It’s not a secret that every Atlas Corps fellow feels both excited and anxious coming to the US. We worry about how we are going to fit in and get along with our future coworkers. Another concern is whether the cultural differences can be an issue and how to avoid any possible misunderstandings.

Two months into the fellowship I think I got a good idea of what helped me to feel like I belong. And I would like to share some tips on how to adjust, unleash your pick performance and start getting the best out of your experience.

  • There are no bad mood days in corporate America. Start your day by greeting your coworkers with a smile. It will also help you to feel better if you are going through the cultural shock and as a result those nasty emotional rollercoasters.
  • Almost every DC non-profit has employees who served with Peace Corps or just spent a significant amount of time abroad. Those are your first friends. They were in your shoes before. Ask them about their experience. You’ll be surprised how much insight you’ll find useful for your year in the USA.
  • Nurture the relationship with your supervisor. I am personally very lucky to have the best supervisor I could possibly dream of. The one who supports you as well as challenges you, makes sure to keep you busy, involves you in the decision making and gives you credit at staff meetings. Those are the elements in your relationship you can water and grow by taking initiative, asking questions and requesting feedback. Last week I had to rewrite a newsroom story three times. And it’s ok. Every new feedback just makes my skills stronger. With every new improvement, you’ll be able to crack tasks faster and grow as a valuable asset in the eyes of your team.
  • Speaking of getting involved in decision making and receiving credit for your work. If you have a good idea – speak up. But know when the moment is right. Listen carefully what your coworkers are saying at meetings. Your ideas might compliment theirs and make your arguments stronger that will increase chances of your bringing your vision into reality.
  • Be an interesting person not just because you are from a different country but because you bring new knowledge that your team needs. Attend relevant events, make notes, share your learnings in an email to your coworkers or even initiate a brown bag to deliver cutting edge industry insights.
  • Propose some non-work-related events for a group of your coworkers to go to together. Documentary screening, public talk or a trip to a new food place could be some neutral ideas to start with.
  • Send emails to people outside your department and ask them how you can help based on the skills and experience you have. Make sure to check with your supervisor before you do that.
  • Bring a dish from your country to share with your office. It is a good opportunity to talk about your home country. Especially if you feel homesick. Another good opportunity is when it’s on the news. The chances that people will be interested are higher.
  • Have a “word of the day” poster pinned above your desk to softly teach your language. My colleague who has a “Spanish word of the day calendar” at her desk is a magnet for everyone who passes her by during the day.
  • Don’t rush adding your coworkers on Facebook. Some enjoy keeping their account to close friends and family. But feel free to tap into their LinkedIn network.

But most importantly do you best to get to know your coworkers as people. They work in the “saving the world from suffering” field aka non-profit field – the chances that they are excellent human beings are very high!


To SOS Children’s Villages – USA team with LOVE!