Why Did You Join Peace Corps?

By | July 17, 2013

This is for all of you who have been scratching your brains out for the past two years, wondering why on Earth I joined Peace Corps. This is also for my fellow volunteers (and recently Returned Peace Corps Volunteers–RPCVs) to compare and contrast their own reasons. And it’s a reminder to me, as a way to reflect on my service as it draws to a close.

Outdoor Market in Armenia

What did I expect from Peace Corps service? There is no picture I can find to represent the whole, so here is a small portion: an outdoor market cultural experience in Armenia.

As I sort through old paperwork and memories, preparing to leave my Armenian Peace Corps volunteer service next month, reminders come back to me about why I joined Peace Corps in the first place.

The following is an excerpt from one of my Peace Corps essay questions that I turned in with my application, back in February, 2010.

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Peace Corps service presents major physical, emotional, and intellectual challenges. Please provide a statement (minimum 250 words) that includes:

  • Your reasons for wanting to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer; and
  • How these reasons are related to your past experiences and life goals.

My travel experiences thus far in life have been many. When I was ten years old, I took a two week trip to Finland, Sweden, and Estonia with my grandparents. During a few of my winter breaks in high school, I vacationed in southern Texas. In college, I studied abroad for a semester in Australia, and spent a summer as an intern in Connecticut. After college, I lived and worked in Alaska a few summers in a row, and I traveled around the country for an extended period of time in a van. I also went backpacking for a month across Europe.

Traveling Ev Collage 1

Pictures from the archives: Me in Finland with my grandparents; the White Sands of New Mexico; and Connecticut

Traveling Ev Collage 2

More from the archives: Sitka, Alaska fishing boats; me in Australia; France

These experiences have given me a taste for adventure and have shown me that there is so much more to the world than the small town I grew up in. But in all my traveling, I have always felt like something was missing. All my trips were purely selfish. I did them for me, giving little back to the places I visited. And while I was able to become friends with some of the locals in the places I’ve been to, for the most part, it seems I kept to myself or to the group I was with. Additionally, most of the places I’ve been to so far have been strongly influenced by western culture and have never felt altogether “foreign” to me.

I want to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer for a few reasons. I love to travel and want to continue to do so, but I’m ready for there to be a bigger purpose behind my trips. I want to make a positive difference in peoples’ lives and really get to know local people in a foreign land. Since I graduated from college, I have not found a job that fully satisfied me or stretched me to my fullest potential. I have high expectations that the Peace Corps will do both of these things.

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There it is, direct quotes from my application essay, three and a half years ago.

Of course there are many more reasons why I joined as well, that I didn’t put in my essay. Some personal things I hoped to gain from this experience included:

  • Increased confidence in myself and my abilities
  • Increased self awareness and understanding
  • More technical knowledge
  • A great network of friends
  • An interesting story and amazing pictures

And there are other reasons that are harder to put into words, but that are also important to me.

Did Peace Corps satisfy all my lofty ideals?

I challenged Peace Corps to give me the toughest job I would ever love, as touted in their literature. I was quite astounded to realize that although the process was much different than I imagined, when I looked at the big picture and the results, it was clear that I got exactly what I wanted out of Peace Corps.

Mount Ararat with a view of Yerevan Armenia buildings

This is Mount Ararat, an important symbol for Armenians.

I was recently interviewed about my Peace Corps experiences; you can watch the spotlight video below. In it, you will see a little more about what I’ve been doing on a daily basis while working as Peace Corps volunteer in Armenia.

I am so glad I came. I’m so glad I stayed. And I’m so glad that in one month, I can take all the knowledge I gained from Armenia and put it to use in another context.


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6 thoughts on “Why Did You Join Peace Corps?

  1. Kevin

    Ev,

    Great post and especially great pictures. You captured both the yarmurka and Ararat beautifully in a stunning juxtaposition of what Armenia has to offer. The video is also really well done; seeing the old guy in the shop elicited a flood of memories and emotions that I’m not sure what to do with. Well done and enjoy the last few weeks of your service. You’ve definitely earned it.

  2. Loretta

    Great video Ev! I thought it was a little strange that the little shop you visited had a wall of alcohol, but some basic foods are hard to find there…I guess we take it for granted that we can have pineapple year-round here! It’s been fun following your adventures!

  3. MuMu

    I am sure that Armenia was so glad because you came, and so glad that you stayed and so glad that you will remember since you’ll take the knowledge you gained in Armenia and put it to use in another context.
    I am just watching the movie “Lost & Found in Armenia” it’s very funny comedy & it’s over two hours long and its starts in Istanbul of Turkey with two American tourists, one of them get lost and found himself in Armenia where he is taken as a Turkish spy by the locals…very funny. I will keep watching after break, but here is the link in YouTube, recently posted:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oba3QrwL6a8
    and share link:
    http://youtu.be/oba3QrwL6a8

    The language is Turkish in Istanbul but the Americans of course speak English, and in Armenia Armenian is spoken which by now you would somehow understand fairly.

  4. MuMu

    Yes, I watched the whole movie and it’s very well made comedy. It is not in English, although it has some English and Turkish, but mostly it’s in Eastern Armenian. It starts somewhere in Turkey where a Turkish fat peddler at the hotel is offering to a young American tourist (hero of film) hashish, drugs, girls & boys for sex and when he says “cheap” the American understands as the Turk saying “sheep” and he answers “no sheep” meaning he is not interested in bestiality either but the Turk insists that he is able to provide him even sheep in cheap price for sex. Then when our hero is doing paragliding the robs broke off and an airplane carries him and his para-glider all the way to Armenia and drops him from air into a rural Armenian village near the Turkish border. An old Armenian veteran of the Soviet army when he sees the American with the parachute (paraglider) takes him to be a Turkish spy and makes him prisoner. Nobody speaks English in the village (except the heroine of the film, Anne) and the “Turkish spy” does not speak Armenian so he becomes lost in Armenia. The plot goes on from the the son of the mayor of the village wanting to marry the heroine, Anne, while she falls in love with the “Turkish spy,” that is the American hero of the film. And as is the custom in rural Armenia where in some few occasions, when love is rejected the son of the mayor kidnaps Anne to make her his wife forcibly but they fall in the trap of two real Turkish soldiers who just pass over the border or the brake of the car fails and the car rolls over to the Turkish side of the border, whatever, but those two Turks are real mean and are about to rape beautiful Anne.This film is a good representation of the village life in Armenia but it is very much exaggerated to make you laugh and is far from reality and the real nature of its rural people.

  5. Carrie

    Thank you for your service and welcome home. It’s always about the journey…

    Your PC Recruiter,
    Carrie
    RPCV Ecuador 03′-05′

    1. Ev Post author

      Thanks, Carrie. You are right, it’s definitely about the journey.

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