“Lauren, I will disown you if you don’t apply!”- my 92 year-old Grandmother

Post by: Lauren Marcell

I’ll be honest- I didn’t think I had a smidgen of a chance of becoming a Global Health Corps fellow. I had two reactions upon reading the position descriptions and mission statement of GHC. 1) Unprecedented excitement. I knew this was the opportunity I had been looking for, the next step in my career and the chance to actually apply my college education and internship experience into the real world of public health – basically my dream. The combination of fieldwork and professional development, but with an emphasis on fostering a community of leaders dedicated to achieving global health equity, seemed almost too good to be true. This led to thought number 2) Self-doubt. Although on paper I felt qualified for the position I was interested in, and I definitely had the passion and commitment GHC was looking for, I lacked confidence in my ability to persuade the GHC and mothers2mothers teams that I could be the one. Intimidated is an understatement for how I felt while perusing the GHC website. I didn’t have a Masters degree, wasn’t a doctor treating thousands of people on my own, and hadn’t established an NGO at the age of 18. Was I good enough to be one of those smiling faces? Nah, definitely not. Yet, I couldn’t get GHC off my mind. I had to at least make an attempt.

I will admit that I am the Queen of procrastination. I couldn’t bring myself to actually sit down and complete the application. I had the essay topics written on napkins that I tacked over my bed, hoping that I’d get some inspiration in the middle of the night and magically produce acceptance worthy essays. Obviously that did not happen. A week before the application was due, I hadn’t written one word. At this point in time, I had just graduated from George Washington University with an undergraduate degree and was working and traveling around Indonesia. I had a scheduled Skype date with my parents, and as a special surprise, my 92 year-old Grandma joined as well. I excitedly told my family about the GHC application, but as quickly as I lit up about the job posting at mothers2mothers, I followed with a negative remark along the lines of  “I’ll never get it-there’s no point blah blah blah woe is me.” My Grandma abruptly shut me up, told me if I didn’t apply she’d disown me, and proceeded to detail all of the reasons why I would be an exceptional candidate. She wouldn’t sign off of Skype until I virtually pinky promised her that I’d apply no matter what. There was something compelling about my Grandma screaming into the computer because she thought being halfway across the world implied that I wouldn’t be able to hear her. Her point came across loud and clear. I signed off after taking an award winning screenshot (see below), went for a surf, and mulled over my options. I could a) not apply, lie to my Grandma, and feel guilty for the rest of my life (this is dramatic but entirely true), b) apply, not become a fellow, but know that I at least gave it a shot, or, c) apply, BECOME A FELLOW, and be one step closer towards pursuing my dreams.  A few interviews and one acceptance email later, I became one of the 90 chosen as part of the 2012-2013 GHC fellow class.


* Showing me that she knew where Malawi was in her atlas. 1) Who owns atlases these days? 2) Who could lie to this lady?


My advice to you (if you’d like some):

1)    Let your energy and personality shine through! I’d like to think that I was selected because my passion to achieve global health equity exploded from every line I wrote – that my excitement was audibly apparent throughout my phone interviews – that my honesty regarding my personal opinions about health in the developing world exemplified the multidimensional character GHC is searching for. I cannot confirm why I was personally selected above other candidates, but hopefully it was because I was just being myself! Personally knowing the 89 other fellows, I can’t imagine any of them not being vocal about their passions, muffling their anger about the injustices they’ve witnessed, or doubting the prospect of influencing the future of global health. It’s not all about what you’ve done, it’s mostly about who you are.

2)    Don’t be shy to ask family and friends about why they think you should become a GHC fellow. Personally, I have always found essays in which I have to delineate my accomplishments or unique characteristics really challenging because talking about myself is just awkward. When it came time to sit down and write, I couldn’t think of why I was actually special and deserved to be considered. I started having posttraumatic stress disorder like flashbacks of college application essays. However, the ones closest to you will have no problem listing positive attributes about yourself that you may not even know you exhibit or remind you of the times you’ve really influenced others without knowing it. Sometimes it’s difficult to realize that you’re viewed as a leader, but I’m going to assume that if the mission of GHC is something you feel passionate about, you as a person must have countless examples of inspiring those around you. Be open and receptive to what they have to say (blushing is allowed) because it might provide the exact material you need when you hit that writers block.

3)    Believe in yourself! What makes GHC fellows unique are not their resumes, which are definitely impressive, but most importantly their humility, ambition, creativity, kindness, love, and perseverance that are much needed and often lacking in this field.  They have become my best friends, my confidants, my advisors, my colleagues, and my inspirations. There is no cookie cutter fellow, which should make you breathe a sigh of relief if upon reviewing the GHC website you realize that you don’t have a similar background to any of us. When I think about our Malawi dream team, not one of us is at all alike, yet we all are here for the same reason. I am still amazed at how that is possible.

If I can leave you with anything, it is this: please do not feel intimidated to apply to GHC like I was! You will be welcomed and appreciated for the person you are, not the person you think you should be. You will be challenged. You will be inspired. You will surprise yourself with what you are capable of. You will never regret submitting that application.