DJ Fravel, right, takes a break from his studies to enjoy a quick trip to see Stonehenge. 
DJ Fravel, Rotary Peace Scholar from District 5610, is completing his year-long program in England and will be returning to South Dakota in early September.  Recently we caught up with DJ to find out what his year has been like. In his own words, DJ fills us in on a year filled with life-changing experiences.
How have you interacted with Rotarians where you’re studying?
To date, I’ve been a guest speaker at five Rotary Clubs and one Rotaract Club. I’ll spend the evening chatting with the Rotarians over dinner, and then speak a bit about myself and what brought me to study in London. Topics usually include the Global Grant Scholarship and its process, life in South Dakota, talking about my studies, future plans, and answering questions. I’ve heard South Dakota Mornings by the Bee Gees and Doris Day’s The Black Hills of Dakota quite a few times at these dinners!
I also attended multiple get-togethers, Rotary Walks, and other similar events with the cohort or Global Grant scholars studying in London. The central event was the District Conference in Bournemouth from October 19-21. Come the last week of August, I will be giving my goodbye speech for my host club of Enfield Chase here in London District 1130.
Additionally, I understand that you’ve joined Rotaract. I would love to hear more about your experiences there?
I joined Rotaract near the very end of 2018 after attending several meetings and volunteering with the Operation: Christmas Child shoebox packing. Rotaract Westminster is a large and active club, with quite a few opportunities for service opportunities. One option, for example, is their weekly soup kitchen every Thursday with St Patrick’s Church in Soho. Their semi-weekly meetings are extremely well attended, with guest Rotaractors from around the world routinely stopping in to have a chat about their own clubs and experiences.
What have you been doing in your studies, and how do you anticipate that this experience is going to influence your future career choices, community involvement, etc.?
At this exact moment, my future career plans involve working for two to four years to earn some money towards attending law school and attaining my J.D. After this point, I plan on becoming an immigration lawyer working with the asylum seeker cases, or as a legal consultant with a refugee advocacy group, PAC, or NGO.
I went for my Master’s to help build up more knowledge, frameworks, and understanding in the context of migration. I’ve learned how so much of what we see in these realms created fully from how we speak of the facts at hand. It is easy to frame migration as something that happens far away, especially from places such as South Dakota. But in so doing, we remove large swaths of the human element in migration. It becomes something that happens ‘out there’, away from us.
During my program, I took such courses as Migration in Conflict and Ethics in International Relations. Both taught numerous ways that we can look at the world in an effort to find the best policies and programs. Even deeper, however, these courses looked at the ways in which we all use language towards some specific desired worldview.
In talking about migration solely as ‘legal’ or ‘illegal’, we can quickly downplay the instigating factors for why people choose to flee from where they live in order to seek asylum somewhere else. In the midst of all of this, however, some system is necessary to protect the lost and least as they look for a new home. Our legal system is not perfect, neither are the ways we currently address migration. It is my hope that, with my Master’s and future J.D., I’ll be able to enter in to this discussion as a knowledgeable, compassionate, and human-focused individual. The Rotary motto “service above self” rings out clearly here.
For the time being, however, I await my final exam marks and am in the process of writing my dissertation. I don’t have an official title quite yet, but I am writing on the contemporary tensions between ‘migrants’ as a concept and group of people as juxtaposed with ‘citizenship’ and belonging in the United States. Looking at the current system of detention and family separation, something that has been going on in the US far longer than some might think, we see how quickly defining asylum seekers with the catch all term ‘immigrant’ can lead to inhumane and dangerous policies. My dissertation seeks to investigate where these notions came from, and what steps we can take to help humanize this process.
What opportunities have you had (travel, cultural events, etc.) while in the program?
Most recently, I took a road trip out to Bath with another Rotary Scholar, Katie Fettes from District 7010 in Canada. We saw Stonehenge, visited Bath Abbey, and saw the historic Roman bath houses.  I went to visit a friend working in Hong Kong for Spring Break and spent a good week there doing some food tourism with her. The history of Hong Kong and its modern political climate blended together as we visited museums in between food stops, making for an eye opening few days.
In London, I’ve taken advantage of the large number of theaters (and student ticket prices) and have seen classic plays like Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, The Woman in Black, and Fiddler on the Roof. My mother’s first Master’s Degree is in Theatre History, so her request to me was that I see as many plays as possible so she can live vicariously through me. I hope I’ve seen enough for you, mom!
The British Museum is a great place to go spend a few hours with a cup of tea and enough history to keep you occupied for far more time than I have. My first visit there took up about seven hours, and I’m positive I have yet to see everything they have to offer. My routine stop is always the Greek and Assyrian sculpture wing. The power and artistry behind they work is always a source of fascination.
During what little downtime I have as I write my dissertation this summer, I’m planning on spending some time at several of the many larger parks London has to offer. The Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew are fast becoming a main feature of my free days! London weather is fairly routine, but oftentimes uncooperative. Rain is intermittent, but extremely common, making days out require always carrying an umbrella.
I have taken up two hobbies during my stay here. Along with some friends, I am taking Scottish line dancing classes about once every other week. Three times a month, I also attend longswords classes.
What have you found most surprising during the time in the program?
While I appreciate the option to take public transportation nearly everywhere, London is an extremely walkable city. I live near London Bridge Station, which is right across the Thames from Central London. A 30-minute walk can get me nearly anywhere!  Out of all the transportation options available, The Overground rail line is by far my favorite. That said, nothing can quite beat the charm of the old Swanage steam line.