Around the world in 70 days — this refrain describes Harmonie Kobanghe’s summer (SFS ’15) after winning the Raymond Dinsmore Fellowship from the Circumnavigators Foundation.
Kobanghe was awarded with a $9,000 grant to explore an international issue in 10 weeks, travelling to Peru, Brazil, Italy, Tanzania, India, Bhutan and Nepal to research women’s property rights and their relationship to food security.
“I interviewed government actors, civil society members and women farmers to see if there was any discrepancy between the law and the application of the law on the ground in terms of women’s property rights,” Kobanghe said.
The Circumnavigators Club honors those who have travelled around the world and crossed each meridian line of longitude in one direction. The Circumnavigators Foundation has sponsored over 100 students since its creation in 1964 and aims to improve international relations by creating a deeper cross-cultural understanding. Grants are primarily funded by donations from universities and members of the Circumnavigators Club.
As Kobanghe could choose the countries she wished to travel to, she said she attempted to pick countries based on their relationship to their continent and to her project topic.
“Since I was required to travel to at least three continents, I tried to pick countries that were meaningful within their own continent,” Kobanghe said. “I picked Brazil, for instance, because of the huge difference between small farming activities and the export of agricultural projects. I picked Italy because the [Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations] and [International Fund for Agricultural Development] were there.”
After the Circumnavigators Club approved the list of countries, Kobanghe said her next challenge was to get in touch with government officials and women in each country. Once Kobanghe found responsive officials, she said that they directed her to women in the respective communities.
“I was lucky enough during my trip to have cities in mind where I wanted to go and when I was in the capital city of most of the countries, I met with government actors who led me to women … that I planned to visit,” Kobanghe said.
With many non-English speaking countries on her itinerary, she utilized Georgetown professors as resources and translators.
“I contacted Georgetown professors here and I asked them if they could help me translate my requests for interviews and they agreed to do so,” Kobanghe said. “It’s better than using Google Translate.”
Although Kobanghe said she planned to hire a translator, she found that people in each country were willing to help her with subsequent interviews.
“Luckily enough the people who I interviewed served as my translator for free,” Kobanghe said. “You meet good people along the way, so I didn’t have any issues there.”
Kobanghe, an international politics major pursuing a certificate in African studies, said that her trip inspired a topic for her senior thesis.
“I did some research but I also did some sightseeing,” Kobanghe said. “It’s a good grant, it’s a good opportunity to travel and research and enjoy your summer. … It’s also a good opportunity to explore new cultures, to taste new food, and meet interesting people.”
Kobanghe told the story of her summer at an information session Monday hosted by the School of Foreign Service Academic Council.
Anthony Pirrotti, a first-year student adviser and dean of international history, and culture and politics, also spoke to interested students.
“One of the goals of the Circumnavigators Club is to get [students] interacting with people,” he said. “They want you to be on the ground, doing field work, and seeing things for yourself.”
Forty-four Georgetown students have participated in the program since 1971, researching such topics as urbanization in third world countries, infrastructure development and refugee transit programs.
The grant is available to rising seniors in the SFS who did not study abroad during their junior year.
Morgan Forde (SFS ’16), a prospective applicant, said that this 10-week trip would be a suitable replacement for a semester abroad. Forde expressed interest in going to Eastern Europe and studying development issues, such as capacities for Internet access.
“I am not able to study abroad during the year, [so] this sounded like a great opportunity to get out, see the world, and do some research,” Forde said. “It would be a great opportunity for me to just be able to get out and have a new perspective on the world I’m studying.”