I graduated from the University of Michigan in 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, and a minor in Gender and Health. I was accepted into a clinical psychology PhD program set to begin in the fall of 2017, and was fully prepared to embark on my next educational steps to a lifelong career in academia.
However, I couldn't help but feel that I was missing a experiential component critical to the work I wanted to pursue: exposure. Upon discovering an international travel grant by the name of the Bonderman Fellowship, I realized that my potential for affecting groundbreaking change in psychology through research, teaching, and clinical practice could be immeasurably heightened through direct immersion in the developing countries and vulnerable populations whom I seek to study. Unbelievably, the selection committee saw my vision too, and in 2017 I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime: $20,000 to travel worldwide, solo, for 8 months.
I declined my PhD acceptance offer, and set off for the unknown abroad. Initially, my itinerary was centralized around my research interests; PTSD, resilience, childhood and adolescent trauma psychopathology, and youth refugee mental health. Much of my fellowship experience allowed me to gain perspective into cross-cultural perceptions of mental illness, troubleshoot current barriers to mental health access, work and volunteer for organizations focused on psychosocial interventions in response to disaster, and to achieve insight that will shape my future research in graduate school and beyond.
But the experience became so much more than a purely academic endeavor. Through the course of 257 consecutive days abroad, I grew as a human being, opening my heart and my mind to all of the beautiful diversity that this world has to offer. I embraced the exhilaration of letting go of plans and the rigidity of Western parameters of success, instead accepting a mantra of spontaneity.
Bonderman may be over, but my tenure as a global citizen has just begun. I am now utilizing my experiences overseas as the lead of Research and Development for One Light Global (onelightglobal.org) in order to transform humanitarian aid paradigms in response to the global refugee crisis. Currently, I am based in Denver, CO, working full-time in research at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, and spending my free time running, doing yoga, experimenting with vegan baking, and escaping to the Rocky Mountains whenever possible.
No matter what adventure is next for me, I know one thing with certainty: that all I need is a passport and a passion.
The Bonderman Fellowship offers four graduating seniors in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts at the University of Michigan the chance to travel internationally for eight months. Each spring, four fellows receive $20,000 to travel to at least six countries in two regions of the world, where they will immerse themselves in independent and enriching explorations.
David Bonderman traveled internationally as a Sheldon Fellow after graduating from Harvard Law School in the 1960s, an experience that shaped the rest of his life. In order to provide students with a similar opportunity, Mr. Bonderman created the Bonderman Travel Fellowship at the University of Washington in 1995. In 2014-15, the Bonderman Family decided to offer a similar fellowship at the University of Michigan to four graduating seniors from the College of Literature, Science & the Arts.
Bonderman 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. Fellows make their own travel itineraries and explore the world independently.
The 2017-2018 Fellows
The 2017-2018 Fellows
Ann Arbor, MI
Ann Arbor, MI