Throughout my 18 months of service as an Atlas Corps Fellow, I received a lot of questions from friend, fellows, potential applicants, prospective donors, random people I meet at networking events, about the fellowship experience. Questions relating to selection process, housing, transportation, adequacy of the stipend, experience with my host organization, you name it. Answers to which I reeled off my tongue with ease- well, expect for one. Of all the questions I have been asked regarding my fellowship experience, the one that I had the most difficulty answering came from a potential fellow who, at the time, was trying to decide if he should to quit his job to embark on this journey- The question: Is it worth it?
I recall reading the email and looking at it for about 30 minutes before finally deciding not to respond. My decision was based on the simple fact that I believed that the experience and worth of the fellowship is different for each fellow; and, has very much to do with that individual fellow and his/her WHY. Nevertheless, not the one to keep silent when my opinion is solicited, my decision to not respond did not rest well with me. I was relieved when the fellow, having decided to accept the offer to serve, continued reaching out to me about budgeting etc.- Phew!! That was that I thought.
I was totally taken off guard when, during GLL, the fellow pointed out that I hadn’t responded to the question. Lol – A true change maker. My response was simple: “I didn’t respond because I believe that each fellows experience is different and I did not want to speak about my experience which is pretty much based on who I am, my reasons for accepting this fellowship and, the only goal I set out to achieve from this experience. So for me, it was worth it”. Below are two of the questions I was asked during the conversation the ensued and, my responses.
What has been your experience?
For me, the fellowship has been an enriching experience. Perhaps unlike many of my fellow fellows, I started this fellowship with no expectation and, one goal- to learn. I told myself that I had nothing to lose and everything to gain and, that at the end of this fellowship I would be a better version of myself. Almost nearing the end of the fellowship, what I can say is that the limited goals that I had set out for myself, have far been exceeded. In fact, I made and met, additional goals; and, I was able to make take advantage of many opportunities that I had not envisioned. My journey was not without challenges but, my commitment to remain open-minded made it a fulfilling experience. I have learned and grown both personally and professionally. Am I better version of myself today than when I started? – I sure am.
What advice would you give to fellows?
1. Be open-minded and flexible
The beauty about living and working in a foreign country is that no matter how much you prepare before your arrival, you will never be totally prepared for everything you will encounter. So your ability keep an open-mind and to be flexible is very important.
2. Be intentional – always remember your why.
It is easy to get caught up in things that are not going as you had planned/envisioned or expected. NEVER lose sight of why you chose to embark on this journey. Revisit the plan and tweak if you may, but keep your eyes on your why.
3. Be prepared to learn from every task and everyone you meet.
Every task (no matter how simple and mundane) represents an opportunity to learn; either something entirely new or just something about yourself. You may (will) get frustrated. You are a global leader- a change maker- breathe and channel your creative spirit; always make an effort to actively look for things you may not have considered.
4. Be You! You are a talented highly skilled professional; do not let any frustration you have affect your attitude toward assigned tasks and/or those you meet.
Finally, you gave up your job and, put your life and family on pause in your home country, so it is really up to you to get what you want out of the fellowship. The fellowship is really what YOU make of it.