This May marks the one year anniversary and halfway mark into my two-year Peace Corps service (whoo!).
As I reflect on the ups and downs of my service, and the challenges I’ve faced not only in my host country, but also the challenges I, and many U.S. citizens and Peace Corps Volunteers around the world have faced in the wake of issues and changes on our own home front, I feel now, more than ever, is the time to encourage my friends, family, acquaintances, and blog readers to consider serving in the Peace Corps.
Today Americans are needed abroad.
We are needed abroad to represent the America that believes in equality, cultural acceptance, diversity, and a better future for all.
We are needed abroad to combat the messages of hate, violence, and intolerance that seem to consistently shadow our country in the news and media.
And today, more than ever, Americans are needed abroad to promote world peace and friendship and send a message of love and acceptance to our neighbors, and countries and people around the world.
So today, I give you 10 reasons why you should join The Peace Corps.
1. You want to make a lil’ difference in the world.
Someone recently told me: “it’s impossible to make a change in the life of another or a community. You can however, make a difference.”
As I come into my second year of service and experience a buffet of emotions–excitement for the upcoming year, yet feelings of apprehension and a ping of disappointment, feeling like I haven’t done anything the past year–I remind myself to take a deep breath, sit back and realize that change and difference come in all forms and sizes and cannot happen overnight.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you won’t solve all the problems that lie within your country of service but what you can do is make a lil’ difference. You will join a community where you will make new family, neighbors, work partners, and meet a heard of inescapable children. And without even knowing it, you will change their lives. And they will change yours. You will exchange stories and experiences about your cultures and countries, and whether it be a lesson learned in the kitchen, the fields, or in the classroom, you will inevitably broaden horizons, open minds, and even learn a thing or two yourself.
2. You’ve always wanted to learn a new language.
If the face of all the other obstacles and hurdles that come along with the Peace Corps package, you will endure one of the greatest journeys of all: learning a new language. It is awkward. It is uncomfortable. It is exhausting. It is scary. But it is beautiful and rewarding. Learning a new language is a gratifying experience that will alter the way you think and see the world and furthermore, the way you understand and interact with your host country and culture.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you are provided 3 months of intensive language training before your 2 years of service that will ease your cultural immersion process. And, even some countries offer and require volunteers to live with host families to facilitate language development. Learn more about Peace Corps language training here.
3. You like to travel but don’t want to be a tourist.
Sure, traveling the world is fun. But as a tourist, you don’t always get the opportunity to see and experience life from a local perspective. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will have the opportunity to live and work side-by-side with locals in your host country. You will see the land, the food, the economy, religion–the world–from the perspective of a local citizen. You will be more than a tourist. You will be a resident and a local. This is your opportunity to experience not only a country different from your own, but a new and foreign way of life.
4. You want some new family members…errr or a lot.
When you talk about family with Peace Corps Volunteers you’ll say things like “wait, which one?”
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will gain new friends and make lasting relationships with other volunteers and locals within your host country and Peace Corps community.
You see, you have your “family family” back home in the states, you have the family that you lived with during the first 3 months of PST (and still visit for some lovin’ and good food), then you have your host family from site that you lived with for 6 months, and of course, you have your new volunteer family, the group of PCVs that you came to country with and the people that you will share an unbreakable bond with for the rest of your life.
In Peace Corps, you will be surrounded in an environment rich in diversity, culture, and open-mindedness. You will feel both welcomed and challenged as you, together with your new families, tackle and discuss the complex issues of your host community, country, and even the world.
5. You thrive in a challenging environment.
Said challenging environments: manual labor under the sun and a crazy classroom.
Ever feel like you’re someone who is thriving when your life is up in the air like a hail Mary? Join the Peace Corps.
When your personal life is falling apart, your counterpart doesn’t show up, and suddenly class, the only thing you had on your calendar for the rest of the day, gets cancelled, the only way is up. You will face daily challenges, have your plans ripped apart, your expectations stomped on, all while your emotional bubble pot is boiling over but I promise, you’ll make it through. Working in a challenging environment like those of Peace Corps Volunteers will build your character and your personality. You will discover innovative ways to solve and approach issues, how to be prepared for the most sporadic and time-consuming meetings, how to work with limited resources, and undoubtedly, how to manage stress and overwhelming situations like a boss.
