The U.S. State Department and mvtU unveiled the 2011 Fulbright mtvU Fellowship winners and Meja Shoba is one of them.
Shoba is a film production graduate student at the University of California Los Angeles, with a Bachelor’s degree in English Creative Writing from Colgate University. Under the five-year-old program, Shoba will travel to South Africa to film a documentary about music and cultural identity in the post-Apartheid “New South Africa.”
Shoba has traveled to several exotic destinations, and the journey to South Africa is a return to her roots Shoba tells rolling out.
Here, she reveals the rewards of travel.
How has this prestigious honor helped your career?
I am hoping it will be helpful to my career down the line. This is a tremendous opportunity that I want to take advantage of in engaging in the process of filmmaking. I know I will grow from having fulfilled my project, and I am excited to have the opportunity to produce a film in another country that tackles very relevant matters in South Africa.
What does your immediate family think about this honor?
My mother is completely thrilled and my brother is excited for me. It’s been really great to share this accomplishment with my family, and get such lovely support. My mom has been my number one cheerleader.
Why did you choose to travel to South Africa?
Honestly, the social and cultural shifts taking place in South Africa have fascinated me for quite some time, especially in looking at it from the perspective of youth, since they make up a large portion of the overall population.
I’m curious [about] what the country aims to accomplish in its social developments, how these developments will be beneficial — and detrimental to citizens, and how youth view themselves in the midst of such transformations. South Africa is still a country that is molding its national identity, and I want to explore how this manifests on different social levels. It is a wonderful plus that I have a connection with South Africa, as it is my cultural background and I’ve spent a portion of my childhood there.
What do you expect to learn from this experience in South Africa?
The one thing I want to take with me on this journey is a connection with people. I will be producing my film and will learn so much about the intertwining of South Africa’s climate with youth music culture.
But personal growth holds high value for me. The unique stories, experiences and nuances are what I know will remain with me.
Where are some other exotic locations that you’ve traveled?
During my undergraduate studies at Colgate University, I received the wonderful opportunity to travel my entire third year of school. I was able to fulfill school requirements for both my English creative writing and Japanese focus, which took me to Japan, China, London, France, Netherlands, Spain, and Morocco. I have also been to Jamaica and South Africa as well.
How has travel shaped your life thus far?
Travel is one of the top five things that define me as a person.
Before my first birthday I left the country. Traveling is just a part of who I am, especially in growing up in both South Africa and America.
It is through my travel experiences that I have built meaningful and lasting relationships with people of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and experienced life-changing moments.
I have an undying curiosity about people, culture, architecture, lifestyle, and ways of thinking from different parts of the world, and even in America. And it is from this curiosity and love of travel that I have developed a spirit of exploration, celebration of cultural differences and perspectives, and the ability to relate to others. I’ve learned to be a chameleon.