The year of 2015 was a special and an important turning point for my professional life and serving as an Atlas Corps Fellow was at the center of this change. I would like to take this opportunity to look back and share my time in Washington DC and hope it can give some nice ideas for future candidates who will be in this amazing community as my fellow fellows.
Even though I spent my undergraduate years in Delaware and left home for awhile, leaving the stable life in London and starting a new journey in DC was not a easy decision. Looking back, I really don’t think I could make the decision without Kelly Reid from Atlas Corps and Hyejin Kang from Asan Foundation, their advice and encouragement to follow my dream to be an expert in security in Northeast region. They are not only the people who worked for those organizations but also understand and live with people who are facing same concerns that I had. I strongly suggest for future candidates to communicate with Atlas Corps as much as they can rather than questing yourself about things that you don’t even need to. My host organization, the National Bureau of Asian Research, and the team was very welcoming even before my arrival in DC and they were another great source to be in touch in advance.
On my first day, my supervisor took her time to sit with me to explain the current projects and to seek my interest in certain topics. Now, I’m looking back, this simple and casual meeting was one of the most important meeting that I had this year that it drew the big picture of my one year and allowed me to engage and adapt in the organization very quickly. Among many other projects that I was involved in through out the year, I started working on my first project which was ongoing project for the team from that day. Considering the limited time that we stay as a fellow in the host organization, selecting few number of projects, preferably a year or couple of years long ones, and fully involving in the process is a good way to learn and build your CV after the fellowship. For my case, I built a great network with experts in this field as well as senior advisors and principal investigator of the project. The project also allowed me to travel to the region , India and Korea, with my supervisor and interact with regional experts. It was my supervisor’s decision and suggestion to have me in the trip as I understood the project better than anybody else in the office and organize the meetings. Again, I got involved in this project on my day one from the very first meeting and grew up with the project as it goes. As a fellow, it was a very grateful opportunity.
Open communication with the supervisor and the team was the obviously important and also gave me additional opportunities that I never expected. As they have worked in the field for awhile and gone through the paths that I’m walking on, they always know about this opportunities and happy to share the extra activities that I can apply and wrote me a great recommendations. Here it is important to continuously tell them what your interest is and show your will to expand your expeirence as a fellow – they all know it is a limited time for you in the States and most likely, they will be happy to see your growth. I attended national and international conferences which I gained knowledge outside of the office but connect those networks back to my projects with my host organization – attending events are one thing but finding ways to benefit my host organization was another to make more opportunities to explore. Also, the frequent email from Atlas Corps office also useful to find events and conferences to attend.
It is such a cliche to emphasize the significance of communication. However, looking back my amazing year of 2015, communication was the prime keyword. This very moment that you have any questions, please knock the door of Atlas Corps (through their email address) and communicate with us the fellow and alumni group. Continue your communication with your supervisor, program manager, and your fellows for great opportunity and friendship.