At the end of the AIF Clinton Fellowship, I asked my co-Fellows for pieces of advice to pass onto the next cohort. These are the things we wish we knew before coming on this Fellowship, the things we learned along the way, and the things that resonated with us the most after it was done.*
1. It’s not a rosy journey, but a roller coaster ride.
2. Reach out to other Fellows for help and advice early on! Don’t wait! They are your best resource for figuring out sticky situations.
3. Pack light, no you don’t need a suitcase full of Clif Bars and a blender with an American plug– trust me.
4. Abandon your expectations! I went into my Fellowship with so many preconceptions– about what India would be like, about how I would change, about what I would learn, about my work. I inevitably found that the reality didn’t meet my expectations. In some cases, this was great and exciting, but more often, it left me holding onto an expectation when the reality was so much better.
5. Find space for your discomfort, and forgive yourself when things go wrong, because they will.
6. Journal your mistakes.
7. Before going into the Fellowship, I wish that I had talked to some previous Fellows. This experience was so unique, challenging, and new; I don’t think I fully knew what I was getting into.
8. Advocate for yourself. This Fellowship is service, yes, but you’re also supposed to get a safe/healthy/interesting learning experience from it, so remember that it’s a two-way street!
9. Before taking up any project, ask yourself these important questions: What is my “why”? What purpose do I serve? What skills do I want to learn this year? Why do I want to take up this particular project? Why does my host organization need this, is it the most pressing need? Does this project align with the long-term vision of my host organization? How is this going to help my professional growth? Does it align with my future goals? Am I thinking big enough or is there scope for more? Have really strong answers to these and most importantly, be true to yourself!
10. Oftentimes, when the project area is of a wider scope a lot will come your way. So before creating your project proposals, evaluate your time commitments and set realistic expectations otherwise you may find yourself in a situation where you over commit but under deliver.
11. Say yes and take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way.
12. Learn to gauge the fine line between being ambitious and over-ambitious. To understand how much you can deliver, set realistic deadlines and try to meet them. Try to journal your progress. Oftentimes, because of a lot of work, you might forget about your achieved goals, so try to write your small and big accomplishments as reminders. That will give you motivation.
13. Learn to say no. Learn innovative, creative and kind ways of saying no. You will need that a lot if you have a tough time evaluating your time commitments according to the amount of work your host organization expects you to do apart from your main project.
14. HAVE FUN with the Fellows. You won’t get this time again!
*Responses have been edited for clarity.