Peace Corps


I post this with hesitance because I looked up other aspiration statements when I was told to write my own and felt that I couldn’t get away with what I thought it SHOULD look like. I eventually got past it and wrote it with heart, despite it not fitting the mold of some that I read. My advice: You signed up for this because you had some kind of passion or heart behind it…now just use it!! Seriously, I think the more of yourself that you give these people, the better your experience will be.

Here is what I wrote in my Aspiration Statement (it’s hard to conceive but the original was much longer so I edited a bit for this entry).

Aspirations:
I aspire to be remembered as someone who made a difference in a child’s life. I think everyone has that one teacher that really made an impact on his or her students and I’d like to be that sort of role model for the students that I am helping out. I also aspire to be an understanding and eager colleague for those that I work with.

Expectations:

I know to expect the worst and hope for the best! This means that I expect things to get hard but my goal is to stay positive and know that this is what I signed up for and hard work is usually always extremely rewarding in the end. I expect for things to be frustrating when I’m in a different climate, eating different food and being around people who speak another language that I’m still learning. I expect to sometimes feel that nothing is going right and that I’m not making enough progress. This challenging experience is a part of why I signed up for the Peace Corps. I know what I’m capable of and I want to push that limit. I feel that I was limited at home with how little Americans sometimes know about the world and how having a direct positive impact is difficult from the states but I can make a difference immediately if I want to.

Desired Outcomes:

I want to absorb as much culture as possible and truly use the opportunity to become a part of an entirely different culture than I’ve ever experienced. I’ve started to think about ways that I can do this. For example, I can learn a skill or craft that is popular among Kazakhs. Although the language barrier may be hard to overcome initially, there are still other ways to communicate with people and show who you are. I think taking up an interest that is shared among those around me would help build relationships and make learning a language much easier.

I’ve always envisioned the Peace Corps as a life determining experience. I will wholeheartedly accept a change in career plans if the Peace Corps leads me in a direction I never could have imagined before my arrival in Kazakhstan. I hope that my Peace Corps experience will always be a part of me. To ensure this, I hope to find at least one project that I can continue to work on after my service whether it’s simply keeping in touch with people from Kazakhstan, raising funds for a project for the next volunteer or whatever other opportunity arises to make this experience one that I can stay engaged with for years after my service so I will not lose touch with the lessons learned while abroad. Many volunteers say that it takes several months to a year to actually start being effective in Peace Corps service because the first year is learning the language and building relationships in the community you live in. I’d like to extend this experience by making sure I continue to serve the country in any way, big or small, that I can.

Professionally, I hope the Peace Corps leads me to a career that is more than just another paycheck but something I really am passionate about working for.

Socially, I’d like to share my cultural experiences with other Americans as well as be a good representation of the United States during my service. I also hope that the Peace Corps gives me the taste of the world that I’m looking for. I signed up for the Peace Corps because I wanted to be around people that are worse off financially than Americans are even in a recession but are still happy with their lives. I want to struggle with the people around me and realize my struggles of being uncomfortable, adjusting to new food, learning a new language are much less of a struggle than the people who do not have access to the bounty of resources I have at home.

I’ll remember the experience that I dreamed of that involved experiencing the world through more than just a news story or a textbook but by touching a new ground, tearing down cultural barriers that Americans sometimes build around them and hugging a person on the other side of the world and telling them I’m listening to them and have left the country of comfort to serve them and create a connection from a girl who turned the television off and dove into cultural realities experienced by few others that dare not get off of their couch, their comfort zones, to experience a different part of the world.

The Peace Corps Process:

March 2009 – Info Meeting at CSU,

May 2009
– I get an email saying that if I submit my application by June 15, I’ll get priority consideration. I have already looked over the application by this point so I decide, why not?!

June 10
– submitted Application and Health Review online, piece of cake. It also helps if you have people who are on top of things write your letters of recommendation.

July 22-
Interview
July 28 – recruiter sends me three options to choose from. Peru is at the top of my list.

Aug 3
– A nomination is sent out along with a health packet to start filling out.

