We started The Wandering Scholar to help address the opportunity gap that keeps students from low-income and other underrepresented backgrounds from traveling and studying abroad. We wanted to give ambitious high-schoolers of all backgrounds the chance to establish themselves as engaged, globally-competent citizens. And since we believe that the value one gets out of international travel is directly related to how well-prepared one is beforehand, we created an experience that is anchored by targeted skills development, mentorship, and purposeful self-reflection.
Is The Wandering Scholar a service-oriented organization?
While many of our Scholars participate in community service activities during their international GSF experience (such activities are a key component of many of the itineraries offered by our travel partners at Smithsonian Student Adventures—please see more about their organization below), we are different from traditional service-oriented travel organizations in that we place a primary emphasis on encouraging deep intercultural engagement through the completion of a digital documentation project and the sharing of blog posts.
What else does The Wandering Scholar do?
While our primary focus is on selecting, funding and educating our Wandering Scholars, we also spend time in our communities throughout the year, spreading the word about The Wandering Scholar and the Global Skills Fellowship Program. In addition to hosting biannual fundraisers to support our educational programs, we also regularly plan and host social events in New York City and Boston to raise awareness and encourage others to join our cause. From film screenings to panel discussions (check out an example), our goal is to provide thought-provoking experiences for wanderers of all ages.
What kind of organization is The Wandering Scholar?
The Wandering Scholar is a 501c3 nonprofit organization. We are grateful to receive fully tax-deductible donations from individuals and corporations that share our values and believe in the importance of our mission. Enabling a diverse group of young intercultural ambassadors to broaden their horizons—while also leaving a positive impression on the residents of host countries across the world—is a task that we’re incredibly proud to be undertaking.
Does The Wandering Scholar operate the trips?
While The Wandering Scholar manages the GSF application process, selects and prepares Scholars, and establishes and manages the educational elements of their fully-funded trips abroad—we partner with Smithsonian Student Adventures (SSA) for in-country, “on-the-ground” logistics. What this means is that both before and after a Scholar arrives in his or her destination country, SSA staff members are the main point of contact for issues pertaining to housing, food, activities coordination, etc. We are very familiar with SSA, having worked with them for many years, and are happy to place Scholars in such competent hands. You can find out a lot more about SSA (including information for students and parents regarding trip safety, health concerns, passport and visa requirements, project activities, trip leaders, and their host family selection/assignment process), in the “Travel Partner” section of our site.
How long does the Program last?
The Program runs for 8-10 weeks, June through August—but only 2-4 weeks are actually spent traveling abroad. In the 3 weeks leading up to their departure date, Scholars take part in virtual workshops and engage with their travel mentors, to help prepare them for the exciting international adventures to come. During the 3 weeks after returning home, Scholars continue interacting with their mentors online, and also get a chance to share their experiences and insights with other Wandering Scholars, teachers, and classmates.
What costs does the fellowship cover?
All Wandering Scholars will receive tuition support for travel with our partners at Smithsonian Student Adventures, plus the cost of international airfare on a chaperoned group flight. Wandering Scholars and their families will be responsible for paying for domestic airfare to the departure city for the group fight (note that this varies according to the trip, but we generally cap these expenses at $300 per Scholar to minimize financial hardships).
What role do mentors serve in the program?
From day one, travel mentors serve as role models for, and engaged supporters of, Scholars. Mentors tend to have strong travel backgrounds and foreign language skills; they may also have jobs or careers that involve travel or international exposure. Whenever possible, a Scholar will be paired with a mentor who can provide specific insight into their mentee’s travel destination. Scholars and mentors typically communicate and stay in contact via email and phone—as well as through blog posts and tweets. Mentors also play a crucial role in helping Scholars think through and plan out their documentation projects.
What is a “documentation project”?
Documentation projects allow Scholars to creatively record their thoughts and experiences while living and learning in a foreign land, and to turn new insights and understandings into a personal trip “artifact.” Some examples include photo essays, documentary videos, podcasts, educational articles, visual art, interviews, cookbooks, or some clever combination thereof. It’s all about self-expression and creating something both personally meaningful and intellectually rewarding—to share online with the Wandering Scholar community, and also with the community and support network back home.
Does blogging count as a documentation project?
Scholars blog in addition to creating a personal documentation project. For Scholars, blog entries provide an additional opportunity to keep a record of, and reflect on, their GSF experience. For parents, mentors, and other supporters, they offer a convenient way to stay informed and provide encouragement and advice to Scholars. They also help The Wandering Scholar, as an organization, to promote its mission and share Scholars’ stories with the rest of the world, including future Scholars, supporters, and mentors.
The Application Process
Am I eligible to apply for a Global Skills Fellowship?
The GSF Program is meant for high school sophomores and juniors who have never received an international travel scholarship. Additionally, in order to be eligible to participate, you must be able to confirm the following statement: “I would not be able to go on this trip without a full scholarship.” Generally, this applies to applicants whose households’ combined annual income is less than $50,000 (or less than $60,000 if there are 5 or more people in the household), but we take other factors into consideration.
What are the next steps if I’m eligible and decide to apply?
The next step is to discuss your interest in the GSF Program with your parent(s)/guardian(s) and teacher(s), to make sure they support your decision to apply. Also, you’ll have to make sure that, if selected, you’ll be able to travel abroad (outside the U.S.) from mid-June to late-July, 2019, and commit time to our pre-departure and re-entry curriculum. Finally, you’ll need to ask for a recommendation from a teacher, supervisor, coach, or another adult who can speak to your qualifications. That recommendation is due the same day as your application.
When is the application deadline?
The application deadline for the Summer 2019 GSF Program is March 8, 2019, at 11:59 p.m. EST. Make sure to plan ahead, and don’t keep anything till the last minute! It will take some time (maybe even several weeks) for your recommendation to be submitted, and you’ll want to put a lot of time and thought into drafting your application essays. If you decide to apply, we recommend that you begin the process at least 2 to 3 weeks in advance of the deadline.
What is the interview process like?
If you move past the first round (decisions will be made in mid March and are based solely on your GSF application materials), you will receive an invitation to interview as part of the second and final round. As with the online application, the most important thing is to be yourself, and to be able to convey why you’re truly interested in, and passionate about, global exploration and building cross-cultural bridges. We’re always excited to talk to social and artistic innovators, entrepreneurial spirits, community activists/advocates, and those who exude persistence and determination in the face of adversity.
How many applications do you receive? How many Scholars are selected each year?
Each year we receive applications from students all over the US. The exact number varies from year to year, but on average our process is highly competitive as we select just 15%-20% of applicants to be Wandering Scholars. In past summers we have averaged 3-5 students, however we aim to grow each year and offer as many spots as we can to qualified candidates.