Photo credit: Teresa Mathew

 

HARLEEN KAUR

I graduated from the University of Michigan in 2015 with a BA in English and a minor in Community Action and Social Change. During undergrad, I was heavily involved in student and community organizations, such as Sikh Student Association, The Michigan Daily, Groundcover News, University Housing, and many more. Through these experiences, I was able to explore my own social identities and also work towards an understanding of other communities and cultures.

In my passion to work with underserved and underrepresented communities, particularly immigrant populations in the U.S., I decided to take some time to travel and immerse myself in these cultures. Upon returning to the States, I hope to pursue a career that allows me combine my interests in literature and writing, social policy, and identity. In the Fall of 2017, I will be starting a PhD in Sociology.

THE FELLOWSHIP

The Bonderman Fellowship is a $20,000 grant for graduating seniors in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan. The fellowship began in 1995 at the University of Washington through a gift from an alumnus, David Bonderman. After graduating from Harvard Law School, Mr. Bonderman received a Sheldon Fellowship that allowed him to travel internationally. Interested in providing other students with a similar experience, as his travels profoundly impacted his life, Mr. Bonderman started this grant at his alma mater.

Just last year, his daughter, a Michigan alum, started the fellowship in her father's name at her alma mater. The first class of fellows have had great success, which you can read about here. Each year, Michigan plans to select around four graduating seniors to partake in their own journey, and share their experiences with others. The Fellowship has a few stipulations, some of which are included below:

  • The Fellow must travel on their own for at least eight months to a minimum of six countries in two different parts of the world, not returning to the United States during their fellowship.
  • The Fellow cannot simultaneously participate in any other formal fellowship or internship, as the purpose of the fellowship is to simply experience the culture of countries that they are visiting.

I will document my own experiences through this blog, as I spend approximately nine months abroad in a variety of countries. Take a look at my travel map for my itinerary or my blog for my reflections while I travel.

APPLYING TO THE BONDERMAN FELLOWSHIP

Deciding to apply to the Bonderman Fellowship is a big step, so congratulations! This fellowship is certainly unlike others, in that you don't get to stay in one place for too long, but you also are essentially free to do what you want. First, really read up on the rules of the fellowship, what its intentions are, and the process. I highly recommend going to the CGIS office hours and just getting a feel for what the Bonderman is about.

Another important part of this is thinking about why you want to go abroad. The fellowship is mostly for those who have not yet had this experience, but it is also for those who are looking for a new and challenging experience. Traveling to lots of new places on your own can be a lot to handle, especially considering different social identities. Although this trip will only allow you a glimpse into the cultures and countries you are exploring, it will give you a better understanding of yourself and your own identities, which I believe is equally important in getting an understanding of the world.

The Bonderman is not restricted to any major or field, so you have the ability to structure the fellowship in terms of your own interests and skills. If you speak Spanish, you may want to spend some time in South America. If you were a History major, perhaps you'll spend time in countries that you learned about in class to see it first-hand. The most important thing is that there is no one right way to do this fellowship, but more so if it is the right fellowship for you.

If you have additional questions about my own experience, check out my blog and photography, or reach out to CGIS for any application-specific questions. Good luck!