first-zambianAfter I received an email from Atlas corps inviting me to schedule time for an interview, I searched around for Zambians that were part of Atlas corps so I could connect with them, but I did not find any and during the interviews I still went ahead and asked my interviewer if there were any Zambians and he said” I’m not aware, well, you might be the first one”.
My flight to the United States this time around was so different because the last time I travelled to the US under the global health corps fellowship program, I was with 9 other Zambians and we managed to handle the 17 hours flight with chats and walking over to other friends’ seats. This time I was alone…
In this blog, I address some of the questions I have been asked being the first Zambian to be awarded the Atlas Corps Fellowship.
1. How did you hear about the fellowship seeing that you are the first person from your country on it?
Phales: I am subscribed to pro-fellow which is a fantastic platform that informs students, graduates and job seekers about fellowships, and I used it to search for opportunities in the nonprofit sector as I wanted to continue exploring opportunities in my field and be part of a group of dynamic young people who committed to addressing social issues.
2. Do you think people in your country apply for such fellowships and just haven’t been picked for Atlas corps yet?
Phales: Pretty much. Fellowship programs are becoming very common and attractive in Zambia. I was on the global heath corps fellowship before Atlas corps, and Global health corps has a big Zambian community of recent and past fellows. I also know Zambians that have been offered the Mandela fellowship and Fullbright. As for Atlas corps, I know a friend that was in the process of applying for it. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to review applications for Atlas corps to see the percentage of Zambians that apply.
3. Have you managed to connect with people from your country in Washington D.C?
Phales: Yes I have. I was privileged to connect with the Zambian Ambassador through a Ugandan friend who worked in Washington D.C. The Zambian Ambassador then introduced me to a community of Zambians living and working in Washington D.C. Washington D.C is pretty big and diverse and very hard to meet Zambians randomly so the ambassador played a vital role in ensuring that I met them.
5. Do you think your experience as an Atlas corps fellow would have been any different with a citizen/ citizens from your countries?
Phales: Maybe. I guess with four or five Zambians on the fellowship, it would have meant having friends automatically from the airport and the comfort of knowing that you are with someone from the same culture and country as you, but overall the fellows are very friendly and I rarely feel like I’m the only Zambians because people will relate with you as a person, and not from where you are coming from. Being the only Zambian has also helped me explore other cultures and languages that are so different from mine.
4. What advice would you give to young people from your countries that have a desire for leadership and social change?
Phales: I would like to encourage young Zambians to continue pursuing their dreams and not limit themselves. It’s always better to try and fail than to never have tried at all. I didn’t get into Atlas corps the first time I applied but I applied again until I was picked. God always works in mysterious ways and taking a step of faith could lead to you into becoming a legend of your generation.