Education & Career

Why you should apply for a fellowship program after undergrad

September 4, 2017

Hi Everyone! So I’m SUPER excited about this series that I’m going to bring to you in four parts over the course of September (it was going to be 3 parts…but there were getting too long!). I’ve been sleep in this series since last summer and just couldn’t sit on it another month! I’d be doing you all a HUGE disservice.

As some of you may or may not know, I got a Fulbright to teach English in Paris for several months and it was some of the most amazing couple months of my young life. I would recommend such an experience to any and every one! You learn so much about yourself and the world – and get to put off full time adulting for one more year – what could be better?

I saw “fellowship” but not all post undergrad programs are called fellowship. But the vast majority of the programs do allow you to serve a community (usually not yours) for an extended period of time and usually compensate you in some way for your work. These are the kinds of programs I’m talking about (there are links to a few awesome ones below).

Now, before I jump into the meat of this post, I want you to know that some programs require you to go through your school…or your school requires you to do an internal process for you to be nominated, so it’s important that you contact your university’s fellowship office or career services office to find out any of their internal rules and deadlines. And if nothing else, they will be able to point you in the right direction for programs and resources that will be useful to you. I can’t stress enough that you should start this process as early as possible. So if you are a junior/3rd year in university reading this right – go do your research!! If you’re already a senior…oh ya! Hope to it before you’re too late.


Here are the top 6 reasons why you should do a fellowship program after finishing undergrad:

The first time I saw the Eiffel Tower was actually on my way to a meeting…so we stopped and took pictures!

1. See more of the world

Many of these post undergrad programs send you to a different part of the world, or at least a different part of the country. Regardless, you get a chance to change your surroundings. Nothing promotes growth more than a year of being in a whole new place and doing your best to make the most of your time there!

2. Meet amazing people

The thing is, the kinds of people who apply for fellowship programs after undergrad always have a cool story for why they chose that path (the usual path is job or grad school…this is option 3). They are usually passionate about the specific community they are in, or the type of work they are doing. They usually have a unique view of the world and a thirst to continually learn and grow. And they are always awesome people to befriend. Then, you end up with amazing experiences with people from all over the world or country.

3. You’re not quite ready for grad school or the 9 to 5 life yet

Although some fellowship programs might include office work, it is more often than not, a meaningful work (think with a community organization, school or the like). But a lot of the program typically have you working on projects, working unconventional hours and things of that nature. It usually ends up with a lot of time for you to explore your surroundings (and your surrounding’s surrounding’s).

4. Gain more experience

Sometimes you just need a little more time to learn more – whether it’s gaining more world experience, more experience in your field or just having something awesome to put on your resume and make you stand out (hey, we all have our priorities), doing a fellowship program will give you chance to gain more professional and worldly experience in an a fun and interesting, and meaningful, setting.

5. Spend time “discovering more of yourself” in a productive way 

There’s no doubt that many people do these one year programs because they are neither ready for grad school or working a traditional 9-5 (although some of the programs might have you in a similar setting, just more supported). This post uni “gap year,” is a time for you to figure yourself out a little more. Like I said in the previous point, You’ll likely have a lot of time to yourself. Fully immerse yourself in new surroundings, make new friends and get lots of time to think, reflect and plan. Even if you don’t have time to yourself, regardless of what you are doing, you are sure to learn A LOT about yourself in a fun and intensive way. Even when you go in unsure of what you want to do next, and you are doing the program as a way to avoid grad school or adulting, you will still get so much out of it…as you should with each year of your 20s and your life!

6. You want to make a difference

Most of these programs are about making an impact in the local community. They aren’t just all fun and games. All of these programs serve a purpose that’s very important to the people funding it (otherwise, they wouldn’t be giving you money…duh). Doing a fellowship program is a great way to give back while you’re doing all the other points listed above. You should end you year feeling inspired, enriched and ready to conquer your next stage of life!


These are MY top 5 reasons for applying for Fellowship programs (in no particularly order) and I certainly applied for Fulbright for ALL the above reasons…and then some. I talk about how to pick the right program for you in the next post – because making sure the program is a good fit for you is so important.

While you’re waiting for how to choose the right program, I urge you to start speaking to the fellowship office at your school – especially if you’re a senior! In the meantime, here are links to some AWESOME and well known fellowship programs.

Links to some AWESOME fellowship programs:

  • Fulbright Student Programs – Has programs for teaching English, doing independent research, or doing a master’s program in various countries around the world, all with the aim of promoting cultural exchange.
  • City Year – Two years in school district in the U.S.A. that is high need
  • AmeriCorps – They put you to work in a community organization somewhere in the U.S.
  • PeaceCorps – They send you to another country to work with a specific community for two years
  • Global Brigades – Go abroad with a group to provide health services to a community in need
  • TAPIF – Teach English in France

There are lots of English teaching programs around the world. Just think of a few places you want to go, and put ‘teach English’ after the country name and you will be mind blown by the choices you have. For example, type in “teach English in Indonesia,” and see what comes up. Just like with most things in life, google is your best friend.


Fellowship programs for recent graduates aren’t strictly for American students. There are A LOT of options for none-Americans. Fulbright, for example, also brings non-Americans to the U.S. for a comparable program to the ones Americans would have abroad. TAPIF, had English speakers from around the world including South Africans and Trinidadians. In Nigeria, NYSC is technically a fellowship program for recent graduates. The African Union has also recently started a Youth Volunteer Program that’s similar to PeaceCorps and they just finished recruiting for the 2018 batch.

Stay tuned for the next installment of the Fellowship program series where I explain how to choose the right program for you. Also!! As a special thank you to those that sign up for my newsletter, I’ll be including MORE links to various Fellowship programs in this Sunday’s newsletter so make sure you’re subscribed to the blog:

If you loved this post, please let me know below! And also let me know if you have any specific topics/question in regards to fellowship that you’d like me to address. Later in the series, I’ll be addressing how to choose the right program for you, tips for successfully applying and how to make the most of your fellowship year! And if you can’t wait that long, shoot me an email and I’m happy to answer it! (I don’t work for any of these programs…so I won’t be answering anything that can easily be found on their website, lol).

Looking forward to hearing from you all!



Omolayo Nkem

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  • Reply Onyinyechukwu Ulor June 17, 2019 at 00:40

    Hi Nkem,
    I stumbled on your blog on my quest to find answers on how best to prep for my nysc and to be sincere this is one of the very best articles i have read in my lifetime. It is very detailed and at the same time very motivating. Though i have it in mind to volunteer, this piece has seriously opened my eyes and broadened my narrative on what i should look out for in joining a fellowship and becoming a fellow.
    I am ready for it but I cant seem to find the perfect fellowship i fit into and even if i do the applications are already closed. I don’t wish to venture into a masters program immediately after nysc and I don’t want to be forced into it. If you can highlight more fellowships open to Nigerian citizens and grads i would appreciate it a lot. Lastly, the peacecorps fellowship program seems very interesting but is it open to Nigerians without American citizenship?
    Looking forward to your reply.


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