It is about 2 months now that I have been in the US as an Atlas Corps fellow, serving at World Vision as a Youth Workforce Development fellow, working with the most amazing team I could have imagined. Within this period, I have attended so many networking events, participated in a workshop and volunteered in a local nonprofit.

The last week of January, I attended the Atlas Corps Global Leadership lap with about 100 fellows from all over the world who are doing incredible work in their countries and are serving in leading nonprofits in the US just like me.

One of the key things I was reminded of was that every moment in a fellowship is a learning opportunity to explore, to understand and to participate in my personal and professional development, while I contribute to the growth of my host organization.

While taking each day one step at a time, there are 5 key ingredients that make the fellowship an impactful, memorable experience. This is what I call the sauce of a great international development experience; what it means to have the most out of a yearlong learning opportunity.

The first Sauce of a great fellowship is Contribution: The ability to contribute to the objective and purpose of the fellowship is the most important sauce that defines the level or even quality of an individual participating in the exchange program. Contribution involves the key impact you are making at your host organization based on your skills, and your fulfillment of the role’s expectations. This greatly determines the relationship you can build with the host organization after the fellowship and stands to be the key point of highlights for your future career and professional engagements after the fellowship.

The second sauce of a great fellowship is Active Learning and Professional Skills Development: While you might have had some years of experience and very skilled in an industry, it is important to upgrade and update your skills set via training and professional development programs. Learning and personal development is an ongoing process which is also a key sauce of participating in a fellowship. Learning could be certification on a course, technical skills development, learning a new language or even training in some core areas of personal interest. It is a great advantage to seek and take advantage of the opportunity to be in a different environment to develop core competencies and professionalism for future engagements.

The third sauce of a great fellowship is Service: Service is the extra sacrifice that you make to improve the community where you are carrying out your fellowship. This could be by volunteering to teach a language, to train on the weekends in a local nonprofit and even to start a drive of fundraising for an organization that you are passionate about their cause and mission. Service and volunteering also contribute to a fellow’s career highlights and personal commitment during the fellowship. Atlas Corps has opened a huge platform and opportunity for fellows to take part and be involved in different volunteering programs. You can contribute to online discussions and campaigns, seek speaking engagements, request to be on the radio or tv shows and even explore local opportunities to mentor a young adult.

The Fourth sauce is Networking: Intentionally networking and connecting with people is a core part of an international development experience. Deliberately planning to attend some strategic networking event is a great ingredient to have a memorable fellowship. The basic key reasons for networking in an international scene is to build a network of like minds and powerhouse all over the world which will become a great personal resource for partnerships and collaborations. It will make no sense if after the next few months there are no core people you can hold confidently as your new friends, partners, collaborators and personal advisory members. Becoming part of a group of professionals is an opportunity to take advantage of the huge resources that are readily available.

The fifth sauce is Fun: I personally love this part. This is because often we are carried away with serious activities that we forget to unwind. The anxious need to meet our job expectations can make you be carried away and times will just pass by without you having some meaningful fun activities. Fun activities like going hiking, organizing parties, going to the cinema, ice skating and other numerous activities that relax the mind, body, and soul to refocus and energize is a very needful adventure. It is important to note that fun activities rejuvenate the mind and help you redirect your focus for more impact. There is a subtle growth in taking care of your social life. No matter how seriously committed and successful you will be in the next few months, the international learning curve is not complete if you fail to satisfy your life and experiences by relaxing and taking part in new adventures with all the excitement that it brings.

A few months is a great time and opportunity to explore. Balancing these core areas all help to build a great and super memorable fellowship.