Report date
July 2019
Learning Log

Reflecting on the two years of my fellowship triggers mix emotions. I feel sad that the fellowship is ending, but at the same time, I feel enormous gratitude towards Bush Fellowship. The journey of my fellowship started in an unexpected manner. One day as I was attending Cultural Providers Network which consists of clinicians from different cultural background and researcher from the university. The event is organized by the University of Minnesota. I was asked by one of the attendees to apply Bush fellowship to get some support for a presentation I shared with them at the time. My impression of the Bush Fellowship at the time was that it was a grant opportunity which supports research projects. However, when I started the application process and did my research, I realize the magnitude of its reputation which was intimidating at the beginning. I was not sure if I should apply or not. With few encouragements from friends, I went ahead and applied. My attitude was once I applied that I should just continue the application process. as long as the committee found my application worth selecting to the next round, I should go enjoy the process which was a learning process. However, when I get selected It was a surreal and joyful moment. I will say that the selection process itself had a profound impact on me. It made me realize that the idea that I shared with the interviewer was worth pursuing. It also gave me a sense of confidence not only in my ideas but also in my ability to pursue them.

As an immigrant from Africa, my exposure to the opportunities and possibilities in this country was somewhat limited. Often times people are aware of what they have been exposed to. Bush fellowship expose me to many possibilities that I was not aware of. Some of the examples are the conferences that I attended, where I attended different sessions which shared new and exciting ideas. One of the highlights was that in SXSW I sat a few rows from the interview of Barnie Sanders by Jack tapper from CNN. I learned many ideas from these conferences such as product development and collaboration of people from different fields to mix and match ideas. I feel those experience change my perception about myself and my work. I value the idea of collaborating people from different backgrounds. I also value the interdisciplinary approach of whatever problems that I need to tackle.

One of the major events that happen to during the fellowship is that I was able to sign a contract with a publisher who agrees to publish a children's book about mental health which I co-wrote with an author who writes children's books. The book combines African proverb, a story about trauma, and relaxations skills. I am looking forward to its publication. However, my boarder goal of exploring and highlighting how African oral culture conceptualizes mental illness to facilitate a better understanding between mainstream clinicians and clients of African descent is not going as well as I hoped for. I have been getting a mix of messages from the people I consulted with about my research. Some suggest that I should pick something simpler to finish dissertation faster and graduate. while others think I should pursue my passion and consult with people who have the expertise in the area I am interested in. I am planning to contact professors from different universities who did research in the areas that I am interested in and consult with them before I make any decision.

The fellowship gave me the opportunity to go back to school and pursue my goal of learning how indigenous cultures communicate about mental health and psychology to facilitate cross-cultural understanding. By finishing three semesters of course work, I feel that I learn more tools to pursue my lifelong learning process. Since the program that I am in is about counseling and supervision and does not directly teach indigenous oral cultures and how they express or conceptualize mental health, my hope is that it gives me the tools to pursue my own learning process in the future. However, the financial support the Bush Fellowship provided helped concentrate on school. It also helped me attend other opportunities that facilitated growth as a person and as a leader. These opportunities include academic conferences that leaders from the mental health filed attend and share the latest researches in the field. I feel I have grown academically from where I was two years ago. I get exposed the philosophical background of the field counseling and mental health which not only improve my approach to counseling but also improve my analytical skills. because of the fellowship, I feel I am a better person and a better leader. I appreciate the complexity of different issues and different viewpoints. I also feel that I am more mindful about my own beliefs, thoughts, emotions, and actions.

The monthly reflection was very helpful. It helped me add discipline into my life which otherwise was demanding. It helped me look back and reevaluate some of the activities that I engaged and whether those activities were in line with my goals. These goals include growing both personally and professionally and contributing to my immediate community as well as the broader community. The reflection also helped me pay attention to my self-care. The fellowship made self-care an important component of our leadership development. Even though, before fellowship I did not take self-care seriously, I realize now the importance of self-care. Self-care will be something that I am planning to incorporate into my weekly plans.
Another area of growth is my meeting with my coach who inspired me to challenge myself at times. She helps me rediscover my strength and capitalize when I need to use it. It is easier to overlook our own strength sometime and underestimate our ability to face and overcome challenges. In my last session, we explored the plan of continuing some of the activities that facilitate growth such as monthly reflection, attending conferences, attending a support group, and attending activities that promote self-care.

In conclusion, I am grateful for this opportunity. I feel that this opportunity opened my eyes to many possibilities that I was not aware of before the Fellowship. It also gave me the tools and ideas to pursue a journey of growth and compassion. I feel more confident and humble at the same time. I will see this opportunity as a highlight of my life's journey. one that did not only recognizes my potential but also provided me exposure to ideas and possibilities. I am thankful to those that I have met through the fellowship the staff, the board, the coaches, and other fellows who share their dreams and challenges in their monthly reflection and meetings. Thank you Bush Fellowship for the wonderful work you are doing.