Bonderman Travel Fellowship

What are the selection criteria?

Sometimes the most ambiguous guidelines provide the most creative results. We are searching for applicants who are creative, curious, and open. We seek to identify students who demonstrate integrity, the capacity for vision and leadership, and potential for humane and effective participation in the global community. In your proposal please tell us where you want to go, and most importantly, why you want to go. 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.

How long do I have to travel for?

You must travel for a minimum of eight months in at least six countries in two or more major regions of the world. While your official Bonderman travels must end at eight months, you are welcome to continue traveling for as long as the money lasts, even if that is well after that eighth months.

When do I have to leave by?

If awarded a Bonderman fellowship you can embark on your travels at any point between the time you are offered the award and June of the following calendar year (i.e., if awarded a fellowship in 2020 you must leave by June 30, 2021).

Please see the Bonderman COVID-19 FAQ for modifications to the timeline due to the pandemic.

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, but you cannot take your spouse/partner/friend/child on your travels with you. You also should not travel in organized, group tour situations.

Can international students studying at UW apply?

No, applicants must be US citizens or permanent residents to be eligible for this fellowship.

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

No, this award is not to be used to fund research towards your degree, formal study at a university, a reconnection with your family heritage, or travel with a formal organization. This is not a research fellowship, this is a personal journey.

Can I travel anywhere I want?

While we encourage you to be as imaginative as possible (and honest about your true desires) when creating your itinerary, we do follow the advice of the U.S. Department of State and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). 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) in the period prior to the fellow’s departure.  If you propose travel to a country with a high level of risk, 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.

Please see the Bonderman COVID-19 FAQ for information on travel restrictions due to the pandemic.

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.

Am I required to have a theme?

No–absolutely not!  You are not required to have a theme to apply for a Bonderman Fellowship. It’s great if you have something that ties all your countries together, but if you want to travel to different places for different reasons, that is great as well!

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

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Preference will be given to candidates without international travel experience, but that is not to say that some experience outside of the United States disqualifies you from consideration. We recognize that many applicants acquire international experience in their undergraduate, graduate, or professional roles these days; if, however, you have had an opportunity for extended engagement in various regions of the world we will want to know what that experience lacked that you think a Bonderman Fellowship would provide.

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 comment on your character, adaptability, reliability, and general qualifications to undertake a challenging and often solitary experience like the Bonderman. They should not be a family member or spouse/partner. 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.

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

The application for each cycle is usually made available during Autumn Quarter, and then closes after the deadline in Winter Quarter.  Please check the Apply page to see if the application is currently available.

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

No, the application deadline is final.

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 you apply (i.e., you must be enrolled in at least one credit in Winter quarter to be eligible to apply). Graduate and professional students: on leave status does not mean “enrolled.”

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.

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

No, but we have posted short summaries of previous proposals online. Keep in mind that not only do the Fellowship requirements constantly evolve, but each Bonderman fellow is completely 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 these countries, and why the Bonderman experience is important to you right now.

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 mid- and late-Winter Quarter.  Please do not contact us if you have not heard by the end of February.

I have a 3.49 UW GPA at the start of Winter 2021 and think I’ll do well in my classes this quarter - can I still apply?

No, you must have a 3.50 UW GPA at the start of the quarter.

I have a UW GPA below 3.50, but with my other/transfer credits I have a higher GPA - can I still apply?

No, you must have a UW GPA of 3.50 or greater at the start of Winter Quarter.

I am in the University Honors Program (Interdisciplinary, Departmental or College Honors) / UW Tacoma’s Global Honors Program - does my UW GPA need to be 3.50 or higher to apply?

No, if you meet the other criteria outlined (senior credit, enrolled, etc) and are in good standing in your respective program, you are eligible to apply even if your UW GPA is below a 3.50.

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 the entire Bonderman Fellowship FAQ and the guidelines on the Apply page and let your imagination soar. If you still have questions you may contact us at bondermn@uw.edu.

Bonderman COVID-19 FAQ

Why is the Bonderman application open when nobody can travel right now due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Applications are being accepted for 2021 to ensure that students do not miss their window of opportunity to apply for a Bonderman Fellowship. We don’t know when it will be possible to resume travel. However, we want to ensure that when it is possible to travel again that there are Bonderman fellows able to take advantage of the opportunity to undertake international travel. 

When will those awarded a 2021 Bonderman Fellowship be required to depart?

Unlike in previous years, the window of time in which 2021 Bonderman fellows are required to depart has not yet been set due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When the UW determines that it is possible to resume travel, the Bonderman staff will work with individual fellows to determine the date of their departure. Fellows will not be required to depart immediately. Since travel to specific countries will become possible at different times, it will be necessary to determine the timeline for departure on an individual basis based on the fellow’s itinerary and the capacity of the Bonderman staff.  

When it is possible to resume travel, how long will fellows have to depart?

When it is possible to resume travel to the countries on the fellow’s itinerary, Bonderman fellows will be given a twelve-month window in which to depart.  

What if travel to some countries on my itinerary becomes possible but not to others?

If some countries on your itinerary become possible for travel, you will work with the Bonderman staff to determine if modifications should be made to remove the countries that are still not possible to travel to from your itinerary, or if you will continue to wait for the other countries on your itinerary to be open for travel. If travel to countries on your itinerary in at least two regions of the world is possible, we might encourage you to modify your itinerary and open the window for departure. If travel to countries on your itinerary in only one region of the world is possible, we probably would not open the window for travel.

What if UW determines that international travel is again possible but some countries on my itinerary are not admitting people from the U.S.?

If some countries on your itinerary are not admitting people from the U.S., 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 continue to wait for those countries to open travel for people from the U.S. 

How will the university decide when Bonderman fellows can travel again?

The UW relies upon the advice of UW global health and safety specialists as well as the U.S. Department of State and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to determine the safety of locations outside the United States.  Both the U.S. Department of State and the CDC provide a safety rating for each country on a 1-4 or 1-3 scale, respectively, and provide specific information about the safety of the country. The Bonderman Fellowship does not allow travel to countries rated a 3 or 4 by the U.S. Department of State.  

If I am awarded and I get a good job while I am waiting for it to be possible to travel again, what will happen?

While the Bonderman Fellowship is a serious commitment, there will be no repercussions if you are awarded and then find that by the time it is possible to resume travel you are no longer in a position to accept the fellowship. Due to the uncertain nature of international travel because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is expected that fellows might be navigating changes in their lives that may prevent them from traveling for eight months.

What is happening with the 2020 Bonderman fellows?

The 2020 Bonderman fellows are waiting until it is possible to resume travel to undertake their trips. It is expected that when it is possible to resume travel, the 2020 Bonderman fellows will undertake their travels at various times according to their specific circumstances.