Image of Person looking at a map
Photo by Leah Kelley

Inaugural alumni travel bursaries awarded

Two Jesuans who matriculated in 2019 have received the first ever Tom Parkinson Travel Writing Bursary, the College’s only award to support post-graduation travel.

Selected by the Careers Committee from a set of strong applications, Leah Yeger and Sophie Beckingham have each won a grant that enables them to pursue an exciting international expedition while developing travel writing skills.

Leah Yeger

Leah (2019, HSPS), who is currently completing an internship working with refugees in Amman, will travel across Jordan – often considered a safe haven for those fleeing neighbouring countries. Over a two-month trip, Leah will journey from Amman to the surrounding cities hosting large refugee populations, as well as more rural areas such as the Jordan River Valley. Her travel writing will be based around the question ‘Where are you from?’ or ‘Min Wain?’ in Arabic. When asking people this question, whether it be to taxi drivers, waiters, shop owners, friends or colleagues, the answer is rarely a simple one. Leah will gather stories about a place and a people with a rich history of change, especially in terms of migration. She hopes that her travel writing will alter Western perceptions about the Middle East by presenting a person-centred view of the region.

Sophie Beckingham

The other winner of the Tom Parkinson Travel Writing Bursary, Sophie (2019, History of Art) has been selling her artwork since graduating last summer to save for her six-month expedition. Inspired by other travel writers, Sophie (who will be travelling with Rose Asquith, a fellow Jesuan) plans to travel entirely overland by train, bus, and the occasional boat from London to Kazakhstan. Her route is diverse, including bustling cities, beautiful lakes, remote forests and mountains, and historical villages. Sophie says that studying History of Art at Jesus showed her the essential link between travel, location, culture, and art, much of which has strong themes of international identity and geopolitics. Many of the places on her planned route were points of interest during her degree, including Nukus, Berlin, and Tbilisi. Sophie is looking forward to seeing the works she has studied, and perhaps more importantly the contexts they now sit within, in the flesh. The audience of her travel writing will join her to experience a diversity of art and culture while travelling entirely overland. Sophie plans to present her writing and painting side-by-side as both independent and complementary records of her journey. To be able to visit such a broad variety of places in one trip is a unique experience, and Sophie is excited to write about – and paint throughout – her adventure.

The grants that Leah and Sophie have received are the result of a donation in memory of Jesus alumnus and Lonely Planet writer Tom Parkinson. Tom’s parents, Stephen (1969, MML) and Dilys, said: “We couldn't agree more with the Careers Committee. These are two exceptional projects which capture the spirit of the bursary perfectly, and which focus on people as well as places. We are delighted to see Berlin – Tom's favourite city – prominent in Sophie's plan, though we hope she will not attempt to emulate Tom's feat of researching 17 nightclubs in a single night...”

The Tom Parkinson Travel Grants are a new initiative to inspire students and alumni interested in travel writing. As with all the College’s travel bursaries, the application window for the student award has just closed. There will be another opportunity for students to apply in Lent Term 2024. Applications are now open for the next award for eligible alumni, who are encouraged to send their travel proposals by 30 April 2023.