I have participated in a number of fellowship programs, and here are some pointers on how to make the most of these opportunities.
Your why: This is very important. Before you apply for any fellowship, there are salient questions you should ask yourself: What do you hope to achieve? How does the program align with your goals? How will this program help you grow personally and professionally? In fact, when you are applying, you will find that some fellowships ask what you will gain by being part of their program. This is a personal journey, and you have to reflect deeply on your why and how the program will add to you. This would help you fully maximize the fellowship. It would also help you measure the success or outcome of that program (that is, whether the program met your expectations if you achieved your goal). Do not just apply for programs without having any purpose in mind. Be purposeful.
Volunteer: Sometimes, when people go for programs and see some gaps or lapses, they start complaining. You should understand that it is not easy to organize or put together a fellowship. Rather than complaining, strive to solve the problem you’ve identified. Inquire with the organizers if you can assist. Always look for ways to add value.
Collaboration: After the program, there must have been people you met there, and the connections you have made. Always seek for avenues to collaborate with people whose goals or projects align with yours. It could be in the context of projects, research work, policy brief, and other contexts. One of the highlights of Exchange Programs is collaboration.
Keep in touch: Always endeavour to connect with people beyond the Fellowship. This is very essential for growth and development. It also helps you expand your network. After the event, you can send an email to the organizers thanking them for a job well done and letting them know how much you have benefitted from the Fellowship Program. There are times there have been some communique signed, some deliberations made so do well to implement them when you go back to your countries. You can also provide a progress report on a regular basis. Some fellowships assign participants to a mentor or coach who will assist them in their professional development. So make an effort to stay in touch with them as well.
Social Media: Make an effort to keep up with them on social media. Most of these programs have alumni pages, so if there are any tasks that you as an alumnus need to do, please do so. Attending programs and then forgetting about them is not a good idea. Some fellowships have a network of organizations to which they have access, and in many cases, other organizations reach out to them for recommendations on people for bigger opportunities. Jobs, interviews in reputable media, participation in a high-level program, or awards are all examples of these opportunities. In situations like this, active alumni will undoubtedly be the people to recommend.
Feature: The majority of these fellowships have their own websites. Some showcase their alumni as well as their projects. You can always ask for a feature, especially if you are putting what you have learned in the Program to good use. You can also contribute to their website by writing blog entries on issues that align with their mission.
Ambassadors: As an alumnus of an Exchange Program, you are ambassadors of these programs in your country. After you leave, how do you ensure others in your community know about them? They have invested in you. When there is a call for application for the next cohort, tell others about how the program was pivotal in your journey. If there is a need for a local conference, you will easily be the point of contact in your country.
Teach: We don’t always realize how much we know until we share it. We don’t know how much the program has helped us until we share it with others. Organize programs where you can share what you’ve learnt with volunteers as founders. You can also share what you’ve learned with friends as a volunteer or as a participant in an Exchange Program. Of course, if there are instructions not to release certain documents or information, you can hoard.
Share your work: Share your work with others. Some Exchange Programs have Facebook groups, WhatsApp groups, etc. So, share your work on these platforms but don’t overdo it. By sharing my work on gender issues, there have been conversations this has spurred from people in other continents. This has made me learn about their realities from another perspective.
Taking Photos and Videos: Certain people believe that some people only go some programs to snap pictures and show off. You can’t say that about everyone, though. It is perfectly acceptable to take photographs. What matters is the motivation. Some people do it for the sake of documenting. Some people keep blogs and use them to document their experiences for a variety of purposes. The most important thing is to be purposeful.
In all, always endeavour to stand out and be remarkable. Several people I look up to have leveraged these principles and have gotten tremendous results. By standing out, they have been able to achieve accelerated advancement and growth. Some organizations saw how outstanding they were and decided to work with them. Some people have shifted from being participants to facilitators as a result of this. Others used the networks to gain simple access to affiliate organizations, other organizations, and a variety of other resources. As a result, you should make an effort to not only apply for and engage in Fellowship Programs, but also to maximize your participation.