Bonderman Travel Fellowship

2024 Eligibility & Application Logistics

Can undergraduate students apply this year?

Bonderman travel resumed on February 15, 2023 for past cohorts from 2019, 2020, and 2021. To allow us to provide appropriate support to these 30+ fellows we will only select graduate/professional fellows in the 2022-23 and 2023-24 academic years. The selection hiatus for undergraduate fellows will allow us to focus on supporting the large number of waiting fellows and reimagine the undergraduate fellowship in response to staffing changes, changes in the world, and changes for our UW undergraduate students. We look forward to welcoming undergraduate applications in the future.

Will I be able to apply in the future if I'm an undergraduate who graduated during the undergraduate hiatus period?

Unfortunately, this will not be possible. Given the length of the undergraduate hiatus and our staff’s ability to support the application, selection, preparation, and travel processes, those who graduate during the undergraduate hiatus will not be eligible to apply in the future.

Although the Bonderman Fellowship is unique, please consider these examples of other programs providing different types of international experience:

I missed all the information sessions. Will you be holding more sessions or can I come talk to someone about this fellowship application?

If you have missed the information sessions please review all parts of the Bonderman Fellowship FAQ and the guidelines on the How to Apply page, watch the information session recording, attend a Q&A and let your imagination soar. If you still have questions you contact us at bonderman@uw.edu.

Can international students studying at UW apply?

Applicants must be US citizens or permanent residents to be eligible for this fellowship.

Where do I find the application? Is it currently available?

The application for the 2024 selection process will open November 20, 2023, and close at 12pm (noon) on January 16, 2024. To access the Bonderman application, sign into the MyGrad portal* with your UW NetID. Along the website header, select “Request Award.” Under “Award Name,” select “Bonderman Fellowship” and then “Submit Request.” This will take you to the Bonderman application materials. Select the links under “Material Name” to fill out and upload the necessary files to complete the application. Once the application is complete, select “submit” underneath the Bonderman Materials Checklist.

*Professional students (JD, MD, DDS, PharmD) are not able to access the application in MyGrad. For the professional student application, please email Bonderman staff at bonderman@uw.edu.

Is it possible to edit my application?

It is possible to edit the application fields and re-upload files in MyGrad until the application is submitted. Once submitted, however, the application cannot be edited. To edit your existing application, sign into MyGrad and click “Request Award” along the website header. You will see your application in progress under “Current Award Activity”.

Is it possible to turn in the application a little late?

No, the application deadline is final.

Who should my application references be and when will you contact them? Do they need to write a letter?

Your references should be people in a position to speak to your qualifications for and commitment to this experience. References can be instructors, mentors, advisers, or employers, but should not be family members or significant others. They do not need to write a letter – if needed we will contact them by phone or email during the interview stage of the selection process. References should be able to speak to:

  • Your qualifications for solo international travel.
  • Your interest in the itinerary you propose.
  • Their experience with how you follow through on your commitments.
  • Your openness to ways of thinking that differ from you.

Are there copies of successful proposals that I may study to improve my application?

We do not share prior successful proposals. Not only do the Fellowship requirements and the application regularly change, but each Bonderman fellow is unique and so are the proposals that got them to the interview stage. We encourage you to focus not on what has worked in the past, but on why you make a great candidate, why you are applying for the fellowship, why you chose your countries, and why the Bonderman experience is important to you right now.

If awarded, do I have to be enrolled when I use the fellowship?

No, you don’t have to be enrolled to use the fellowship, you can even use the fellowship after graduation. You do have to be enrolled at the University of Washington at the time the application is due (i.e., you must be enrolled in at least one credit Winter Quarter 2024 to be eligible to apply). Graduate and professional students: on leave status does not mean “enrolled.”

2024 Selection

What are the selection criteria?

We are searching for applicants who are curious, open, and creative. We seek those who demonstrate self-knowledge, interpersonal and cross-cultural skills and interests, and resilience and fortitude. We look for proposals that balance challenging the applicant in new ways with careful planning and thoughtful engagement with those challenges. Bonderman Fellowships enable students to undertake independent international travel to explore, be open to the unexpected, and come to know the world in new ways. In your proposal make sure you respond to all of the prompts. Tips for a successful application can be viewed here.

Am I required to have a theme?

Absolutely not!  You are not required to have a theme to apply for a Bonderman Fellowship. If you have something that ties all your countries together, great, but if you want to travel to different places for different reasons, that is great as well!

I have lived outside the U.S./gone on a study abroad program/traveled extensively. Does this help or hinder my application for a Bonderman Fellowship?

The Bonderman Fellowship prioritizes students without extensive international experience, but we also recognize that there are a wide variety of international experiences that may be very different from the independent travel of the Bonderman Fellowship. We ask about your previous international experiences to understand the type of experiences you’ve had and how those are similar and/or different from the travel you would undertake on the Bonderman Fellowship.

I have family roots/heritage from a country on my proposed itinerary. Does this help or hinder my application for a Bonderman Fellowship?

This is an independent journey, so if an applicant proposes to visit family in another country, that will not be viewed as competitive by the selection committee as it does not follow the guidelines of a solo journey. However, independent exploration of one’s identity, including traveling to a country one’s family is from and one may have been to before, is acceptable. Strong applications will articulate how the journey being proposed will help one interact with people, places, and cultures with which one is unfamiliar.

