"The Beacon Fellowship Changed My Life"

Gaby Rusli studies international relations at Loyola Marymount University in California. Although she had planned to participate in The Beacon Fellowship in 2018, she experienced a traumatic car accident that sidetracked many of her plans. Here, she discusses how her 2019 Beacon experience in Washington, D.C. changed her life.

Gaby (far right, bottom corner) and Beacon friends

Gaby (far right, bottom corner) and Beacon friends

What makes The Beacon Fellowship unique?

At first I didn't know much about the Beacon Fellowship, but when I got here I realized it was very different from other programs because of its very hands-on nature. There is real-world impact. Fellows actually have a lot of independence to decide where they want projects to go. It's a very rewarding experience.

Tell me about your Project Lead.

Yusuf taught me basically everything. I'm 19-years-old and pretty inexperienced. Yusuf taught me not to assume. Assumptions are the worst in the consulting world. You can't just come up with something and have no facts to back it up.

In general, Yusuf was very supportive in understanding my condition. It's a long story, but this time last year, I was in a bad car accident. I was supposed to do Beacon a year ago, but after the accident, I couldn't walk. I got a bad concussion and a brain hemorrhage. I still have lingering memory problems and panic attacks, and I basically can't function the way I used to. Nevertheless, I tried my best during the Fellowship and Yusuf was very understanding. He was thoughtful and paid attention to everyone in the cohort.

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What are you future career goals?

Before I started Beacon, I was basically lost and confused. Then, after the accident I didn't even want to come because I felt I couldn’t put myself out there. But Beacon taught me so much; I’ve figured out at least where to start. I like marketing and design. I always thought they were just hobbies, but now I’m seeing that they are actually potential career paths that have a big impact on companies!

During our Fellowship, my Beacon team was working on the diner’s guide app for our client Edlinguist. It was a neat idea, but customer awareness was the big problem. No one knew about the app! And I realized that marketing was the issue; as easy as it sounds, it is actually pretty challenging to get the attention of the audience you are targeting. So, I'm starting to appreciate marketing a lot. My major is international relations, so now I'm trying to figure how out to connect marketing to that.

How was your experience at Edlinguist? Do you think LaNysha [the CEO] will use your marketing strategy?

I think she should use my strategy! I worked a lot on the app, website, and a social media plan. The app is great, but its potential is not realized at this time, and a huge part of that is marketing!


If you met a pre-accident version of yourself, the girl you described as “lost,” what would you tell her?

I would tell her to take things slow. Don’t worry so much. Calm down. Go do the Beacon Fellowship - you don't need to worry about "what-ifs."

The Beacon Fellowship will actually help you a lot, because it did! Let me tell you: not just the work experience but the friends - they changed my life. When I arrived in D.C., my Beacon roommates immediately noticed I was anxious. I was freaking out and feeling I’d get into another car accident. But then, I started putting as much effort as I could into working. I started doing things one step at a time. And I learned to let go of everything. I had been isolating myself, but then, all of my Beacon friends helped me deal with my anxiety to the point that now I don’t have to take as much medication as I used to. And I'm laughing all the time. This happened after one full year of sadness. It had been so hard to get out of all the difficulties that were clouding my life.

Ultimately, I'm so glad I came to D.C. because Beacon taught me a lot. It was hugely impactful for me. It changed my life and helped me figure out what I want, or at least started that process.