ANN ARBOR, Mich. — As the 2018-2019 Bonderman Fellowship cohort wrap up their final month of travel abroad, the Center for Global & Intercultural Study (CGIS) is excited to announce the selection of the  2019-2020 Bonderman Fellowship cohort; Claire Borchers, Abigail Kennedy, Tariq Mekkaoui, and Bronte Munson.

This newest cohort, who consist of graduating/graduated University of Michigan seniors from the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA), will all be awarded $20,000 each to travel to a minimum of 6 countries in two regions of their choosing over the course of 8 months. While abroad, they are expected to immerse themselves in independent and enriching explorations. The idea behind this program is to give graduating seniors an opportunity to engage with people from various cultures, which will allow them to see the world from a new perspective.

“Of course I think the Bonderman Fellowship, as is, is a meaningful and extremely valuable program. It gives those the opportunity to experience and see the world, those who wouldn’t have had that ability otherwise.” 2018-2019 Bonderman Fellow Shruti Arora said.” This fellowship has been valuable to me but further, I try to seek out forms of ethical and conscious tourism not only because I am a representative of the fellowship and the University, but also because that is the kind of travel that I want to participate in.”

The Bonderman Fellowship is a prestigious program at U-M that attracts talented, innovative, and ambitious scholars who are eager to experience intercultural realities around the globe. Bonderman fellows will be expected to make their own travel itineraries and, because this is meant to be an individual experience, cannot engage in formal study at a foreign university, conduct formal research, or travel with a guest or organized groups.

“The Bonderman is unique in that it is entirely self-directed: the Fellows plan their own itinerary and travel independently for eight months, subject to both serendipitous encounters and the vicissitudes of life on the road,” CGIS Director Michael Jordan said. “There is no blueprint for a Bonderman Fellowship. As the Spanish poet Antonio Machado wrote, ‘Caminante, no hay camino, / se hace camino al andar (Walker, there is no path, / the path is made in walking.)’”

Get to know the 2019-2020 Bonderman Fellows

Claire BorchersInternational Studies and Spanish major, Ross School of Business minor
“Pursuing Bonderman also represented my determination to more fully engage with what I've studied - as an International Studies/Spanish double major, I had always planned to study abroad long-term. But I found myself in a bit of a catch-22; competing for Michigan’s Track and Cross Country teams would come to mean that leaving Ann Arbor wasn't feasible. I was also drawn to the independent and boundless nature of Bonderman. For a long time, my life has been dictated by academics and athletics, realms that offer consistent community and require subscribing to a considerable degree of structure. I’m grateful for how it has shaped me as a person, but I’m drawn to the freedom and independence of Bonderman for what it can teach me about myself and the world.”

Abigail Kennedy, Philosophy major, Business Administration minor
“I know that this fellowship will be one of the most challenging adventures I'll go on in my young adult life. I hope that throughout this journey I will become a stronger, wiser, and more independent person. I also hope to become more open-minded about the world and more inspired to make it a better place. Bonderman, for me, is an opportunity to begin in a new direction. For much of my life I had created a plan for myself that was safe and expected. I still have the same end-goal, of working in international law and on humanitarian projects, but Bonderman gives me the chance to re-think my path for getting there. If I truly want to make an impact on the world, I ought to get out there and start learning about it."

Tariq Mekkaoui, Biomolecular Science major, English minor
"My view is limited to my experiences at University of Michigan. With the experiences in towing intersectionality of identity, I understand that cultures and people carry complex identities, but I am lacking in the insight of a global outlook on identity. As stated on the Bonderman Fellowship website, 'Fellows will engage with cultures, people, and areas of the world with which they are not familiar, providing an opportunity to develop a new global outlook on life'. Understanding that there are people with experiences I do not understand is what excited me about the Bonderman Fellowship. As a Bonderman Fellow, I hope to learn from others about culture, people, and life."

Bronte MunsonPsychology major
“During my time at Michigan, both in the classroom and out, I’ve since been exposed to a variety of perspectives, beliefs, and different life experiences. This has been humbling and exciting and has taught me more than I could have imagined about myself and the world I’m part of. I applied to Bonderman, because it was an opportunity to continue growing, learning, and exploring on the global scale, in the unique way only solo travel allows. As a psychology major, I’m fascinated by others. I’m most looking forward to the many people, fellow travellers and locals alike, I will have the opportunity to connect and converse with, and surely learn from.”

A bit of history

After graduating from Harvard Law School in the 1960’s, David Bonderman traveled internationally as a Sheldon Fellow and that experience shaped the rest of his life. He created the Bonderman Travel Fellowship in 1995 to provide students with a similar opportunity.

In 2014, Bonderman’s daughter, LSA alumna Samantha Holloway (A.B. ’03), and her husband, Gregory (A.B. ’02), created the Bonderman Fellowship in CGIS. The University of Michigan is one of two schools, along with the University of Washington, to offer the Fellowship.

If you’d like to learn more about the Bonderman Fellows that are currently abroad and/or follow their travels, please click here!