Longview resident Brittany Lichty has won a prestigious fellowship that is taking her to parts of Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa to learn more about refugees of national or regional conflicts.
Lichty, a 2002 Mark Morris High School graduate, will be on her own as she travels to three continents: Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam in Asia; Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania in Europe; and, finally, to Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia in Africa. She departs in November.
Her nine-month journey is financed by a $20,000 Bonderman Travel Fellowship, awarded annually to seven University of Washington undergraduate students and seven UW graduate students. Some of the other fellowship recipients are using their awards to: experience environmental conservation efforts around the world, learn about international business landscapes, places of cultural convergence, the role of libraries around the world and fire rituals around the world.
Lichty, 22, graduated this spring from the UW honors college with a bachelor's degree in English literature and language and a minor in education.
Lichty hopes to someday use her experience to expand a community college study-abroad program. Sending students to countries with displaced people will help them better understand why refugees move to America, she said.
"I want to increase cultural tolerance" among Americans, Lichty said. "I want to find safe, yet still culturally relevant areas to take students to."
Though Lichty is still developing a detailed itinerary, she is looking forward to learning about architecture and art in each country and how they reflect an area's history. She'll also visit schools, classrooms, farms and market places.
The idea for her trip came while Lichty was tutoring students at a Seattle-area high school during her UW days. Among the students were some Somali girls. As she edited their college admissions essays, Lichty was astonished and moved by some of their stories of hardship.
During her trip, Lichty said she plans to stay in hostels, with friends, or in people's homes. She's learning key phrases in the different languages and is taking a self-defense class before starting her trip.
She's both excited and nervous for the journey.
"I don't know how anyone could not be nervous," she said.
Receiving the fellowship is a huge honor and an even bigger surprise, Lichty said.
"I was shocked to get an interview," she said. When Lichty received a phone call announcing her fellowship, "I actually thought she was joking."
This year, the Bonderman received 100 applications for seven undergraduate awards and 140 applications for seven graduate-student awards.
The Bonderman Travel Fellowship is offered only to UW graduate students, undergraduate students in the honors program and to students in UW Tacoma's Global Honors Program. While traveling, students cannot pursue academic study, projects, or research.
The Bonderman was established in 1995 and has so far sent 151 UW students-99 undergraduate and 52 graduate students- to travel abroad.