The Delhi winter was at its peak and so were my emotions! I was leaving my country and my family for a year to serve as an Atlas Corps fellow in the U.S. The clock struck midnight on January 18th and my excitement turned into nervousness as it was time to leave for my first trip to the U.S. It’s difficult to recall how many times during the KLM flight the thought of going too far from my country crossed my mind. The U.S. was the farthest I could go from India, and being my first visit to the U.S., the jitters were expected.

“You travel not just to explore a foreign country but to also realize the worth of your country.”

January 19th, 2020: As soon as I left the Washington Dulles International Airport, the chill in the U.S. air made it evident that the journey ahead will be challenging. Seeing the cheerful faces of my class fellows from different countries made me forget how tired I was after the 21 hour long flight. The fellowship began with an interactive orientation and a fun Washington monuments tour with Atlas Corps founder Scott Beale. It was fascinating to meet people with different cultures and backgrounds. We are all from different countries but we were here for a common mission – to serve, explore and strive to make this world a better place.

The Happy Faces of class 38! (Picture Credits: Atlas Corps)

Class 38 with Atlas Corps Founder Scott Beale

February 3rd, 2020: My first day at Open Road Alliance (ORA) was full of interactive sessions with my supervisor and the other team members. It was lovely to see how well knit the team was despite being remote. Life was going perfect at the work front but it was an ordeal navigating the streets and finding good Indian food in a foreign country. There was so much to learn and adjust to – transport, climate and culture. In addition to this, it was my first time staying all alone in my little apartment in Georgetown, Washington, and also the first time I started to cook.

My journey at ORA had just begun, and as I had started to adjust in a new office and country, I hit the biggest roadblock. On March 15th, the pandemic hit and lockdown started in the U.S. It was during this time that I got high fever and was on bed rest for almost three weeks. Taking care of my health in the middle of a pandemic along with navigating through the U.S. healthcare system was a nightmare. Being in the no risk age category, none of the doctors agreed to see me in person as their priority was to see patients aged 50 and above. Something as simple as finding the right doctor seemed as difficult as learning how to fly a plane. Despite all odds, I had a virtual appointment, and the doctor said that I had the flu.

Self-care is the way to go!

Now was the time to adjust to the “new normal”. After recovering from the flu, I started spending more time on my personal health and well-being. There’s one thing this pandemic has taught me – one has to stop and reflect as there will always be more work to complete and more goals to achieve. I continued working my best and learned to forgive myself for days when I felt low and couldn’t give my best. But nonetheless, I kept going and being persistent was my biggest achievement. I joined virtual yoga classes and started to set up different home workspaces for myself. Sharing my favourite work location below – My apartment terrace!

Washington, DC

It was one roadblock after another, but despite uncertainties and challenges, I kept moving forward with the motto of, “One day at a time.” The past one year has been extremely eventful, and my 2020 U.S. experience has been something I am going to remember for the rest of my life.

The awesome class 38!

Today I am close to the completion of my fellowship and guess what? Covid is still here but now it has become the new normal with the U.S. having a promising president to deal with the crisis. I participated in the Atlas Corps fellowship to serve internationally and further my professional goals but a fellowship in times of Covid has taught me life-changing lessons. We all make plans but coping with the plans life has for us is the biggest challenge. Nonetheless, Life goes on – ONE day at a time!

My apartment in DC!

Summing up by penning a lesson I learnt from one of my fellow classmates, Sohaib from Egypt, “Don’t be afraid of the future, embrace it as it comes!”

A capture from first day at the orientation! (Picture Credits: Atlas Corps)