Beginning a series on scholarships that takes you to communities and parts of India that we rarely experience. We start with the American India Foundation’s William J. Clinton Fellowship for Service in India.

The American India Foundation’s William J. Clinton Fellowship for Service in India is a 10-month fellowship where Fellows from India and the United States are placed with “credible NGOs and social enterprises in India in order to accelerate impact and create effective projects that are replicable, scalable, and sustainable.” AIF focuses on enhancing the livelihoods of poor and marginalised communities with particular emphasis on promoting livelihoods for women and youth. A monthly stipend covers rent, utilities, and transportation to and from work, language classes, personal expenses, and food.

For Aditya Pasumarty, a Fellow serving with Frontier Markets (a rural sales and marketing and distribution company), based in Jaipur, the Fellowship was a chance to do socially relevant work in a structured way. “I was an investment banker in New York,” he says. “AIF’s support system makes the transition a lot easier.” Sriya Srikrishnan agrees. A Fellow from India, she enjoys her work with the public health NGO, Calcutta Kids, Kolkata. With her interest in maternal healthcare and education, she works on developing curricula for communities the NGO serves.

The application part

All applicants fill out an online application for the Fellowship program, which includes their educational background, work experience, and a series of essays and short questions about their motivations and future goals. For Pasumarty, coming up with structured thoughts about what he wanted to do was the toughest part. “It a very comprehensive application process, he says. “You may not know what you would want to do right at the beginning but somewhere along the process you will find out.”

It’s natural to have many doubts while working on the application, say the Fellows. As Srikrishnan says, “I had just graduated and didn’t think I would get in.” Fellows are placed all over India. This can often mean being a total stranger to the local language and customs. But as Pasumarty says, “The orientation helps and while initial adjustments might seem tough, you will eventually get used to it.”

Gayatri Jane Eassey, a fellow working with National Council on Skill Development, Mumbai has some tips for first-time applicants. “Talk to alumni who have already done the programme,” she says. “Above all, start. That’s the hardest. At the most you won’t get it but imagine if you do. You get a chance to make a real difference.”

“Scholarships can be life changing.” Share your story with us at paromita_pain@yahoo.com