University of Sydney

05/07/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/06/2024 20:28

Crown Princess Mary Scholarship: how a Sydney student met Denmark's Queen

A University of Sydney student came face to face with royalty as she accepted a prestigious scholarship to study in Copenhagen.

Queen Mary of Denmark with scholarship recipients Sophia Parada (left) and Matthew Joffe Photo: Thomas Bruun Funch

When University of Sydney student Sophia Parada began her degree in 2020, she feared the pandemic would derail her dreams of studying abroad. Last week, at a ceremony in Denmark, she shook hands with Queen Mary as she accepted a scholarship to study at the University of Copenhagen.

The Crown Princess Mary Scholarship: from Australia to Denmark

Australia-born Queen Mary presented Parada with the Crown Princess Mary Scholarship, awarded annually to two outstanding Australian students, supporting them to complete a portion of their studies at the Danish university. This year's other recipient was Matthew Joffe of the University of Technology Sydney. The University of Copenhagen established the scholarship in 2004 as a wedding gift to the then Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary, now King and Queen of Denmark.

"I was slightly nervous beforehand," said Parada. "But as soon as Her Majesty Queen Mary entered the room it was clear how down to earth she was. She has a very graceful way of making everyone around her feel comfortable and appreciated. It was very inspiring."

For Parada, the scholarship represents the fulfillment of a long-held ambition. "I'd always had this dream of studying abroad," she said. "But as I started University, COVID was shutting the world down. International borders didn't start reopening until the final year of my undergraduate degree. I didn't see how it could ever happen, but I just kept looking for opportunities. I'm so thrilled to be here. It's been one of the most incredible experiences of my life."

I'd always had this dream of studying abroad. But as I started University, COVID was shutting the world down ... I didn't see how it could ever happen, but I just kept looking for opportunities.
Sophia Parada

Study abroad scholarships for undergraduate and postgraduate students

The Crown Princess Mary Scholarship is open to Australian Bachelor's and Master's level students from all areas of study available at the University of Copenhagen. Recipients receive DKK 10,000 (approximately $2100) towards the cost of studying in Denmark.

Parada, 22, completed her Bachelor of Science at the University of Sydney in 2022 and is now in her final year of a Master of Nutrition and Dietetics. During her five months at the University of Copenhagen, she will complete a research project investigating whether an individual's metabolic profile has any influence on long-term weight loss maintenance.

"It's been a huge learning opportunity and has really taken me out of my comfort zone," she said. "All the skills I learnt in my undergraduate degree and my Master's have come together to help me on this project."

Queen Mary awards Sophia Parada the Crown Princess Mary Scholarship at a ceremony in Copenhagen. Photo: Thomas Bruun Funch

Discovering Denmark

During her time in Denmark, Parada has been exploring the local culture and cuisine - especially the cinnamon scrolls, or kanelsnegle. "They're amazing and I've been trying different versions at different bakeries with friends, cultivating a sense of what the Danish call hygge - which is all about creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people," she said.

Parada's passion for food, along with her interest in science and health, led her to study nutrition and dietetics. After graduation, she hopes to find a role as a clinical dietician. She has enjoyed her research project in Copenhagen so much that she is also considering a PhD.

"Anything is possible," she said. "I thought I might never study abroad and a few years later, here I am trying to figure out what you talk about when you meet a queen. It truly was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I'm very grateful to Her Majesty Queen Mary, the University of Copenhagen and the University of Sydney for this incredible opportunity."