When I first heard about the Karel Fellowship, I was apprehensive about applying because it’s a Public Interest Communications Fellowship and it did not seem to align with my majors in psychology and social work. Luckily, the Fellowship is open to all majors. I was excited to hear that its focus is on advocating for people and that it is based in Washington, D.C. Living in the DC metro area my whole life, I seldom explored DC.

I was nervous when it came time to do my application! I had to do two applications. One for my campus because the Fellowship only has one spot for a student attending the Universities at Shady Grove and the general application. I was surprised when I heard I was my campus finalist for the Fellowship. I knew I was not done with my hard work. I had to wow the people of the Fellowship if I was going to get it. I worked with my campus Writing Center to make sure my essay told my story, but that it also fits the guidelines of the application. I also worked with the Career and Internship Center to do a mock interview before the real deal. After two months of preparing for and doing my actual interview, I got a call that I got the spot in the Fellowship while eating lunch with friends. I cried a little and then called my mom, who told me that she was so proud of me. 

Finding out where I was going to be interning this summer was nerve-wracking. What if I did not get my top choice? What if I did not like whom I am matched with? I eventually found out that I would be interning at Mary’s Center, a non-profit that not only offers affordable medical and dental services but also offers affordable mental health and social services to its surrounding community. So far, my time at Mary’s Center has been a blast. I have met so many different, friendly people and have done a variety of things. For example, I have sat in on the Racial and Equity subcommittee and Home Visiting Advocacy Planning meetings. I have also helped out at one of the Mary Center’s senior wellness centers and participated in events there.

I was helping out at the check-in table at one of the events when an older adult walked in. The event was Hawaiian-themed, so I gave them a lei and a Mary’s Center bag after I wrote down their name, email, and phone number on the sign-in sheet. “I feel like a queen with all this stuff being given to me,” said the older lady. “I was having a bad day before I came here, but you’ve brightened it up.” A feeling of happiness welled up inside me. Most people do not want to work with older adults, but I see it as giving back to them and helping them make the most out of their lives now. 

I am glad that I took a chance and applied for this Fellowship. If I had not and just thought to myself, “Oh, they’ll never pick me. I’m not the right person for this,” then I would have never gotten to do the work that I am doing at Mary’s Center while also exploring D.C.