Seniors Alex Marecki and Rodrigo Bijou are among the national winners of the 2014-2015 Watson Fellowship, a grant that awards $28,000 to graduating seniors to travel the world for a year working on self-designed projects. This is the first year that more than one Bowdoin student has received the fellowship. 

Bowdoin is among a group of 40 colleges and universities that can nominate up to four students for the national fellowship. Of those roughly 160 nominees, only the top 40 are selected for the Watson Fellowship. 

Director of Student Fellowships Cindy Stocks said Marecki and Bijou both underwent an intense application and interview process to earn Bowdoin’s nomination back in October and November. They were then interviewed and selected by the Watson Fellowship’s committee.
Eleven students applied from the College this year, which Stocks says is lower than average.
 “Usually, we have [numbers] kind of in the high teens,” she said. 

Stocks explained that Watson Fellows are students who show “unusual promise” and whose projects are “tied tightly to the person’s history, their passions.”

Now that they have been selected, both students have to leave the country by August 1 and remain abroad for a full year.

Marecki plans to go to Brazil, Colombia, Ghana, South Africa, Scotland and various parts of Europe. He will be looking at how soccer creates opportunities for children that they may not have had without the sport.

“I’m basically exploring psychological development through sport—soccer in particular—and how children gain agency and improve their character through the sport,” said Marecki.
Though Bijou is thinking of going to Brazil, Argentina, Spain, France, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland and Russia, he acknowledged his plans could change.

“They want you to be really flexible and not really planned,” he said. 

He will spend the year visiting with as many internet hackers as he can, possibly working with them to find ways to improve internet privacy.

“The purpose of the project is trust in technology,” said Bijou.