FYI: I wrote this post before leaving the U.S., but didn’t get around to posting it in the frenzy of packing.

In less than 24 hours, I’ll be heading off on the biggest adventure of my young and adventure-loving life. I’m beginning a dream come true: 12 months of uninterrupted international travel outside the U.S. as a Thomas J. Watson Fellow (check out the Watson Fellowship website at  I’m beginning in Guatemala and continuing on to Egypt and Indonesia– though that itinerary is still subject to change and possible addition (suggestions more than welcome!!). I’m investigating women’s handicraft groups and cooperatives and the kinds of sustainable development they promote.

Here’s the abbreviated description of my project that’s on the TJW website:

To Craft a Community: Women’s Craft Organizations and Sustainability I propose to study the art and socio-economic importance of crafts, exploring women’s craft organizations and the ways they create economic vitality and affect community value systems. I am interested in women’s craft organizations that enact sustainability in multiple ways: by providing equitable livelihood, by sustaining cultural artisan traditions, and by incorporating sustainable materials. By learning crafts, I will grow as an artist, become an inheritor of craft traditions from women across the world, and envision new ways of crafting community.

For those of you who are interested in a more detailed and personal description of my project, you can read my full proposal here: Watson Proposal

As I get ready to leave, I keep thinking back to its very beginnings. Early in the fall semester of my sophomore year, I (mistakenly?) wandered into an informational meeting for upperclassmen about post-graduate fellowships. When my dean described the Watson fellowship, I knew I had to apply– the Watson fellowship became my number-one dream for after graduation. That day, I started a list of potential project ideas that I kept in my planner for the next three years:

My list of Watson project ideas

I love this list, and I think it’s amazing to see how my actual project combines and fuses several of the ideas I dreamed up over the years.

Another path-to-the-Watson story that should be told, just because it’s funny: on Friday, March 12th, I was in Isle of Palms, South Carolina with Haverford’s ultimate frisbee team, when I found out I’d been awarded a Watson. Euphoria, lots of jumping up and down, and happy tears ensued. About thirty minutes later, in my great excitement, I was competing in our annual obstacle course race and smashed my forehead into a steel monkey bar, ending up in the emergency room where my forehead was glued back together.



Directly after impact…

Still ecstatic, but also bloody.

Now, head wound healed and 36-pound backpack packed, I’m ready to go. It’s hard to anticipate the challenges, joys, and discoveries to come. My attempts to articulate how I feel right now often degenerate into squealy noises and overuse of exclamation points (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), but right now I’m feeling a little nervous, very excited, and eager to begin.

Please keep in touch! I’ll welcome all your comments, emails, and words of encouragement throughout the year, and I’ll do my best to respond. Much love.


10 responses to “beginnings

  1. You are awesome, Maddie! I plan to follow you all the way.
    Happy landings!:)

  2. What a wonderful adventure awaits — thanks for starting this blog so we can travel vicariously with you!

  3. I’m so psyched for you Maddie!!! I’ll def be following your adventures on here. And I’ve already made a lot of progress on my own Watson app…so hopefully I’ll be following in your footsteps (más o menos) next year. Un abrazote! ❤

  4. maddie!!!! awesome post, it sounds so exciting. there are so many organizations like that, it must have been hard to choose where to go! i’m in ghana this summer, and i know of one place in particular that does jewelry– mostly beadwork, glass and ceramic. also some bags. not the most helpful suggestion, but let me know if you want me to find out more. good luck!

  5. I’ve been admiring from afar as your older cousin and will travel vicariously. What a wonderful opportunity–live in every moment, the good and the bad. You will draw from this year for the rest of your life. Can’t wait to follow along and see what it holds!

  6. Ah, good luck Maddie!! This is very exciting. I can’t wait to read about all of your adventures! 🙂 Safe and exciting travels!

  7. Good luck, Maddie! It looks like you’re up for an exciting year — congratulations! 🙂

  8. Hi Madeline, Noah had to forward this because it seems to have landed in my spam file or something. We all look forward to your updates. And we hope to visit as things settle down.
    love, dad

  9. I loved reading through your list of original ideas and seeing dreadlocks on there-
    I can’t wait to hear more about your adventures; I miss you already!!

  10. Madeline,

    I’ll keep reading-amazing girl, have the time of your life!!!! Enjoy, and send chocobananas HERE!!!

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