After I received an email from Atlas corps inviting me to schedule time for an interview, I searched around for Zambians that were part of Atlas corps so I could connect with them but did not find any and during the interviews I still went ahead and asked my interviewer if there were any Zambians and he said,” I’m not aware, well, you might be the first one”. When I started my fellowship program, I found that I was the first Zambian on the fellowship and also met fellows from Australia, Venezuela who were also the first fellows on the program. In this blog, I interview Andrew Tangas a fellow from Australia about his experience with Atlas Corps being the first fellow from Australia.
• How did you hear about the fellowship seeing that you are a first timer?
I think mine is a fairly unique experience. I was working at my Australian organization, Foundation for Young Australians (FYA), where I had been for three years. I was looking for a change, as I had been doing similar work for a while. I spoke to my supervisor about other opportunities and she told me about a partnership that FYA had been developing with Atlas Corps to bring the Atlas Corps model to Australia, where we would bring young leaders to Australia as well. The project was to go to DC to work at Atlas Corps for a year, then come back and help set up Atlas Corps Australia in 2017. I jumped at the opportunity!
• Do you think people in your country apply for such fellowships and just haven’t been picked for Atlas corps yet?
I think because Atlas Corps was initially trying to help young change makers in more developing scenarios, there has not been a great interest in bringing young Australians to the U.S., and so not many Australians are aware of Atlas Corps. Now that the mission is becoming more about a global network of young civil society leaders, there is more of a motivation for Atlas Corps to recruit from Australia, and I think there will be many Australians in the program in the next few years. I know that we have already had a few Australian applications for the next few classes.
• Have you managed to connect with people from your country in Washington D.C?
At the start of my time here, I was very interested in challenging myself to be fully immersed in the local community and the Fellow community, so I actively tried to stay away from engaging with other Australians. More recently, I have met a few both professionally and socially, but I still much rather learning about other cultures. I will go back to live in Australia for many years in the future and be able to meet many Australians, but my chances of meeting people from the U.S., Zambia, Azerbaijan and Cuba are much more limited, so I feel compelled to spend more time meeting with them instead!
• What advice would you give to young people from your countries that have a desire for leadership and social change?
Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Place yourself in a community of people you respect and learn from them as much as possible.