Early career option: A fellowship

As you probably know, I am a 2017-2018 Princeton in Africa Fellow.

Founded by Princeton University alumni yet unaffiliated with the university, Princeton in Africa (PiAf) is one of three related programs (with Princeton in Asia and Princeton in Latin America) offering graduates of colleges and universities accredited in the United States opportunities to gain life and work experience abroad for a year. PiAf Fellows serve communities in Africa and contribute to the continent’s advancement. We also join a powerful network of like-minded people committed to working in African countries. Fellowship posts are available in various sectors or industries including public and community health, agricultural development, advocacy and civil society,  education and youth capacity building, international and humanitarian assistance.

I encourage you to consider PiAf if our interests are similar and you are a current senior or graduate of a college in the United States. Applications for next year’s cohort of fellows are due 29 October.

Advantages of doing fellowships early in one’s career

  • Specific time commitment
  • Structured, practical work experience
  • Opportunity to “get your foot in the door” of an organization or company
  • Professional development opportunities
  • Network of like-minded people with similar experience (people you can relate to and contact for advice, mentorship, etc.)
  • Extended work and life experience abroad (if applicable)

Factors to consider before applying to a program or accepting an offer

  • Role and responsibilities. Fellowship posts are the middle ground between internships and full-time jobs. While you will not always receive the same salary and benefits as an entry-level, full-time employee in the same industry or same organization, expect the same level of responsibilities and duties. Fellowship posts are (often) 9-5 jobs that require the same level of planning, dedication and effort as a regular job.
  • Finances. In my experience, many fellowships only offer stipends. In turn, in addition to the application and placement fees, fellows incur costs such as travel and medical expenses (although some, like PiAf, offer insurance). Some programs offer financial assistance, but it would be wise to consider your financial commitments and how a fellowship may hinder your ability to honor them.
  • Length of the commitment. Fellowships are time-bound commitments. They could be hard to break, especially if the post is with an organization that lacks capacity with your type of skills and experience.
  • Location. Seriously consider the commitment to live and work in a specific location for an extended period of time. Some cities or countries might not be as appealing, enjoyable, or affordable as a young professional and expatriate as they would be to you as a tourist, for instance.
  • Goals. Have you developed a list of personal and career goals? Is the fellowship in line with them? Consider especially your career prospects post-fellowship.

You can find out more about PiAf here and the application process here. You may also contact me.

Have you participated in a fellowship or entry-level professional program? Would you recommend it? Why?


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  1. O.
    17 December 2017 / 12:31 am

    This is such a useful article for recent grads! Thank you for sharing your experience.

    • Oluwakemi Loriade
      17 December 2017 / 9:28 am

      Thank you for reading, O! And thank you for your feedback – it’s much appreciated! 🙂

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