The Importance of Connecting with the past Humphrey fellows

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By Bopha Phorn

Humphrey fellows from ASU attended Global Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C.

As Hubert H. Humphrey fellows, we get so many benefits, opportunities and privileges from the program. I want to thank the U.S State Department and those who are involved for making the previous and future programs happen.

Adetola Kayode, Nigerian broadcast journalist, presenter and editor, was a 2016-2017 Humphrey fellow at the Walter Cronkite School. Kayoed told me through Facebook messenger that being involved in the Humphrey Program is one of the most “prestigious things” that has happened in her life.

Regardless of all the privileges, we fellows sometimes forget, get lost and don’t really know what we are doing while we are in a beautiful land of excitement and opportunities, so talking to the past fellows who have experienced the program is imperative for our success.

First of all, connecting with the past fellows helps us focus. While living in a new country full of joy, excitement and amazing people, we sometimes forget the reason whey we are here. Humphrey fellows are in the U.S for one year for different reasons, but one consistent reason is to help develop our countries and our nations. Talking to the past fellows who have now embarked on new journeys after they finished the program could help remind us of our original goal and plan that made us decide to apply for the program and to live here for a year. For example, whenever I talk to the past fellows, the question, “What do you want to do after the program?” always pops up during the conversation. Answering that question reminds us of our main goal we wanted to accomplish when applying for the program.

Second of all, past fellows could help guide us to make the most of our time here. Before I came to the U.S, I met with Sam Oeurn Ke, a former Humphrey fellow from Cambodia who attended the agriculture program at UCDAVIS. Sam Ouern gave me some pieces of advice a few days before I left Cambodia for Arizona.

Screenshot of Mr. Sam Oeurn Ke being featured on UCDAVIS Hubert H. Humphrey site

“Make the most of the time while you are there,” he told me at a coffee shop in Phnom Penh. Sam Oeurn went on by saying that every Humphrey fellow is here to do different things, equip themselves with new skills and strengthen their weaknesses. While he was at UCDAVIS, Sam Oeurn said, he was an assistant to a professor. Mr. Sam Oeurn, who once was poor at writing, spent most of his time at UCDAVIS improving his writing skills.

“Now I am writing reports for my NGO,” he said in July. He advised me to try to be busy, work as hard as I could and be humble. These are the pieces of advice that I stick to while I am a Humphrey fellow.

More over, the past fellows could advise us on affiliation opportunities that are an important part of the program. All the Humphrey fellows are required to do a six week internship at any institution in the U.S.

As a fellow from Cambodia that has no international working experience, I find the idea of working for an institution in the U.S quite difficult. “You can work for VOA in DC,” Mr. Sam Oeurn added.

Adetola Kayode’s photos posted on Facebook page of Huber H. Humphrey, ASU

Last but not least, former fellow Adetola Kayode said that it is great for the fellows to be on the program and experience life in the U.S., but she said making connections outside the program is also vital.

“What I would advise the new fellows to do is to not close their minds,” Adetola Kayode told me through Facebook chat. “For me, I would make more connection outside of the school outside Humphrey,” she added.

During my trip to New York to talk at the United Nation Headquarters, I spent some of my free time meeting with some friends who could put me in contact with people who are looking for a person like to me to work for them for a month and a half. During my trip to Washington DC for the Global Leadership forum, which is a required trip for all the fellows to attend, I spent some time meeting with my boss, and I was offered a chance to work at VOA  after my program finishes.

In short, connecting with the past fellows is crucial for current Humphrey fellows to be successful and to make the most of their times here in the U.S.