiences and gave me advice on my future in aviation. Almost the entire two days were spent talking to exhibitors, pilots, and other attendees. In the beginning, I was anxious about introducing myself and asking questions. But then I realized that everyone in Abingdon foundation and WAI is more than welcome to help and get me into the aviation community.
One of the best things about the virtual WAI 2021 conference was that every education session, seminar, and workshop was recorded and available to watch at your own pace till the end of March. And this was fantastic! There was a lot of useful information at the conference, which you might want to rewatch and take notes on. I must say that everything was very well organized and transferred from a live event into a virtual platform, except hugs, of course.
Special thanks to Abingdon Mullin, Bethany Miller, and Natalie Berman for your support and time with me during the conference and beyond! I was happy to meet Bethany Miller in person in Sanford, FL, the day after the conference. Besides a nice dinner, the Abingdon Foundation organized a small ceremony. Joining the Abingdon crew, I hope to encourage more females to pursue STEAM careers. Like I have contributed with my art to Abingdon Foundation and WAI Silent Auction, I would like to be helpful with my talents in any way I can. Upon becoming successful in my aviation career, I want to be a role model for everyone who doubts pursuing their dreams after years in a different field.
After all, we all sometimes need inspiration, mentoring, support, and courage to step forward. If you are looking for this in the STEAM industry, visit the Abingdon Foundation website (https://abingdonfoundation.org/) and feel free to reach out to me (Instagram: @cathy_sik; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).