Am I required to speak the language(s) of the region(s) I am applying to?


Language fluency is not required to be awarded the Bonderman Fellowship. Language experience provides the selection committee context for your proposed itinerary and how it will push you outside of your comfort zone.

Are there areas of the world that are looked on more favorably by the selection committee?

Bonderman Fellowships are intended to introduce students to cultures, peoples, and areas of the world with which they are not familiar. Proposals to travel in areas of the world that an applicant is comfortable with and has significant experience in will not be considered as strong as those that challenge the applicant to stretch and learn new things about the world.

Bonderman Fellows must adhere to university rules and policies that govern international travel by UW staff, faculty, students, and affiliates. See the below question “Can I travel anywhere I want?” for more guidance on where Bonderman Fellows can and cannot travel.

When will I know if I will be interviewed? Will you tell me if I don't get an interview?

All applicants will be notified of whether or not they will move on to the interview stage of the selection process. All applicants will be notified of their interview status between end of Winter Quarter and early Spring Quarter 2024.  Please contact us if you have not heard by early April 2024.

While traveling on the Fellowship

How long do I have to travel for?

You must travel for eight months to a minimum of six and a maximum of nine countries in a minimum of two and a maximum of three distinct world regions.

While your official Bonderman travels and the support and oversight of the University of Washington ends at eight months, you can continue with personal travels after that eighth month.

When do I have to leave by?

If awarded a Bonderman fellowship in the 2023-24 selection cycle you can embark on your travels between September 1, 2024 and September 1, 2025.

Can I break the travel up into smaller sessions?

No, this is to be a life-changing experience of total immersion in other places, peoples, and cultures and you cannot break the eight months of travel into smaller sessions.

Can I ever travel with someone else? Can two people apply together?

This is a solitary adventure that you must undertake alone. You can occasionally travel with other travelers or have friends or family join you for a limited time (~one week), but you cannot take your spouse/partner/friend/child on your travels with you. You also should not travel in organized, group tour situations, except for limited duration in places you cannot otherwise reach (i.e., a guided tour of a location that requires permitted guides to accompany visitors).

Can I use the fellowship to fund an internship for my degree program, or take language classes?

This award should not be used to fund research towards your degree, for formal study at a university, or for travel with a formal organization. This is not a research fellowship, but is a personal journey.

That being said, on arrival in a new region or location we would encourage you to engage in a short-term language course (~one week) to aid your engagement in that place.

Can I travel anywhere I want?

Bonderman Fellows must adhere to university rules and policies that govern international travel by UW staff, faculty, students, and affiliates. While we encourage you to be imaginative and honest about your true desires when creating your itinerary, we follow the advice of the U.S. Department of State and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). If you propose travel to a country with a high level of risk, in your interview we will ask about your plan to safely and successfully travel there and may not approve your travel there, even if we should award you a fellowship.

Bonderman fellows are not allowed to travel to countries that the U.S State Department rates as a Level 3 or 4 (on their 1-4 scale). Fellows requesting to travel to countries with a country-wide Level 1 or 2 rating with High Risk Areas (Level 3 or 4) within that country will go through a Bonderman and UW review process before being approved to travel there on their Bonderman Fellowship. Should a country’s rating change prior to your departure or during your Fellowship you will work with Bonderman and UW staff to make an appropriate plan.

Please see the Bonderman Fellowships &COVID-19 section below for information on travel during the pandemic.

If I'm awarded and don't use all the funds while traveling, what happens to the remainder of the money?

As long as you fulfill the obligations and responsibilities of the fellowship, then any funds remaining at the conclusion of your travels are yours to use as you wish. Should you fail to fulfill the requirements, you will need to return a portion of the funds.

Bonderman Fellowships & COVID-19

What if some countries on my itinerary have onerous COVID-related entry requirements?

If some countries on your itinerary have onerous COVID-related entry requirements, you will work with the Bonderman staff to determine if modifications should be made to your itinerary to remove those countries, or if you will be able to navigate the entry requirements while traveling on a Bonderman Fellowship.

How is the Bonderman Fellowship considering COVID-19 and international travel?

Bonderman Fellows travel independently for an extended duration, exploring multiple countries in multiple regions of the world. Many Bonderman Fellows use public transportation and stay in shared accommodations (including home-stays and hostels). Social distancing in these settings can be very difficult and fellows experience frequent and close contact with others.

In line with university policy, fellows are required to be vaccinated for COVID-19. However, fellows can still carry and transit the virus. Many countries have varying levels of health system readiness and capacity to manage COVID-19 and entry requirements can change unexpectedly based on COVID-19 trends, including required quarantines, proof of a negative COVID test, or full border closures.

Given these considerations, Bonderman Fellowship staff work with selected fellows to understand these complex dynamics and the ethical implications of travel. All fellows are required to have UW Student Abroad Insurance for the duration of their fellowship, enabling access to healthcare providers and health coverage around the world. While Bonderman staff support fellows in navigating this new travel landscape pre-departure and during travel, fellows are ultimately responsible to research and understand how COVID-19 will impact their travels and develop a personal and ethical risk-assessment. Bonderman staff encourage applicants and fellows to consider the impact of their choices and travels on the people and communities they’ll be encountering along the way.