Looking back at what motivated me to apply to the Atlas Corps Fellowship, I will say it was when I read fellowship for “non-profit professionals”. Having spent 6 years in the Humanitarian sector in Pakistan, I felt keen to apply to a programme that provides me an opportunity to broaden my skills and experience in the non-profit arena.
I was selected as an Atlas Corps Fellow last May and since then hosted by the American Red Cross in Washington D.C. Fast forward one year and I am glad to share I made the decision to come to the US for this fellowship. It has been a professionally fulfilling experience.
When I arrived, like all other fellows I experienced teething problems that come with being in a completely new setting; getting lost in DC, sorting out housing, and just overall adjustment to a new environment and group of people. I’ve realized eventually these challenges give you more confidence and increase your problem solving skills. We often get used to living in our comfort zones and such international scholarships and fellowship programmes, as well field-based assignments refine how we as humanitarian workers view our problems and ability to deal with them.
While a major part of this fellowship revolves around professional development, it also brings with it an opportunity to develop personally. Living in a new country is an enriching experience on its own. When I was leaving Pakistan, I didn’t realize how many people I would end up making life-long connections with through this fellowship. The fellows I have known in this one year and the ones I have become good friends made this fellowship a great experience. You start to learn and appreciate the cultural, religious, and life style diversities around you when you meet people from so many different countries in one place. You also realize how much you start relying on each other in times of difficulties. It can be a great support network.
Soon I’ll be heading back to my country (Pakistan) with the completion of my fellowship but I am sure I’ll be taking with me all the new experience and skills I’ve gained having worked with the American Red Cross, but also so many memories of the good times I have spent here knowing other fellows, and exploring the United States.
As they say “Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.”