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Applying for the Mandela Washington Fellowship: Use the YALI Network!
September 26, 2016

YALI Network members in Nigeria show their stuff.
YALI Network members in Nigeria show their stuff. (State Dept.)

If you are reading this blog, following the YALI Network Facebook page, and otherwise taking advantage of YALI’s ability to connect people online and through local events, you have a great advantage as you pursue your quest to be a Mandela Washington Fellow.

But don’t just take our word for it. Several 2016 Fellows whose previous applications had not been successful found different ways to use the YALI Network to get advice, feedback or other help with their next attempts.

Rita Zaumu from Cameroon said, “The Network helped me a lot because the past Fellows … gave a lot of heads-up about how to go about applying for the fellowship. I spent something like five hours a week on the YALI Network and Face2Face pages to see what people are doing in their communities.”

Zambian Fellow Mwanga Simwanda said the YALI Network “really made it possible for me because they got in touch with me after my first application, and through the Zambian Embassy I received a lot of emails allowing me to network with other people and the Zambian YALI alumni.”

Through her participation, Simwanda discovered local events with Fellows where she learned tips on how to improve her application and understand what the recruiters were looking for.

The Zambian YALI Network coordinator “would contact us and host seminars for us on how to apply and link us with the alumni that came and their experience and how they applied. She really was just encouraging us to apply and apply and apply. … I got to network with other people and through the network I met a lot of different people,” she said.

Simwanda, overcoming her disappointment from earlier unsuccessful attempts, learned what they had done differently on their applications. “So I tried the third time, and here I am. I made it!”

Wilfrid Marx Abidji from Benin turned to the YALI Network for advice when he found out he had been selected for an interview and he was working to improve his English-language skills.

“I was really impressed with the speed and the proactive way people reacted on the Network,” he said.

Abidji advises, “Don’t close your door and be alone. Open yourself, go to the YALI Network and ask questions.”

Agang Ditlhogo from Botswana said the encouragement she received from successful applicants “kept me going” and motivated her to try again.

“All through the application I would ask for advice, like ‘This essay is only 200 words but I want to go on for 700 words. Where do you think I should cut it? Where do you think I should modify it? So they offered that platform for us,” she said.

She said Fellows are especially important in countries like hers where not everyone has access to the internet. “They are a precious resource,” she said. “They went back to their communities [and explained] this is how they started, and that is very inspirational.”

Perhaps, like Fanta Coumba Karembé from Mali, you knew someone before they became a Fellow, and were amazed by the transformation.

“When my friend came back from this program he was completely changed. I could see stars in his eyes, lots of confidence in himself and all the things he wanted to achieve. It was like he was on a different level,” she said.

The YALI Network can help by offering a platform to learn about Fellows’ experiences. “When you read about young leaders and their stories, what they want to do in their countries and share information, it’s exciting. You realize you are not the only one thinking in these ways and you feel that change is possible. They give you motivation,” Karembé said.

Good luck with your application!

Looking for more tips? Check out the Fellowship Application Insider Guide [PDF].

Start your application here: mandelawashingtonfellowship.org