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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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