What I'd Do Differently: Lessons Learned on My Atlantis Fellowship

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Rachel Reese is a junior at the University of Oregon, where she studies human physiology. In summer 2017, she participated in The Atlantis Fellowship in Budapest, Hungary. In addition to being "the best thing she ever experienced," the Fellowship solidified Rachel's decision to work in the medical field. In the following article, Rachel explains some things she would do differently if she could do her Fellowship over again. 


As I stood in the operating room, with my feet aching and sweat beading on my forehead, I didn’t dare sit down in fear that I would miss something amazing. In that moment, my mind flashed back to the day many weeks before when I had stood perusing the wares of the scrubs store. The isles were filled with lab coats, shoes, stethoscopes, and anything else a medical professional might need. I stared at two pairs of footwear, holding one shoe from each set in my hand. One was comfortable and professional, while the other was, well, twenty dollars cheaper. I bid farewell to the former as I purchased the cheaper pair. And there I stood, during a two-hour surgery, regretting that choice immensely.

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If I were to experience my fellowship again, I would definitely invest in a more comfortable pair of shoes. Looking back, however, there are a few more things I would have done differently as well. After reading my article, I hope that you can learn from my mistakes and plan more intentionally for your own Fellowship.


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There are many things I could have done differently. Even so, my Fellowship was the best thing I’ve ever experienced.

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Looking back, I also would have reached out to my co-fellows before our Fellowship. I’m normally a pretty shy person, so I did not feel comfortable emailing or messaging everyone before we met. However, many of my friends used email or GroupMe in order to get to know each other and coordinate travel plans before the trip. Some of them even met before we left! I cannot imagine how nice it would have been to know a few people before I left the country, or even share a taxi with them on our way out of the airport. It is intimidating to get into a taxi with a person you don’t know and drive into an unfamiliar city. If I could do my Fellowship over again, I would have made the effort to connect with friends beforehand.

Even though I felt like my friends and I took thousands of pictures, and I thought the memories in my head would stay vivid forever, neither turned out to be true. I was lucky enough to have a friend with a great camera and love for photography. Despite my distaste for being in front of a camera, I ended up having a good number of pictures. Nonetheless, I was shocked at how quickly the memories began to blur and fade. I wish I had brought a diary or journal along so that I could preserve the memories forever.

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When I first travel to a new place, it seems so huge. However, even after only a week, the city began to feel comfortable. When I got to this point, I stopped exploring as much and started going to my favorite places more. There was a café down the street that made the best latte and had delicious pastries, so we kept going there. A few blocks away was a beautiful view of the river with popular pubs and restaurants right on the riverside. Why wouldn’t we go there multiple times a week? But the weeks go by so much faster when you’re abroad and before we knew it, it was time to go home. All of a sudden, I realized I didn’t know the city as well as I thought I did, and I found myself wishing I had the time to visit more places. If I were to go on my Fellowship again, I would keep forcing myself out of my comfort zone so that I could see as much of the world as I could.

In the same vein, I wish I had set aside time after my fellowship to travel. Once you’re abroad, especially in a place like Europe, it is so much easier to travel than it is in the United States. Here I drive seven hours and I’m still in the same state, but in many places around the world, other countries are just a couple hours away. During the Fellowship, we had the weekends to ourselves. So, my friends and I enjoyed taking the train to neighboring countries. Even though I saw more of the world than I ever have before, I can’t help but regret not seeing more while I had the chance.

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With that being said, I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything. There are many things I could have done differently but even so, my Fellowship was the best thing I’ve ever experienced. I hope that you can learn from my mistakes and remember to prioritize the following:

1.     Comfortable Shoes

2.     Reach out to other fellows before the trip starts

3.     Take more pictures and keep a journal

4.     Keep exploring and getting out of your comfort zone

5.     Travel before or after the fellowship

No matter what, you’re set to have a great time. Get excited!


About Rachel

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Rachel Reese is a junior at the University of Oregon, where she studies human physiology. A lover of all things science and desirous to help others, she is very excited to be pursuing a career in healthcare. In summer 2017, Rachel's participation in The Atlantis Fellowship in Budapest, Hungary solidified her decision to work in the medical field.

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