LSJ Alumnus Receives Bonderman Fellowship

Submitted by Charlotte Anthony on

Motivated by her education and her personal experiences, LSJ Alumnus Martina Kartman set out to travel to post-colonial countries in order to gain a better understanding of the historical, political and human rights conditions, which are present in the countries that she visited.

Kartman was awarded a Bonderman fellowship in 2009, which enabled her to travel to the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Tanzania and Kenya. The Bonderman is a prestigious fellowship for UW Honors students. It allows recipients to travel independently for eight or more months on the condition that they visit at least two regions of the world and at least six countries.

“The idea is to take people that are very successful and push them to make themselves uncomfortable and learn about the world in new ways,” said Brook Kelly, academic advisor at the University Honors program. “We want people to examine the life they live.”

Kartman planned an itinerary, but found it difficult to stay in a country for a week and then leave. She said that throughout her journey, she felt a deep connection with the cultures and peoples that she encountered and a desire to set up roots in each place that she visited.

“I realized pretty quickly along the way, that it’s rarely merely the physical sites that make a destination meaningful to me,” said Kartman. “Instead, my experiences were defined by the people I have met along the way.”

Throughout her travels, Kartman visited refugee centers, orphanages and a foundation for street kids in Columbia. She also took time to meet with locals and discuss human rights issues.

Kartman said that her courses on human rights as part of her LSJ major allowed her to go into the trip with a more thoughtful lens. She felt that because she understood a little about the historical background and the political context, she was able to be a more conscious and thoughtful traveler.

When Kartman visited the Kibera slums in Nairobi, a place of extreme poverty, she was struck by how incredibly privileged and lucky she was as a westerner. She found herself needing time alone to reflect and process her experience.

“I’ve learned a lot about my boundaries, my comforts and discomforts and when to push them or respect them,” said Kartman. “I think one of the ideas of the [Bonderman] is for people to step outside of what we are comfortable with.”

Throughout the trip, Kartman struggled with the idea of privilege. As a university student with a fellowship that allowed her to travel the world, Kartman felt that she was constantly thinking about what it meant to have privilege in terms of her position and actions. She explained that there were times during her trip where she let herself “pass” as Latin American due to safety issues but whether she hid her privilege, it was still there.

“I think it’s incredibly important for students to be conscious of their privilege when they travel,” said Kartman. It’s really challenging to be a thoughtful and responsible traveler at times…and it’s something I still struggle with.”

This article was composed by Charlotte Anthony.