Embracing the Extraordinary: My Journey at the Fellows in Residence Program in Oxford


By Amina Evangelista Swanepoel, Atlantic Fellow for Health Equity in Southeast Asia

June 13, 2023

Global Atlantic Fellows (left to right) Mohamed Salama, Amanda Fononda, Amina Evangelista Swanepoel, Rachael Galway, Devon Carbado and Mohammed-Anwar Sadat Adam in the kitchen at Kopanong. Photo credit: Lee Atherton.

I recently had the privilege of participating in the Fellows in Residence program at Oxford, and I can't begin to express how amazing of an experience it was. Our home base for those transformative two weeks was Atlantic Institute’s wonderful new house for Fellows to meet and engage: Kopanong. This extraordinary residence is where we embarked on a journey of self-discovery, exploration of Oxford's rich (and very problematic!) heritage, and the forging of lifelong connections.

Our group of nine Fellows formed a great blend of diverse perspectives, and was small enough to foster a nurturing environment where we could truly get to know one another and learn from each other's remarkable journeys. The intimate size of our cohort allowed us to delve deep into meaningful conversations, exchange insights and expand our horizons. 

The Atlantic Institute team spared no effort in attending to every detail, ensuring that our experience surpassed all expectations. Their dedication and support created an environment of comfort and encouragement, and allowed us to focus on our personal and leadership development.

One of the highlights of this program was the opportunity to engage with a remarkable array of speakers. The minds of the Oxford professors and the transformative work undertaken by Rhodes Scholars left me amazed. The depth and breadth of knowledge shared during these sessions taught me so much and inspired me to strive for excellence in my own endeavors.

Beyond the intellectual stimulation, those two weeks were a testament to the power of human connection. Through shared experiences and heartfelt conversations, I forged friendships that I believe will be life-long. We had many fun experiences together, from our Uncomfortable Oxford tours to acting out Shakespeare and seeing Cymbeline professionally performed, to exercising together on long walks and runs, to many hours spent sitting around and chatting over coffee. A notable highlight was our communal cooking on one of our first nights. I made a quinoa salad, my fellow Fellows also cooked; Devon made delicious curry and plantains, Mohamed made the most interesting cheese platter I have ever seen, Amanda, Medha and Anwar were the best sous chefs, and Joy-Marie and Rachael made the most scrumptious desserts. Marc wasn’t there yet but had he been, I’m sure he’d have been making sure everyone had their beverage of choice as he did around every meal once he’d arrived. 

I loved that all the Atlantic Fellows programs were represented, with participants traveling from New Zealand, Australia, the US (with those Fellows also representing Jamaica and India), Ghana, Egypt, South Africa, and me from the Philippines. We had diverse personal and professional backgrounds and leadership journeys, with five of us in development (through government, corporate and nongovernment organizations), two in law, one in leadership coaching, and another in brain health research. 

As I reflect upon this incredible journey, I am filled with gratitude. The Atlantic Fellows in Residence program at Oxford, with its blend of learning, exploration, and personal growth, is truly a gift that I will forever treasure. The memories created and the lessons learned will continue to shape my path as I navigate my own leadership journey.

To the extraordinary individuals who made this experience possible – the organizers, the Institute team, and my fellow Fellows – thank you for sharing your light and providing me with the tools and inspiration to make a lasting impact. 

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