How I became a YALI MWF fellow - Sitraka Ratsimba

Law of attraction applied: How I became a YALI Mandela Washington Fellow


In 2014, I applied for the YALI Mandela Washington Fellowship just as it was released. At that time, I lived in Morocco preparing for a shift to China. I remember vividly I told myself: “there is no way I could have this fellowship”. I didn’t have any tracking records whatsoever. I’ve never exercised any leadership role and I didn’t even have any work experience. Worst, I couldn’t grasp any word of English and I not only didn’t understand the essay questions but I also remember I asked my Mom several times to help me translate them in Malagasy!

Without a big surprise, my application was not successful but I continued receiving updates and news from the YALI network. After this, I applied two or three times for the YALI RLC from 2017 to 2018 but none of these applications were successful either. Note that I just applied without any purpose, without any tracking records and I never really reside in Madagascar but always lived overseas.

“There is no way I could have this fellowship”

One of my biggest disappointments that helped me get the YALI MWF

In 2017, I went back to Madagascar and applied for an internship at the US Embassy in Antananarivo. I really thought I would be selected and started to build an ego around that. After a few mail exchanges, the news destroyed my reality: “If you don’t receive any mail from us for the next two days, it means that you were not selected” wrote them to me. I took this as a huge wake-up call and I realized how vain, arrogant and big-headed I became. I didn’t accomplish anything but just boasted about what I wanted to accomplish. Henry Ford reminds us that we can’t build a reputation on what we’re going to do. 

Henry Ford

The same year, in 2017,  I joined my family in Berlin. I planned to stay and work in Germany. The purpose of my stay stated “language course” so I could not work, neither could I have an internship for more than 3 months. I managed to find a 3-month internship and the company I worked with accepted to hire me. However, I had to go back to Madagascar to change my “language course visa” and re-apply for a working one. I did go back and after a looooong one-year-wait, I cancelled my visa application because I couldn’t get the last document from the German Federal Agency (working permit).

Does it have to happen this way?

In the meantime, the US Embassy and the Ministry of Education realized a common vision to launch a Toastmasters Club in Madagascar. I joined after being a member of a Toastmaster club back in Berlin. I got so excited that a Toastmasters club in Madagascar was about to be official. That passion drove me first place and the members voted for new officers, I became from there the Vice-President of Education of the club.

That would be my first leadership role ever: having such a passion towards something so that you start motivating, gathering other people around an idea. You just get upset when people don’t really want to follow the vision.

The YALI MWF application opened in September 2018 and an idea obsessed me: applying for the YALI MWF! I felt as if everything flowed, as if everything had to happen this way. Have you ever had that before? Sometimes you feel so uninspired and demotivated but some other time, you are just inspired to achieve anything?

Can we see in the future or is it the secret to get what you want: do as if it is already there?

A few months before that, I already visualized myself talking in front of a camera, doing the interview for the US Embassy. The other fellows’ messages inspired me so much that I compiled them into one single video, visualizing myself and believing that maybe I could be among them too someday.

On top of this, I created a short video like a vision board. Visualizing myself being in the US, I compiled You Tube videos and watched the footage imagining as if I were there.

Law of attraction - central park

I submitted my YALI MWF application in October and started working as a digital marketer at the same time.

In December 2018, the YALI MWF Madagascar team sent an email about the selection for an interview. We had plenty of time preparing for the interview because of the Government’s shutdown.

On day-D, end of January 2019, 7 interviewers welcomed me to the final stage of the process selection. That interview felt so familiar. I sat exactly there 2 years before with the unsuccessful internship application. But at least I felt comfortable with the environment. I felt so enthusiastic as if a higher level of energy possessed me. Remember that the noun enthusiasm comes from the Greek word “enthousiasmos” or from enthous, meaning “possessed by a god, inspired.”

Trust the process

Two months passed by and no single passed without me checking for an update from the US Embassy? Is this going to be like the failed internship two years before? I restrained myself every time to be too optimistic.

As I returned from lunch, a Tuesday of 19th March 2019 at 02:00 pm, as usual, I routinely logged onto my email box and I could see:

Congratulations for the YALI MWF

“Congratulations from the U.S Ambassador”. Waouh, I can’t weave into words my feeling at that time. I went directly to the bathroom, looking at myself in the mirror. I could see my gleaming and sparkling eyes. Definitely one of the best moments of my life. I realized that I would go to the United States for the first time.

I’ve been waiting for that sign, that if something seems to go wrong, it’s invariably part of a larger right. I somewhat believed that everything happened for a reason. What happened is all part of a larger right: the YALI MWF 2019 and more in the future.

If something seems to go wrong, it’s invariably part of a larger right.

YALI MWF Madagascar - just trust

Don’t get me wrong

I tell the story as if I expected everything to happen that way. But to be honest, I doubted myself most of the time. As I said, I would check my email multiple times in an hour. I would do that for more than 4 months. At the same time, I tried to hold my enthusiasm by fear of disappointment. I learned one thing: to have a high-expectation but just to let go no matter the outcomes. You can aim for better things in your life but do not attach your happiness with it, you are enough. Realize that you would be ok no matter the results. Jack Canfield suggests us to always end your affirmation with “this or something better” to highlight not only the abundance mindset but also to deal with the outcomes no matter what they will be. Take massive actions to make it happen. Do it again until you make your vision come true.