Receiving my acceptance email from the NYC Urban Fellows Program was the happiest news I could get in what would be the beginning of a very uncertain time. The fall semester of my senior year at Fordham was overwhelming because it had seemed like everyone else in my graduating class had already accepted their full-time positions; although that was not the case, I was still unsure about my next steps after graduation. 

As an undergraduate at Fordham Lincoln Center, I majored in Political Science and minored in Peace and Justice Studies. I was drawn to this discipline because I was interested in learning about the history of activism and political organizing as well as how inequalities of wealth, power, and prestige are institutionalized in complex societies. Unsure what exactly I wanted to pursue in my first job, I decided to look into fellowship programs that would allow me to continue learning in my field. 

Fellowships are a fantastic opportunity to gain industry-specific work experience and knowledge while also developing leadership skills such as public speaking. Working with the Office for Prestigious Fellowships, I became interested in the NYC Urban Fellows Program because it would allow me to stay in New York City after I graduated and to learn more about civil service. The program is a nine-month fellowship that combines work in Mayoral offices and City agencies with volunteer service opportunities and a seminar series that explores current urban issues impacting public policy. 

While writing my application essays, I thought about why I wanted to go into civil service and the issues that were important to me. I believe it’s important to be as genuine as possible in the essays while also clarifying your career path for the application committee. In my essays, I related my interest in resource equity in education to my desire to work with students at low-income NYC public schools. 

The interviews consist of one group interview and two individual interviews that would take several hours to complete in one day. I remember thinking it all seemed very daunting, but I prepared in advance with the support of my mentor from Fordham Law and my fellowship advisor. The Office for Prestigious Fellowships provides tons of guidance for essay writing and mock-interviews so that you can feel confident in every step of the fellowship application process. After completing my interviews and returning to campus, I remember thinking that I did the best I could. 

With a month-delayed start into my fellowship because of COVID-19, I began my fellowship in October. It’s been a very interesting experience so far! I’ve become friends with many of the people in my cohort who come from all over the country and have had the opportunity to attend seminars with notable speakers in city government.

I’m completing my fellowship at the NYC Department for Children’s Services in the Office of Education and Employment Initiatives. While I’m applying the skills I have gained from my time at Fordham, I’m also learning so much about city government and specifically about the foster care system and its programming in NYC.

At my city agency placement, I feel encouraged to ask questions and be involved in projects that interest me. I’m involved in several projects regarding programming for youth in foster care. A long-term project that I am currently working on is an analysis and strategic plan addressing the unmet needs in youth employment and career-readiness programming with the goal of filling all existing gaps.

Now that I am over three months into my fellowship, I feel fortunate and assured in choosing to pursue a fellowship program after my undergrad. If you’re interested in applying for a prestigious fellowship but unsure how to start, my advice would be to start researching the many different programs out there and their requirements so that you can have some general insight into your options. Start building your experience outside of the classroom to shape your unique story. Most importantly, reach out to advisors, professors, and mentors who will help you on your fellowship journey!

Edited by Alex Finn-Atkins