Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Survival Guide for Humphrey Fellows

Survival Guide for Humphrey Fellows
 by Anthony Coetzer-Liversage
I am no journalist, author or blogger – but I will do my best to give you an idea of life as a Humphrey Fellow during your second month, because this is the month when you really begin to experience the true fellowship. It is the time of lectures, meetings, conferences and exploring your surroundings.

Bicycles as Transport

During this month, what I noticed is that you need to have yourself pretty well set up; it will allow you to make use of the last few weeks of summer. What I mean is, find a way to make transportation easier for you. What I did was get myself a bicycle, which was then quickly followed suite by half the other Humphrey Fellows (we may not have ridden bicycles in decades, but it was GREAT fun learning to again). It has been a life-saver to have them. So you may be asking, “Where can I get these?” Well that’s an easy one. I can give a few examples:

1.       Richmond Re-cycle shop – W Carry (near Carytown) – cheap secondhand bikes
2.       Colley Bike Shop – Carytown – good student discounts at the beginning of fall
3.       Bunnyhop Bike Shop – S Laurel Street – good secondhand bikes
4.       Walmart Superstore – for cheap bikes (ask if they have any that are damaged or at the back)

These are just a few, but you can look at the other bicycle shops in Carytown, however, prices may be a problem for you at these as they are not cheap. Where you look for your bike, depends on if you want to take it home, sell it at the end of your stay etc…It has been so helpful to me to have a bike, as on weekends I have been able to go site seeing, shopping, getting to lectures and even meetings if needed. The fun is, you can put your bikes on the GRTC buses and if you travel by the Amtrak trains to other cities, it is also possible to transport them on the train.

Thrift Shopping

To support your Humphrey experience during September (or even in the prior August month), I would strongly advise that you explore the Thrift shops (or if you prefer the term second hand goods shops), as they are a good source of inexpensive items that may help you to spread your budget somewhat. The ones that I (and a few of the other Humphrey Fellows) explored are (to list the largest ones):
1.       Salvation Army Thrift Store – Hermitage Str
2.       Diversity Thrift (Around the corner from Salvation Army – Sherwood Ave (the largest of the thrift stores with amazing things in it)
3.       Goodwill – there are various Goodwill shops (on Broad Str and Carytown)

Cultural Exploration

Now when it comes to the Fellowship itself, and what to do, I must say, attend as many of the
happenings in Richmond (RVA) as you can. Some of us attended the public talk on “Black Lives Matter” at VCU by Cornel West. It is these events that truly help you to understand the USA, and its people. This is a cultural experience as well, and opening yourself up to these experiences, gives you such a greater understanding of the USA people; something that may still be a cultural challenge at this point.


What deepened this experience for me, and for many of the fellows, was attending the MBTI workshop. So when it is your turn, throw yourself into it. Be vulnerable. Be open-minded and enjoy! This workshop was an opportunity to delve into ourselves and our dominant and backup personality styles. Mine I must say wasn’t too much of a shock, considering I had done the MBTI before, but to find I had shifted was interesting. We had many laughs during this workshop and it helped us to build greater cohesion and understanding between all of us. It was at this workshop that as a cohort, that we really got to get past the superficial venire that we all wear, and gain a better understanding of each other.


The deepening of understanding was built upon even further through social engagement with Dennis
Bussey and the James River Hikers, who held a welcome evening for the Humphrey Fellows. It was at this event that I met some wonderful people, who have been an ongoing support for me. I have done many things with them over this month: attending meditation sessions at the Maymont Park, or having lunch together or even getting the ball rolling in attending the Folk Festival in October together. I do know that others, such as Natasha, regularly socialize with people from this group and attend the most amazing hikes with them.
Not only is it an important part of the fellowship to start connecting with this group, but to start exploring your own personal interests and meeting your Friendship Family. This is a month of preparation and tracking down where you will do you Professional Affiliations, which is a very stressful experience. This stress, which is characterized by multitudes of meetings which you set up personally, but by Fellows expressing concern over where they are at, and being uncertain to the direction they going, and wondering if they will ever achieve their goals while on the fellowship. I know this was going through my mind. But it has been an amazing character building experience, as slowly the building blocks of my fellowship fell into place. Without my friendships among the fellows, and the support of the coordinators and my friendship family, this month of been “thrown in the deep end” to “sink or swim” would not have achieved the same positive outcomes as it is currently doing.

Cellphone App Utilization

With the weeks been so packed during this month with trying to get all the different components of your fellowship off the ground, don’t forget to have fun! Make plans to get together with other fellows and go exploring. Find the Walmart Supercenter’s (such as Forest Street) and have some fun shopping, or find cheap hair salons (where you only pay $16, rather than the $45 close to campus). This can be made much easier if you have downloaded the necessary Apps onto your phone, such as the GRTC ones to assist with the bus routes and times – but realize one important thing: on the weekend, Richmond’s public transport system leaves much to be desired. There are no buses that go out of the City of Richmond jurisdiction (this is tiny, and does not carry over into the counties that make up the most of RVA). Taking this into account in emergency cases or when you simply don’t have time, turn to Uber. A very reliable taxi service, but it is also important to download their App as well.

Community College Networking

Other opportunities that assist you in various ways, is getting to know the Reynolds Community
College Team. This all the fellows had the opportunity to do at the Reception they held for us. It was an amazing experience of getting to understand the Higher Education system within the USA, while making contacts with a team who strive to include the Fellows in a variety of their projects – so get involved! I must say I have enjoyed every event at the college that I have attended. I do know the team doing the joint Humphrey Fellowship and Reyonld’s College Project are really gaining so much from their experiences.

International Bike Race

For those interested in sports (and some of the fellows were), you would have LOVED September. RVA and VCU shut down, as the world descended, filling the streets during the last week of the month. The city was filled with a buzz and an atmosphere of expectation. Unfortunately, for myself, I only got to experience a little of this amazing event. As I had dashed off to attend the DUI Drug Court Conference that was hosted in Norfolk. Which I (with some of my other fellows) then followed this up with three days of attending training in Evidence Based Prevention Programs that were facilitated by Charlie McGloughlin from the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY). I am not sorry I attended these, as I was able to make amazing contacts and had experiences I will take back with me to South Africa. Though I do know that Zoey (from Slovakia) will take back a very different memory of this time; a memory of the rider from Slovakia winning the International Bike Race!

Outside RVA Trips

If you go outside of RVA (And I recommend that you try make the opportunity to) for any conferences, training, etc. take the opportunity to explore your destination. Go to the local tour routes, museums etc. While in Norfolk, I had the opportunity to explore the various naval museums, but the highlight was taking a guided tour by Charlie through the Langley Air Force Base.


This is a month, where making use of inexpensive yet highly beneficial conferences are available. I
have already pointed out the VA DUI Drug Court Training Conference, but there is also the VAMARP Conference. So if you want to learn more about Medication Assisted Recovery Programs, this is a must attend.
So, in summing up, I hope this quick guide gives you some tips to make the most of your Humphrey Fellowship while you are here.