While I am watching fellows keep coming to the U.S. for the first time, I remember when I first arrived here. I was naïve and very cautious to talk to people. I was living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at that time for my school. People were very friendly and taught me how to smile. They thought that I am friendly too, despite my conservative look and being a hijabi woman. That is when I realized that my appearance doesn’t really matter, and it is not a jeopardy to my life, as long as I don’t let these thoughts influence my behavior. Whatever your fear is and whatever your perspective about the lifestyle in the U.S., don’t let any negative thoughts or negative experiences affect you. Do your best to make the best out of your experience.

If your fellowship is one year or more, don’t think it is a long time and that you are going to be lonely and depressed. Of course, you will be happy for the first three months, but things will tend to be killing routine and boring. As a fellow who finished almost one year so far, I tell you that one year is too short to plan for anything. Thus, I advise you to take advantage of the first month of your fellowship and start planning for the remaining year. Plan carefully especially when you fill the training plan. Don’t fill it because it is a duty that you need to meet as an Atlas Corps requirement. Try to reach out to all the staff in your host organization and meet with them. Talk to them about your goals in life, which will lead to articulate your goals for a one-year fellowship.

List at least two reachable goals and two challenging goals. Try to think about goals that help you to gain trust by your supervisors. Write higher level goals that you might implement back home and need you to cooperate with your host organization even after the fellowship. Build sustainable relationships with your host organization and good ones with their partners. Extend your network to other institutions, people, leaders who would be part of your professional and supportive family in the U.S.

It saddens me when I see fellows packing their baggage leaving to their countries, but I feel the value of what I got now. I believe that you stay here will never be a lose and will boost your professional life in the future.