And Then the Phone Rang…

It was a freezing Saturday night in February and I was out with my softball team after a game, as we commiserated about our awful losing streak. At a local watering hole, we were laughing, talking, and refuelling after a tough loss, debating batting orders and fielding positions. That’s when I felt the table begin to buzz. I looked down and saw an unfamiliar number. Escondido, California*. Who could be calling me from there? I picked up, quite sure it would be spam.

“Hello, is Ellie there?” the voice on the other end asked.

“That’s me,” I answered, making my way past my friends and heading toward the quiet outdoors.

“Hi Ellie, this is Nina calling from National Geographic.”

My mind was racing. I knew immediately what this call was, but I was still in disbelief. I was thinking back to the countless hours I had spent over my winter holidays, poring over my resume and fine-tuning minutiae in my application to become a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow. I had applied before, unsuccessfully of course. This winter, more and more people had been passing the website on to me as the public’s familiarity with the program was growing. On the application page was the dreaded notice that they would stop accepting applications after they received 3000. The odds were terrible.

I was holding my breath. I heard Nina say that the selection committee had been reading applications all day, and that mine had risen to the top of the pile. I heard her say that I had been selected as a 2015 Fellow. Then I heard her say that I would be going to Antarctica in December.


I don’t remember if I said anything, although I’m sure I must have. (I must have said thank you, right?) I remember thinking to myself that wow, it really wasn’t very cold out here anymore. I remember walking back inside and sitting back down at the table as my teammates’ conversation continued. Minutes passed. I stared off into space. At some point, my partner Eric asked me who had been on the phone.

“Oh,” I said. “That was kind of a weird phone call. It was National Geographic telling me that I got that fellowship I applied for, and that I’m going to Antarctica in December.”

So, that’s the story of how I found out that I was a 2015 Grosvenor Teacher Fellow. Just your usual Saturday night, really.

P.S. Just in case I didn’t say it at the time: thank you, thank you, thank you to National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions for making this dream come true!

* Interestingly, I have since learned that other Fellows had Washington, DC show up on their caller ID. I think that mine showed up this way because Nina was calling me via her computer.

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