Zimbabwean student breaks new ground with prestigious U.S. award

 

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“I was really elated, surprised, happy, humbled all in one. It’s the kind of award that everyone hopes for, few people qualify for and almost no one gets,” said Motsi via email.

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The Grinnell College (Iowa) final year student majored in International Relations and is the first Zimbabwean recipient of the award. She was one of 147 candidates (out of 700 applications) to become a finalist in the competition.  A total of 40 students were awarded fellowships. Watson awardees come from select private liberal arts colleges and universities across the United States.  Each fellow receives $25,000 for twelve-months of research and global travel, college loan assistance as needed, and an insurance allowance. 

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In its 44th year, the fellowship offers college graduates the “unusual promise” of a year of independent, purposeful exploration and travel to enhance their capacity for resourcefulness, imagination, openness, and leadership, and to foster their humane and effective participation in the world community.

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“The Watson Foundation was an early adopter of experiential learning,” said Chris Kasabach, Director of the Fellowship. “Since the 1960s, well before the internet or mainstream notions of globalization, the Watson encouraged students to engage their ideas on an international scale and put their lives in the context of a world community.  This year’s class is a cohort of terrific integrative minds, and imaginative, independent thinkers.”

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An active community member, Motsi, who is the third of five children born to self-employed parents in Zimbabwe, is a member of the women’s varsity tennis team, led a service trip to Nashville, TN, and serves on multiple college committees. She is currently the Vice President for Academic Affairs for Student Government at Grinnell.

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She has set her sights on exploring youth activism in four countries: Tunisia, Ghana, the Czech Republic and Cambodia.  All four are countries will hold elections in the next year or have recently done so.

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“I wanted to insert myself in these places where students had a natural reason to be active.  That way I could observe and learn in a non-threatening way,” said Motsi. “Tunisia already had elections, but I want to go there because of the role young people in the country played in sparking the Arab Spring.”  Though Motsi says her experiences in Zimbabwe and the United States have made it apparent that activism is different in each country, she hopes to come back home to Zimbabwe after completing her studies in the U.S. and play a role in making a difference in her home country’s development.

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“I plan to return to Zimbabwe in the future,” said Motsi. “At present I hope to travel to other African countries learning from people whose experiences are similar, yet very different to mine.”

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Fellowship winners hail from seven countries and fifteen U.S. states.  They will traverse 74 countries, exploring topics including neuro-scientific art, beekeeping, Asian modern dance, orphanages, ocean acidification, youth activism, and astronomy. – US Embassy

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