Over the last 18 months of Atlas Corps Fellowship has left me huge lessons on my philosophy in many ways. I can’t thank Atlas Corps enough for this life-time opportunity to have amazing experience es like serving at CARE USA, prestigious humanitarian assistance organization in the world as well as having great fellow fellows from different background with excellent trainings through Global Leadership Lab (GLL) here in Washington DC. From the first day that I arrived in Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport till my last day in DC, every single day will remain as best moments of my life.
Finding Yourself in a Different Context
Exposing yourself in a totally different environment helps you find another aspect of yourself, the characters that you haven’t noticed, which is very challenging experience. Meeting with people who look very different wherever you go, living with housemates who have different cultural backgrounds, frequent gatherings among fellows from different countries, so many professional events and networking… Imagine South Korea, where I come from. There is originally one people, one language and people have the same look. Therefore, during the first few weeks, I had difficulties in getting used to different ways of greeting, considering such as bowing, shaking hands, hugging, kissing cheeks, eye contacts, comfort zone, and the topics to begin the conversation with. It was also an embarrassing experience since you were a grownup who believed your self-awareness in social interactions was fully developed. However, as time heals all wounds, gradually I realized I was not the only to feel the way and also learned how to greet people in the way I felt more comfortable, which helped so much for my networking. Networking is something that you can easily face in your professional field in DC. Through Atlas Corps fellowship I have met many people in different fields including government officials, experts from gender, disability of international development and other fields like social entrepreneurship, youth leadership, and art and so on. By communicating with those people, I realized not only how big the world was but also how differently the world could be viewed when you have different angles of your perspective.
Change your Perspective, Change the World
I experienced things that I believed to be right were not always the way I believed. Also, if you want to be included into a different world, you should accept and embrace the differences first rather than keep insisting on what you have. This way you realize you can only change the world together with someone by learning from each other. It is the ‘togetherness’ that I learned from Atlas Corps through various events and trainings such as Global Leadership Lab (GLL), other activities and events.
Moreover, not only did I learned to accept different ideas, cultures, religions and customs, I could also learn to look at things in their bigger picture at the international level. For example, serving at CARE USA I could learn about huge international development funding resources like the Unite States Assistance International Development (USAID), which is known to have the biggest Official Development Assistance (ODA) aid fund in the world. It is very important to know the flow of this funding, which can have a huge impact on the direction where development in the world is going. CARE as the world’s leading non-governmental organization in international humanitarian assistance/development with 70 years of its long history is receiving 1/3 of its budget from the USAID. As Policy Fellow in Gender & Empowerment I could observe a variety of work that has made great contributions to better lives of women and girls in the world including advocacy work both at the national and international level and also projects in the field.
It was also a very interesting experience to see the power of diverse society in the US when I saw people showing interests in international acts such as Global Food Security Act and Humanitarian Emergencies and more. Those people with interests seem to feel close to what is happening in other parts of the world, which, I thought, was something very special that I would want to take to my home country where people are starting to open their eyes to those issues.
As a Professional Full of Excitement
Working in a disability organization previously in Korea and now in Gender at CARE USA, I am not sure how I could melt all of this great experiences down for my future career. However, one thing for sure in my mind about my career philosophy is that I have never lost the faith that ‘Voice of Minority is To Be Heard’ and gratefully my fellowship with CARE and Atlas Corps has helped me keep the faith stronger. I am determined with the idea that I will keep working to advocate the rights of minority people in the world. It has been a great exploration and I am full of excitement to convey new ideas and thoughts to my families, friends and colleagues in South Korea. I am standing in front of a door towards a bigger world. Looking back over the last 18 months I have earned so much through this fellowship and now it is time for me to give. I assure that I am not alone there, but together with so many of my fellow fellows holding each other’s hands, with which there is nothing to fear in this world, but togetherness.
I sincerely thank Atlas Corps and CARE USA for giving me this life-time opportunity.