In life we go through countless moments of renewal. This Fellowship was one of those moments, multiplied 56 times, one for each day I got to learn and grow.

However, I didn’t have much time to sit and ponder on the lessons I’d learned. The week after the Fellowship ended, I jumped right into a summer seminar on political philosophy hosted at my college. While I love debating Aristotle as much as the next gal, a large part of me wanted to take the opportunity to catch up with my professors. I wanted to gush to them about everything I’d done the past two months. At the end of my recounting, as I paused to catch my breath, one of my most cherished professors and mentors said, “Maryam, you’re a changed woman. You’re much more confident and articulate, and it’s been what, only two months?” That was when I fully realized the impact of the Fellowship. This summer allowed me to not only renew and grow but evolve in ways that I’m still discovering.

I’ve learned how to tell stories, contact the media, and design graphics. I’ve learned how to balance professional and personal relationships, navigate office dynamics, and seen the power of empathy in action. I’ve learned that for every problem out there, there will always be a team of amazing people ready to find solutions. Above all, I’ve learned that all of us have the responsibility to use our strengths and skills to help create positive change.

One of the most lasting things this experience has taught me, and I want to stress to potential Fellows reading this blog, is that taking risks pays off. We are all brimming with untapped potential, and an opportunity like the Karel Fellowship allows you to unleash that potential and grow in a nurturing environment. During this Fellowship, I was exposed  to invaluable resources and supportive mentors that I will carry with me to wherever I leap to next.

When I first started my summer adventure, I was wide-eyed and intimidated, my hands tightly clutched around my adventure kit, and my feet shifting awkwardly in my boots. I’m still wide-eyed, but no longer intimidated. I stand firm in my shoes now, confident and proud of what I’ve accomplished, and excited for what I will continue to do. My adventure kit is strung along my back, the top is open, always ready to absorb more lessons and securely carrying what I’ve learned these past two months.

Like Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” This opportunity pushed me to examine myself, to examine the world around me, in ways that I was hesitant to do. And I’ve grown all the more for it. There are so many issues out there I want to tackle, so many problems I want to help fix. Thanks to the Karel Fellowship, I now have the unwavering foundation to do so.