Professional Fellows Program: Asma Ben Aîcha


Asma Ben Aicha 2017 PFP Fellow from Tunisia 

“When thinking about the States, the first thought that comes to one’s mind is: The American Dream! People often think of the US as the land of endless opportunities where all dreams can come true. However, what I noticed is that it is a huge struggle to seize an opportunity. During my fellowship, I learned that it is a long endeavor to gain a decent position in D.C. You cannot just sit there and expect opportunities to simply come after you. YOU need to go after them. You need to work hard and leave your touch wherever you go. Otherwise you will simply remain invisible in a hectic city where professionalism and perseverance are fundamental assets for one’s survival.

I usually hesitate a lot before raising my hand to express my ideas until no more comments or questions are allowed and would miss the chance to speak up on many occasions, yet, during the Professional Fellows Program with Legacy International, I pushed myself out of my small and comfy bubble in order to be noticeable and stand out in a group full of professionals with interesting backgrounds. For five weeks, I had to make the best first impressions ever in order to ensure that people would remember me as a “lollapalooza”. During that process, I found out that spontaneity is the best strategy and I came to know that Americans really appreciate it if the person they are talking to is direct and attentive. That is how they know that this person is worth working with. What inspired me most is that sometimes you find your colleague at the office working at a restaurant or bar in the evening. No one is self-conscious about a second job as a waiter as long as it is way to help them in their pursuit of happiness.

When I first had the selection interview, one of the questions I was asked was: “This program will be very intensive; you will have to work from 9 to 5 during weekdays and have seminars during the weekends. This is not a vacation. Will you be able to follow up with such rhythm?” I arrogantly answered that I was used to this kind of routine and that it would not affect me. Later on, I realized that there was so much truth in his words. The program was really intensive as we had a lot of activities and work to do. Despite being exhausted most of the time, I loved the serious and professional context I experienced. I felt like I could fit in easily. Everyone was punctual and respected deadlines, which are two things that I had difficulty in finding back home. I felt like I needed that kind of order in my life. Such accelerated rhythm surprisingly balanced my lifestyle and made ideas clearer in my mind.

Now if we look at Chris Gardner’s following saying from The Pursuit of Happyness “the world is your oyster. It’s up to you to find the pearls,” we realize that we hold the key to our own success. I discovered that it’s a misleading stereotype that the US is a utopia or dreamland, like many non-Americans believe it is. This assumption carries no genuine truth within it. You have to work your way through and prove that you are competent enough.” – Asma Ben Aîcha

As a part of the Professional Fellows Program, participants must develop and deliver a community project upon their return home. Asma’s project is titled: The Academy: Towards Civil and Political Engagement. The Academy is a five-day summer school organized by Sawty Sousse in partnership with Legacy International, Club Café Culturel at Complexe des Jeunes Sahloul and under the supervision of State Department. This project will gather young Tunisians from the governorate of Sousse to take part in an all-inclusive training on the fundamental principles of democracy and participation in decision making. Through this academy, the participants will acquire new skills that will help them become future leaders and decision-makers in their local communities. Furthermore, it will be an opportunity for them to get involved in civic and political life and become active. They will learn how to develop their critical thinking skills through exposing them to various workshops such as fighting corruption through educating them about key notions like local governance, elections and accountability. mechanisms of advocacy, especially the role of social media in advocacy campaigns. project Management, budgeting, reporting and dialogue.


PFP is sponsored by the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and administered by Legacy International with assistance from  multiple in-country partners from the North African region.

Learn  more information or to apply to this program