Views expressed are my own and do not represent the Mandela Washington Fellowship program

Before we had secured the American visas, the program admin at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln called us for short conversations about our expectations, interests and how they can make the Mandela Washington Fellowship more relevant to each and every one of us. Booking a time for this call was tough due to the 7 hour time difference. There was no other way, I’d have to take this call at work. I signed up for a call at 9am which was 4pm in Zimbabwe. I waited, and the call never came.

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I received an email informing me that they tried to get through and failed to. I realised that I had entered my number wrong. I sent the correct number and sat on pins and needles all day hoping they’d try to call me again. And they did. Linda Major called me and we spent over 20 minutes discussing my dreams, aspirations and my work. This call was crucial because it was a conversation as opposed to getting to know us sorely based on our applications. She asked me what my interests were and I could hear her jotting down notes. She was so excited to connect me to people that she knew who shared my interests. Now I was excited, even though I hadn’t secure the visa.

Based on who called you when you were in your home country, we were divided into small groups. We had to design a crest, come up with a family name and a tagline/slogan for the family. Alpha Familia was born. Linda Major was our Matriarch and the family members included:

Thabo ‘The Godfather’ Mongatane – South Africa
Sokhna Khadidjatou Sy – Senegal
Thembiso Magajana – South Africa
Tsedey Girma – Ethiopia
Thembelihle Zulu – Zimbabwe

This family unit was to serve as a smaller cluster for us to support and sound board off of each other. No joke, but I couldn’t have picked a better family. I was happy.

As the Alpha Familia we’d have coffee conversations with our Matriarch Linda Major to touch base about the Fellowship and our experiences. It was an intimate safe space to give feedback and address issues. This is one of the reasons why the Mandela Fellowship was enjoyable for me.