Can you imagine what it is like to be physically in your apartment back home and connect with hundreds of amazing young change-makers around the world without you having to leave your room? Ever since I started my Atlas Corps Fellowship in March 2021, this has become my story. Welcome to my life!
By sharing my personal experience with you, I hope you can learn from my do’s and don’ts while serving remotely as a fellow.
- Don’t you ever assume you know it all, make sure you ask and communicate. I like to think that everything can be learned in life. We can always refine our skills and just so you know, this is my favorite part of the remote component of the fellowship. I have brought in what I have already had (my skills, talents, experiences, perspectives, etc.), but I also learn so much from my host organization. From Day 1 of my service on, I have never stopped to learn new things. This ranges from learning how to communicate using platforms like Teams to collaborating on tasks using Microsoft 365. Using these tools might seem trivial to some people, but it was not to me, but I was not ashamed to acknowledge it. I was happy to ask Google and YouTube for help, but I did not hesitate to ask some support from my host organization whenever I needed too.
- Know what is expected from you and communicate what you expect. I personally believe that putting ourselves in the shoes of a “communications guru” helps as fellows. Communications experts are able to listen, speak, and write clearly so that whoever they are talking with can understand them. From my own experience, it is crucial to communicate beforehand what you expect from your host organization. Not only are you meant to communicate clearly your expectations, but you are also supposed to know exactly what the host organization expects from you. When these things are aligned then you will be good to go and are very likely to thrive during your remote fellowship. I am personally thankful to Atlas Corps because they encouraged me and my supervisor to collaborate on a living document called Training Plan. What this document does is that it helps me and my host organization focus on the same project(s)/goals. It indicates clearly the skills I want to build or refine during and beyond the fellowship and most importantly it makes us aligned on what it is that the host organization and myself see as the outcomes of the fellowship.
- Do not let technology issues prevent you from making the most of your service. If you are serving from a country like mine where internet bandwidth is low, chances are you are going to go through some technology issues when you expect it the least. Before I started my fellowship, I did the very best I could to anticipate any technology constraints I might go through along the way. For example, I already knew that my town goes through some power cut issues during rainy season. Knowing this, I troubleshot ahead of time and bought myself a small generator so that I can still use my laptop even when it rains cats and dogs. I also invested in a decent laptop and had Atlas Corps upgrade my internet plan so that I am able to complete my tasks successfully while serving remotely. Do not get me wrong, even though I thought I anticipated so well, unexpected things still happened to me and still are happening. Two weeks ago, my laptop overheated and stopped working without prior notice. To be honest, I was frustrated and annoyed because I could not see that happen. Although it was a big issue, I did not let this incident stop me from serving. I communicated my technology issue with my supervisor and together, we tried to find contingency plans that still allow me to add values to my host organization despite this roadblock. I am now able to keep completing my tasks using my phone, which is certainly not ideal, but I am coping with it and I know for a fact it is not going to last. Behind every problem is hidden a solution, right?
” Whatever you are going through back home, do not let that stop you from giving your very best to the host organization. After all, serving remotely as an Atlas Corps Fellow is not only about you giving the best in you, it is also about receiving the best from your host organization. Challenges should not prevent you from thriving as a fellow. Instead, these should give you room for lots of opportunities and constant growth.” Tsanta Gaëlle Ramamonjisoa, Atlas Corps, Class 41