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Max Goldstein on One Whale of a Journey

Story posted May 01, 2009

After graduation, Bowdoin College senior Max Goldstein plans to make a big splash. Several of them, in fact, as he travels the world to complete four long-distance swims as part of a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship.

The highly selective Watson Fellowship funds independent research projects outside the U.S. for one year after graduation.

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Max Goldstein

Goldstein, of Los Angeles, Calif., and a double-major in biology and Romance languages with a chemisty minor, plans to travel to Peru, Bolivia, Spain, Morocco, Turkey, Jordan and Israel in order to complete four long-distance swims in the waters that divide these countries in a project he calls "Swimming Around the World: Creating Bridges between Communities."

"I hope to swim across the Strait of Gibraltar from Morocco to Spain, the Bosphorus and the Dardanalles Straits between Asia and Europe, the Incan Island of the Sun in Lake Titicaca from Peru to Bolivia, and — if travel warning status allows — some form of water traverse of the Dead Sea from Jordan to Israel."

Goldstein says he began swimming on competitive teams at the age of five and says as a child he considered the water his home.

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Goldstein, age 5, already quite accustomed to the water.

"The swimming community was my source of bonding, unity and grounding. The water was the center of my life."

Goldstein's project involves making each of these traverses a community endeavor.

"I will engage with aquatic communities abroad and make each traverse a group effort, inciting a dialogue between people on both sides of the water," he says.

He also plans to teach swimming along the way.

"I hope to make myself known as the swimmer and the swim instructor," Goldstein says, "and plan to use the power of swimming to forge relationships with aquatic communities abroad."

Goldstein spent the spring of 2008 in Tunisia and Yemen learning Arabic, and also speaks French and Spanish — all of which he hopes to employ on his journey.

Goldstein is one of 40 college seniors nationally who have received a 2009 Watson Fellowship.

This year, 177 finalists competed on the national level, after their institutions nominated them in the fall.

Each fellow receives $28,000 for the year of travel and exploration.

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"The awards are long-term investments in people, not research," says Cleveland Johnson, director of the Watson Fellowship program and a former Watson Fellow.

"We look for persons likely to lead or innovate in the future and give them extraordinary independence to pursue their interests outside of traditional academic structures. Watson Fellows are passionate learners, creative thinkers, and motivated self-starters who are encouraged to dream big but demonstrate feasible strategies for achieving their fellowship goals. The Watson Fellowship affords an unequalled opportunity for global experiential learning."

The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program was established in 1968 by the children of Thomas J. Watson Sr., the founder of IBM Corporation, and his wife, Jeannette K. Watson, to honor their parents' long-standing interest in education and world affairs. The Watson Foundation regards its investment in people as an effective contribution to the global community.

Read about Student Fellowships and Research.

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"I hope to swim across the Strait of Gibraltar from Morocco to Spain ... between Asia and Europe ... from Peru to Bolivia ..."
— Max Goldstein