Bonderman Fellow: Melissa Guzman
"While here at UW I've been able to learn so much more about other cultures and it has also made me even more proud of my own culture. Being Latina has really shaped my desire to help people that come from marginalized communities like my own, and I think because of the experiences that I have had I am much more passionate about serving others."
- Melissa Guzman, Graduating Senior in Psychology and 2018 Bonderman Fellow
Born and raised in the small Eastern Washington town of Othello, coming to UW to study Psychology was just the start of an ever-expanding journey for Melissa Guzman. Following graduation with a double major in Psychology and Law, Societies and Justice, Melissa will embark on the voyage of a lifetime. As a 2018 Bonderman Fellow, Melissa will spend eight months traveling to Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, India, Chile, Indonesia, and Samoa, exploring how people from different cultures express, understand, and interpret gratitude. Created in 1995 by a gift from UW alumnus David Bonderman, the fellowships offer UW students the opportunity to engage in independent exploration and travel abroad. Melissa is the third Psychology major to be awarded this fellowship.
Melissa first learned of the Bonderman Fellowship during her sophomore year. It sparked an interest, which intensified following her participation in a study abroad program in Spain. "Those months abroad really taught me about my capabilities for traveling solo and being independent," recalls Melissa, "which solidified my desire to embark on an eight month solo journey." The Bonderman mission includes "fostering individual transformation via wandering and wondering for eight months of solo travel to two regions of the world, expanding fellows' understanding of themselves and the complex world we live in."
The study of gratitude across cultures is what Melissa will reflect upon as she makes her way across the world. The idea for this topic comes both from personal experience and academic study. "I first learned about the cultural differences of emotions through my Psychology of Emotion class taught by Dr. Tabitha Kirkland," explains Melissa. "The class opened new windows for me and led me to explore how gratitude varies across cultures." Melissa hopes that through the exploration of gratitude in different cultures she will come to understand it through a different lens and ultimately to expand her own capacity for gratitude.
While extremely excited about her upcoming travels, Melissa is not without some nervousness, primarily related to being a woman traveling alone. "I know that this experience will lead me to be more independent and self-reliant," says Melissa, "and being able to say that I traveled solo in seven foreign countries will definitely be something that I hope will inspire other Mexican American women."