Student Spotlight: Bongiwe Bongwe C’20

Bongiwe Bongwe C’20

Where were you born and raised?

I was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa.

What attracted you to Drew?

The Semester on the United Nations, the closeness to New York City, and the class size.

Did you know what you wanted to major and minor in your first year? 

I knew in my first year that I wanted to major in international relations as the UN semester was one of the key reasons I chose Drew. My minor in media and communications was largely informed by an interest in journalism after taking Introduction to Journalism in my sophomore year.

What draws you to the field of International Relations?

They say team work makes the dream work, and I am drawn to international relations because of its element of global cooperation. While it considers that states act individually, there is the promise of coming together for mutual benefit of the world’s citizens.

 Have you done any internships?

I worked as an intern at the Public Affairs Research Institute in Johannesburg South Africa during summer of 2019. This internship was a cool experience that gave me insight into what it means to be a public affairs researcher. I spent the summer isolating patterns in research methodology and frameworks to assist the researchers in finding approaches for new projects. Every Friday there were policy reading groups and researcher-led presentations on relevant governance issues. I was able to present my honors thesis research at one of the reading groups which was a great exercise in constructive professional criticism.

Have you done any NYC, short or longTRECs or other study abroad experiences?

I was lucky enough to do three incredible NYC and study abroad experiences during my time at Drew. I first did the Semester on Communications and Media in the spring of 2018, followed by the Semester on the United Nations in Fall of 2018. These were both incredible experiences. I so loved commuting into the city twice a week to gain not only academic knowledge, but real life understanding of how my fields of study play out in career spaces. In the summer of 2019 I went to Transparency School in Vilnius, Lithuania as part of 160-person cohort to study and research anti-corruption. Transparency School was an amazing 10-day experience that largely informed my specialized honors thesis in International Relations. Our days began at 8am and ended at the latest around 10pm. Although it was an intense training experience, I was able to travel, have fun and meet diverse people and renowned lecturers, practitioners and politicians. This would not have been possible without the Baldwin Honors Dean Paolo Cucchi Student Research Grant and the Political Science and International Relations Department.

Did you have any mentors at Drew?

Dr. Jinee Lokaneeta, Dr. Jason Jordan, Dr. Jonathan Golden, and Dr. Kate Ott, have been important mentors for me during my Drew career. They each cared not only about my academic career, but guided and advised me in my leadership pursuits, advocacy and personally as an international student almost 8000 miles away from home.

 What world issue(s) are you most passionate about?

I am most passionate about the issue of equal access to opportunities. Opportunities are not always accessible to everyone, and even if they are, there are a magnitude of challenges that have excluded individuals and groups. I want to help eliminate these barriers to opportunities and help these individuals live dignified lives.

What are some of your favorite memories of Drew over the last 4 years?

My favorite Drew memories center around the incredible people I have met. From working with my close friends in creating the Feminist Intersection and hosting important and exciting events that people would remember fondly, to supporting soccer and basketball games, to grabbing a chai tea latte from Peets before long study sessions together in the library, and sitting in the Commons for hours sharing stories and laughs—Those are the moments I love and cherish.

What are your career goals? Dream job? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

My career goal is to become a governance policymaker. In five years I would have completed my Master’s in Foreign Affairs at Georgetown University, and begun working for an international organization like the World Bank or African Union. My dream job is to work for FIFA’s Global Development Office, headed up by the one and only Arsene Wenger.

Any hobbies or activities you enjoy that are not on your resume or Fun Fact (s) about you?

I am a sports enthusiast and an avid Arsenal fan, I love investing myself in diverse representative series like Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder, and I am a huge R&B listener.

In general, what advice would you give first-year students?

Give yourself a complete full personal day and night off every weekend to do whatever you desire. You are only as great of an academic, a friend, an athlete, an artist, a leader if you take care of yourself and that includes having fun, making memories, and meeting people in and outside of Drew whilst keeping on top of your work. Academically—aim to be two days ahead of your readings/homework for the first half of the semester before things begin to shake after fall/spring break.


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