Imagine a “wanderjahr,” embarking on an individual journey of study: exploring the world and living among people of various cultures. Imagine no more. For Lawrence students Sally Schonfeld and Caroline Bowles, dreams have become reality through the $22,000 Watson Fellowship.As two of the 60 fellowship recipients, Schonfeld and Bowles have the opportunity to explore for one year their own areas of study through independent travel outside the United States. They were selected from nearly 1,000 applicants.
Bowles, an anthropology major, plans to work as an apprentice with local artisans in India and Niger, as well as study the impact of cross-cultural contacts on traditional jewelry, examining the influences of contact with neighboring ethnic groups and urbanization on traditional jewelry.
“I was totally thrilled when I found out,” said Bowles, who received her acceptance letter two days early. “I was caught off-guard. When I saw the big envelope, I had a pretty good feeling.”
“India and Niger are intriguing destinations because they are sites of major cross-cultural contact,” said Bowles. “I want to see how the jewelry reflects the countries’ colonial pasts. If Western influence has been minimal, why did jewelry escape the influence that is so prevalent in other aspects of those countries, such as architecture and dress?”
Through her “wanderjahr”, Bowles hopes to gain a deeper understanding of humanity. “Anytime you go abroad and encounter people who differ significantly from you, you’re forced to change your own world view,” said Bowles. “You get a richer understanding of the human condition.”
Schonfeld, a biology and geology major, will study in Tierra del Fuego—located at the southern tip of Chile—as well as in the savannah region of Tanzania and in the Canadian Inuit community of Iqaluit.
By participating in the hunts of women subsistence hunters, Bowles explained, “I want to explore women’s connections to the land and resources and see how those connections manifest themselves in the rest of their lives, through writing, story-telling, music, art, and even child-rearing.”
Watson Fellows are selected on the basis of the applicant’s academic record, character, leadership potential, and willingness to immerse themselves in another culture. Since the establishment of the program in 1969 by the children of Thomas J. Watson, Jr., the founder of IBM Corporation, fifty-eight Lawrence students have been awarded a Watson Fellowship.