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I remember the first time I saw my co-fellow Michele Sahabo at Yale for training. A fellow had pointed her out to me in the distance, but I stood behind and did not approach her because I was shy and scared. It took me two days to finally approach her. I know this may come across as a shock because most people see me as an extrovert. But I really wanted to make a good first-impression and after finding out that my co-fellow was an experienced civil engineer and the first female road site engineer in Burundi, I was very intimidated by her.

However, after my first chat with Michele, I knew for certain that we were meant to be co-fellows. Her laughter and smile lit up the room and washed away all my worries about how we would get along. It has been four months and I am so thankful to have her as my co-fellow.  I know it sounds cheesy, but we are always on the same wavelength. One look in her direction and I know she understands me. She has been my support system, my guide, my shoulder to cry on, and my sister through thick and thin.

The co-fellow aspect in GHC is one of the most unique parts of any fellowship I have researched. It gives Americans the chance to connect with someone, especially if you are new to a country. For me, this is my first time living abroad, so I was especially thankful to have a guide. The Burundians are the one who is able to teach you about their culture on a deeper level. They are able to teach you the appropriate greetings and explain certain Burundian practices that you may not readily understand. For example, if you see rows of branches on the road, it indicates that there is a car accident coming up, which is something I would not have initially thought of right away. As I continue to strive to respect and understand Burundian culture, I definitely beam with joy when Michele comments about what a “proper local” I am.

But, more than just teaching me about Burundian culture, the co-fellow aspect has grown and stretched me in ways I would never have experienced. Through Michele’s actions and our many hallways conversations at night, I have learned how to be a stronger individual, to be more patient with others, to be more confident, and most importantly to believe in myself. My transition to Burundi was one of the smoothest because of Michele. The value of the co-fellow relationship tops any other reason to apply to GHC. I love you Michele and words cannot express how thankful I am to have you in my life.

Also, I’d liked to note that through conversations with Michele, we discovered that we were both intimidated by each other. At Yale, Michele carried a handmade wallet made out of Gitenge from Burundi, as a gift for me, waiting for our first meeting together. I use that wallet every day. <3

Michele Sahabo and Yvonne Chow