Before we came we were all filled with doubt, excitement shrouded with some fear of the unknown. We didn’t know what to expect. All of us come from different backgrounds and nationalities – 13 different countries from 5 different continents, each coming with our own perspective. As we landed in the United States, May 14th, that excitement rush became real, many of us jet lagged from the long travel and vast time difference. As we had our rest on Sunday, Monday was the first real day where we all got to meet each other and receive some housing and safety presentations at the Wonder Bread factory, where Atlas Corps is situated. We then, together with fellow fellows from previous classes and staff members had a wonderful tour in the city of monuments and memorials, Washington DC, visiting the White House and the memorials at the National Mall. Up to this point it was all still unclear to us but we definitely enjoyed sightseeing in these breathtaking landmarks.
The orientation officially kicked off the next day with an introduction by Founder Scott Beale of the Five Facts of an Atlas Corps fellow along with other Atlas Corps traditions. We were also briefed into Atlas Corps policies, training plans, expectations and budgeting tips from an expert on the subject. That was followed by the best part, the induction ceremony, Where we entered the adjacent room to be met by high-fives and cheers from Atlas Corps founder, staff and some former fellows followed by the declaration of the Atlas Corps oath which we all recited together harmoniously, and then each of us were presented with an Atlas Corps pin, the trademark of a fellow which remains with you as a pride badge that you are now officially a part of the Atlas Corps family. This moment was an emotional one for me and albeit to the rest of the fellows too. The night was then continued with the bigger crowd of senior Atlas Corps fellows from other Classes at Nooshi Restaurant.
The next days of the orientation were very extensive, with sessions including Social media and blogging, professional communications session by social media expert Elisa Ortiz, an introduction to the global leadership lab, city logistic tips, tax and finances, preparing for success at the host organizations, health insurance plan and best of all, the country presentations, we had presentations from 13 different countries, each more stimulating and informative than the other. The orientation ended with a letter writing to yourself which you will be given back at the end of your fellowship, and a web we weaved.
The following week things became more exciting, as all the senior fellows from class 18,19 and 20 joined in the global leadership lab, 4 continuous days of training on marketing and communication facilitated by Deloitte, as well as different activities taking place in the evening. For many of us we had our first live baseball match at the Nationals stadium! We also had an informative and entertaining disaster preparedness session by USAID and the the best was of course saved for the last, the class 21 welcome event where we were celebrated! Fellows, staff, host organizations and fans and supporters of Atlas Corps all came to greet us at the Wonderbread factory where I had the pleasure of giving the class speech!
As we start our new chapters with our host organizations, it is important to always be reminded that we embarked on this journey to share what we know, learn new things and change our perspectives, we left our families and friends and jobs and the comfort of our lives to take on this path to make better lives for ourselves and those very ones we left, but we are not in it alone, we had weaved a web of friendship, care, support and love that should be respected and honored by each one of us, here is to new beginnings for class 21!