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The Impact of the HHH Fellowship

It’s been seven months since we’ve been enrolled in the HHH Fellowship at ASU’s Cronkite School of Journalism and Communication. The time has flown by quickly and we have approximately three more months left before we embark on our way back home. And as the time nears for us to return, it’s beginning to feel bittersweet. I have made some life-long friends. I have checked off bucket-list items. I have been challenged. I have grown. Safe to say, I will not return to Belize as the same person who arrived here at the end of July 2021. I have spent extended periods of time away from home in pursuit of tertiary education, but the depth and breadth of the HHH Fellowship experience is not like anything I have ever experienced before. But to give you a glimpse of some of the life-changing experiences and opportunities that we have been immersed in over the course of the past seven months, I interviewed four of my colleagues, Gahyeok Lee of South Korea, Mohamed Bah of Sierra Leone, Elita Karim of Bangladesh and Balint Fabok of Hungary, to get a snapshot of what the HHH Fellowship has been like for them. As I found out, although we are on the same journey, our collective experiences and what we are taking away from this fellowship are unique to each of us. Check out the conversation below for some light-hearted responses, but also some introspective reflections that show just how meaningful this program has been for us!

AP: What has been the best experience you’ve had during the HHH Fellowship so far & why?

Balint Fabok, Hungary

GH, FELLOW, SOUTH KOREA: Sedona tracking was the best. Under the sunshine, we enjoyed the incredible scenery and so we took so many photos!

MB, FELLOW, SIERRA LEONE: The best experience has been meeting with different people from different backgrounds and cultures, and also learning about their own ways of life.

EK, FELLOW, BANGLADESH: Everytime I am with my fellow colleagues, exploring a new coffee place, a city or even a state — I enjoy it to the fullest! It is not the journey or the destination, sometimes, but it is the company that makes things worthwhile. 

BF, FELLOW, HUNGARY: The Global Leadership Forum in DC where we met all the other Humphrey fellows. It was an emotional and once-in-a-lifetime experience to be a part of such a diverse group of people. I met some truly inspiring people who made a deep impact on me. 

AP: List & summarize two of the top things you’ve learned during this program?

Elita Karim, Bangladesh


1. How diverse we are!

2. How similar we are!

MB, FELLOW, SIERRA LEONE: I have learnt new skills in public relations and also strategic communications. These are skills I didn’t have but the HHH Fellowship gave me that opportunity through ASU and now I can proudly say I’m going home not only as a journalist but as a PR practitioner as well.

EK, FELLOW, BANGLADESH: 1. Listen to everyone, even if they don’t make sense. Respecting others’ opinions, even if you don’t agree with them, is important.  2. Using the two-day weekend for passion, hobbies and projects.

BF, FELLOW, HUNGARY: The most important is that my perspective has broadened and I’ve learned much about myself. I’m also happy about my development in public speaking skills. It always caused me frustration and here I practiced that so much that I’m not nervous anymore when I speak in my broken English in front of dozens of people. 

AP: What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome during this journey, either during the program or navigating life in the USA?

Gahyeok Lee, South Korea

GH, FELLOW, SOUTH KOREA: Taking care of my 0 year old baby in a foreign country is very difficult. (I know it is hard wherever we are, even in my home country.)

MB, FELLOW, SIERRA LEONE: The biggest challenge is to live without my family especially my wife and kids. They give me joy so being away takes that joy. Overcoming that challenge was not easy. Adapting to the American learning system was also not easy but thank God I was able to go through it and now I have had a lifetime experience.

EK, FELLOW, BANGLADESH: I wanted to read and write a lot more. However, the only reading and writing I have been doing are for assignments! 

BF, FELLOW, HUNGARY: My biggest challenge is to understand some other people’s true intentions. You hear a lot of nice words, but sometimes there is no meaning behind them. I think it’s part of the culture here, but sometimes it has caused me frustrations.

AP: What is  one thing you are ready to take away from this program & go back to implement in your life (personal or professional) when you return home?

Mohamed Bah, Sierra Leone

GH, FELLOW, SOUTH KOREA: Essentialism. I am just a concerned person. Now I love cutting my concerns using the concept “Essentialism.”

MB, FELLOW, SIERRA LEONE: I’m taking home many things but two are to value people, and help build teams that will bring change in my country

EK, FELLOW, BANGLADESH: This program has helped me to focus on things that matter and also ignore things which don’t matter.  I think this is something that I will take back with me and I will implement them personally and professionally.

BF, FELLOW, HUNGARY: I learned much about self-reflection and empathy, and I would be happy to export them to Hungary.  

AP: The program is winding down, if you can go back & change one thing what is it? 

GH, FELLOW, SOUTH KOREA: Eat less burgers, but eat more veggies!

MB, FELLOW, SIERRA LEONE: If I can change anything I wish to help people see the need to be change makers in society and be as useful as possible

EK, FELLOW, BANGLADESH: I would not change anything! (except for maybe going crazy ordering things on Amazon!)

BF, FELLOW, HUNGARY: I would bring more sweaters and sweatpants.

*BONUS:  What do you want to do more of or experience before you leave the USA?

GH, FELLOW, SOUTH KOREA: I really want to visit NYC and DC again! I love to feel the spring or summer of the two cities.

EK, FELLOW, BANGLADESH: I would like to visit more new cities, states and cultures. The more culture I can take in and the more people I can speak to, I would consider myself lucky.   

BF, FELLOW, HUNGARY: I would love to discover the Midwest. 

It’s safe to say that we have been having a lot of fun together but we have also been growing in leaps and bounds. One of the more impactful elements is just how expansive our mindset has become and how eager we are to return home and make changes in our own personal and professional lives.

About Andrea Polanco

Andrea Polanco is a broadcast journalist with more than 10 years of experience in TV, radio, PR and communication in Belize, Central America. She works as a general assignment TV journalist reporting extensively on climate change, conservation, health, development issues and road safety with the goal of making these issues easy to understand to empower marginalized communities. She has a master’s degree in TV journalism from Goldsmiths, University of London. Polanco was a 2015-2016 Chevening Scholar. She is also a Climate Change Media Partnership Fellow and a Fellow of the International Center for Journalists. Polanco has won multiple awards from the Caribbean Broadcasting Union Awards and was OCEANA’s first Environmental Journalist of the Year in Belize in 2019. She hopes to improve her investigative skills and learn to use social media and other digital tools to tell stories. Furthermore, she wants to gain hands-on experience in climate change communication and documentary-making during her time as a Humphrey Fellow.

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