I became a Kiva Fellow because I had a specific interest in understanding more of what Microfinance is about. I had read books, but I knew I wanted to see it work (or not work) first hand.
My experience as a Kiva Fellow turned out to be everything I had wanted and more.
My fellowship was in Nicaragua and I had the chance to work with two "Microfinance Institutions". Since each institution had different branches, I had the chance to travel throughout Nicaragua, visiting the branches and visiting their clients.
Before hitting the field, Kiva trained me for a week. The training was pretty intense (tons of stuff to cover) but the staff as well as the other fellows were pretty amazing and they made the whole experience tons of fun. One thing that impressed me about the rest of my class was the number of professionals that were taking time off from their careers to travel to some foreign country and work for free.
By the end of training the Kiva Fellows staff had done an awesome job of preparing us with knowledge but also by giving us a healthy list of tasks to do in the field. They were realistic in understanding that some of tasks probably would not get done but they were also dedicated to empowering us with the tools to get them done.
One thing to note about the Kiva Fellows program is that it does a great job of screening candidates, and later training them and being there as a resource while fellows are in the field. However, for the most part they depend on fellows to be able to function on their own while working in various remote locations (wherever they have microfinance partners). I think this is great, as it gives fellows the opportunity to truly explore microfinance and the communities in which they are placed, but it also means that individuals should be driven, and know how to handle themselves in unfamiliar situations.
The Fellows Program also turned out to be a great way to meet like-minded people. Today, many of the alumni keep in touch and we even meet up every once in a while. In fact, I liked Kiva so much that I am now working for them as an engineer :)