“When does time disappear for you? What does this tell you about your passions, your values?”

— Yale Grants & Fellowships, “Getting Started”

Dear Fellowship Committee,

This summer, I hope to hitchhike across the country, carrying with me only a pocket toothbrush, a bathing suit and a Glock .40 caliber gun. I chose this project for a number of personal and academic reasons.

I have chosen to wear only a bathing suit for eight weeks because my senior thesis is on the growth and development of the bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) in the Arctic. Through the course of my research, I have learned what bowhead whales eat, how they reproduce and how they build homes in freezing water. But I have never had the opportunity to actually feel like a bowhead whale. By wearing a bathing suit, I hope to simulate the experience of being a creature of the seas. Though I will be on land, this will increase my understanding of my thesis subject and allow me to do better work in the fall.

The choice to carry a .40 caliber gun was not an easy one. I am PASSIONATE about gun control. I recently started an anti-gun lobbying group, which has yet to meet because I have a number of other extracurricular commitments, but I plan to start sending emails about it next week. I have never, ever held a gun. At first, I was deeply against the idea. But when I thought about it more critically, I couldn’t pinpoint why. I decided that before I made an argument for or against guns, I needed to actually EXPERIENCE carrying a gun. How will I feel, and how will others react? Because I am also an aspiring artist, I will regularly blog (with photos) about what people say and do in response to my gun.

I want to bring a toothbrush, because even as I immerse myself in this project — even as I travel with strangers and tuck a gun into the bottom of my bathing suit — I don’t want to forget who I am at my core. The toothbrush will remind me of my home in the suburbs of New York City. By using the same toothbrush under such radically different circumstances, I hope to examine my own privilege.

Finally, hitchhiking. At Yale, I have a Zipcar membership. Every time I swipe the plastic card against the front window of the communal car, I wonder to myself: Who are the other drivers who have Zipcar memberships? Where do they keep their cards? Can they find parking? By hitchhiking across the country, I hope to get a sense of the community of drivers in America. Where are we driving, as a nation? What is our speed? Will we arrive on time?

I am requesting $9,478 from the fellowship committee.

I cannot imagine a better way to spend my summer.

Thank you so much for your consideration.


Zoe Greenberg