September
– Health screening at Veterans Affairs hospital (it’s free for Peace Corps volunteers here, good luck getting an appointment though, Many VA hospitals are way overworked as an influx of soldiers have started returning. It’s super depressing to see all of these people in line waiting for care. Makes me reconsider health care reform.

October – Finally get my VA appointment. Also find a Peace Corps dentist in my city who gives dental exams for free(find one near you at this site). I find out that I will have to get my wisdom teeth removed at my own expense. I start researching loopholes, cheap ways to do it. There aren’t really any 😦

Nov-December – I start considering whether I really want to incur this great expense to do it, I decide that where there is a will, there is a way! More research. I contact the PC office and tell them my situation. They say to mail in my medical kit and keep my dentist exam requirements until I figure out what to do.

Jan– CSU health office is closed for a good portion so I make no progress

Feb – Have my dentist exam, he said he could removed them but wants me to see an oral surgeon to make sure it will be an easy operation. I call the oral surgeon and my appointment is on March 10. My progress is at a standstill until then!

March 10 – I see an oral surgeon who looks at the giant hole where bone is supposed to be in my jaw. He tells me I have a benign cyst that has been eating away at my jawbone. I’ll need to have it removed along with my 4 wisdom teeth which adds an extra $500 to the operation, bringing it to $1,800. I don’t have health insurance so will be using Care Credit for health expenses. (It’s super easy to get approved for it and zero interest for 6-12 months) After the operation, I wont be able to chew solid food for six weeks while my jaw rebuilds! Peace Aint easy…Pass the smoothie!

March – Meanwhile, the rest of my medical packet is being evaluated by Peace Corps for clearance. Once it gets cleared, I’ll receive an invitation to a specific country! You can get medically cleared while your dental packet is still in process (thankfully!)

March 24 – Medically cleared! My online update says: “A decision has been reached regarding your medical review. Please look for a letter in the mail.”I am frustrated bc I have to wait on snail mail to see what comes next but i get another email from the Education Dept. in D.C. saying that they have received notification of my clearance and will begin looking at my placement. Apparently, two ppl are nominated for each placement (since many ppl change their minds) so I may get put somewhere else. I’m also supposed to send an updated resume with any additional work or volunteer experience.

March 24 – I get an email from the Education office asking for an updated resume and a final transcript if I have it.I sent them an updated resume since I haven’t graduated yet.

April 22– I get asked once again to submit an updated resume, a final transcript and my current address from a different person. I send my resume again along with my current address.

April 27 – I receive an email from the “Health Skills” test asking me more specific questions such as “How have you prepared for the Peace Corps” , “How do you feel about leaving your family”, etc. I send my responses the next day.

April 30 – I never heard back from any of the three people that contacted me for various reasons from the Peace Corps but today I got a “Status Update” notification in my email so I logged into my PC account and it says I’ve officially been nominated to a country….but I have to wait for it to come in the mail. Once I receive it, I have ten days to accept or reject the invite. I’m relieved that a large part of the process is over! I was a little nervous with all of the questions that I was going to have to wait much longer to know where I was going. I’m usually a patient person but I wanted to know if this was all going to work out or not because life is going to happen soon and I need some sort of plan so I wouldn’t be homeless when my lease is up in August! Now…I wait. (in excitement!)

May 3 – I get my invite in the mail. I’m going to Kazakhstan!

May 8 – After reading through the materials, I email Peace Corps and officially accept my invitation. Shortly after I send in my aspiration statement and updated resume to the Kazakhstan office.  I also apply for my Visa and Passport. Words of advice: You won’t know everything you need to for the Visa application. Call the number and they’ll tell you what to leave blank so they can fill it out when they receive it.

May 27 – 8:00 a.m. surgery! Wisdom teeth and cyst are removed from my mouth.  A week later I go for a follow up, my mouth is still sore (mostly from the cyst removal that was eating away at my jaw – I’m really fortunate that the Peace Corps made me remove my wisdom teeth. If i had never done the dental exam, I never would have known there was a cyst eating away at my now paper-thin jawbone!

June – Reading blogs of current Peace Corps volunteers like mad, starting to learn the Russian alphabet! 10 letters down!