It has been almost two weeks since I opened my email one afternoon to find the long awaited, much anticipated “Invitation!” message in my inbox. In that time, I have experienced a whole slew of emotions that have ranged from ecstatic to terrified. More than anything, I have found myself reflecting on the last several years and the many decisions that led me to the decision to leave everything behind and accept an invitation to serve for 27 months in Rwanda. As a result, I thought it might be productive for me to sit down an actually list out my top five reasons for deciding to undertake this journey in the first place.
- 1. To redirect my career. I was extremely fortunate to go to an amazing college and graduate with a degree in finance. Then, I was again fortunate to graduate with a great job offer. However, it didn’t take me long to realize that my new job, whatever its virtues (and there are many), is just not my dream. It took me several more months beyond that to understand that that’s okay. I don’t have to follow the same path as those I graduated with, or my friends, or anyone else. I have always talked about living and working abroad, and my international experiences have reinforced my desire to work in developing communities on sustainable growth projects and promote international understanding and cooperation. The Peace Corps is just the first step in following this dream to fruition.
- 2. To understand how to help developing communities at a grassroots level. International aid organizations are, overall, a positive force in the world. However, experience has led me to believe that they can sometimes lose sight of what aid will truly benefit the communities in which they work, leading to less effective development and aid efforts. The Peace Corps, I believe, will give me a foundation on which to build that will be rooted in the desire and ability to gain a hands-on understanding of those communities in which I hope to make a difference.
- 3. To be immersed in a totally unfamiliar culture. As much as I have talked about living and working internationally, I have thus far only had the opportunity to do so in shorter (1-4 month) tours. As influential as all those journeys have been on me personally, the truth is that I don’t feel that I ever really felt the growing pains of adjustment into a new culture. With the Peace Corps, I can dive in headfirst and learn how to both immerse and integrate myself with a culture that has, to this point, been completely unfamiliar to me. The ability to ask questions, learn the language, engage with my host country, and become a member of my host community for an extended period are invaluable learning opportunities that I refuse to squander.
- 4. To grow. As much as I have said I hope to gain from those around me, it would be remiss of me to ignore that my service in the Peace Corps will change me in ways that I cannot begin to fathom at this point in time. However, at the end of service, I hope to be able to reflect on my experiences and the ways in which I have changed and say that I am both proud of the person that I have become and excited for everything that person will have the potential to achieve.
- 5. To make a difference. I am not naïve to the fact that two years of service in one community in one country isn’t exactly saving the world. That isn’t the goal of service. But that doesn’t mean that there is not good work to be done, and that there are not people that I can truly assist. If I can leave at the end of 27 months feeling that there are people whose lives are better for me having been there, then I can consider my service a success, and I intend to do just that.