6. You like working with kids. Or at least you can tolerate them.
You will work with children. They will be in your house. They will watch you. They will stare. They will touch your things. They will touch your face. You will play soccer. You will do the arts and the crafts. And you will get coughed on. Embrace it. Embrace the love. Because on those days you’re feeling sad or lonely, they will be there for you. When you need some love, they will brush your hair. When you want to practice your language, they will listen. And they will talk. They.will.talk. Whatever your role or position is in the Peace Corps, you will work with children. So prepare yourself. Because they will be an incredible resource and key part of your service.
7. You want a chance to be a self-starter.
When life gives you bananas, go run a marathon.
In your community, the world is your oyster. You can do (almost) anything. You can choose what projects you want to work on, when you want to work, how you want to work. It’s up to you. It’s the beauty of a “volunteer” position. You will learn how manage your day and schedule your life to meet your personal and professional goals.
To some, a life without a 9-5 may seem liberating. To others, it might seem frightening. For me, it’s been a little bit of both. I love waking up in the morning with no commitments or obligations. But some days, it can be hard to find the motivation to work on a project or finish that grant proposal that’s been sitting in the queue for a week, especially in a place with limited connectivity. And that’s not to say I don’t do it or it doesn’t get done. I’m just saying it’s been an adjustment..a learning experience, if you will. Living the “freelance” life has been an ever-changing process of tweaking and adjusting the way I manage my priorities without a boss, an office, or that 9-5 to keep me structured.
Your Peace Corps service will allow you to learn about your independent work habits. And you will learn SO much. You will be working at a grassroots level without many resources, management, direction, and for a while a limited understanding of your community and host country. But you will discover the tools and environment that you need to create for yourself in order to achieve success and be a self-starter.
8. You’re looking to do some self-discovery.
Have you gotten swept up in the daily grind? Do you feel like you never have time for yourself anymore? I know the struggle. Step back from that hectic life you’ve suddenly found yourself in and join the Peace Corps to rediscover (or discover) who you are. We’ve all been victim to the faced-paced lifestyle that surrounds us today and its no secret it can sweep us off our feet and blind us to the glorious life that exists outside the cheese maze. We fall into routine and the comfort of that cozy crock-pot life and forget about the dreams and goals we had before things got so warm. Well it’s time to jump out of that saucy bowl (ok I’m done) and join the Peace Corps to revive the light in your life.
It’s no secret that as a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will likely have some amount of free-time on your hands at one point or another. At first, this aspect of the Peace Corps terrified me. But for the past year I’ve learned to appreciate it and embrace it. I love working out and doing yoga in the morning, practicing Spanish with my host mom over coffee in the afternoon, learning to play the ukulele, making kombucha, discovering the tranquility and importance of daily meditation, and taking the time to connect more with the people I love in my life.
How do you want to live your life? You create your happiness as a Peace Corps Volunteer.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend some quality time with yourself and learn more about who you are and what you like to do outside the daily hustle. You will gain confidence and independence as you travel on this epic journey to a greater sense of mindfulness and self-awareness.
9. You believe growth happens in the uncomfortable zone.
Before tamales were in my comfort zone. Snakes…always in my uncomfortable zone.
I’m not here to say growth doesn’t happen in the comfort zone, but I’m going to say that growth will certainly happen in the uncomfortable zone. Throughout the cultural immersion process you will find yourself in very uncomfortable, mind-numbingly awkward positions. Whether it be sitting alone silently eating jell-o in the corner of a birthday party or being forced into a rapid speed tamale-making session you will endure the discomfiture. But you will survive and you will learn to suffer with poise and a smile on your face. And when you get through it, you’ll be stronger and more prepared for the next time. And after 2 years of it, you’ll be able to handle life’s most uncomfortable situations with calm and ease. Again, like a boss.
10. You want to represent the United States.
I don’t think this would necessarily be on my “Top 10” list, but we got a crisis on our hands people.
Recently, Donald Trump released a hard power budget that increases defense spending and makes significant cuts to foreign aid. Among the many other proposed domestic cuts and devastating changes that are taking place, this breaks my heart. As a leader in the international community, our country needs these “soft power” programs to help achieve international peace, world friendship, and reduce the need for military power.
In February, more than 120 retired generals and admirals released a letter to lawmakers opposing Trump’s proposed budget to make foreign aid cuts. In the letter, they said: “The State Department, USAID, Millennium Challenge Corporation, Peace Corps and other development agencies are critical to preventing conflict and reducing the need to put our men and women in uniform in harm’s way.”
As an ambassador and advocate of world peace and friendship, I will always stand by and support peaceful initiatives. To date, Peace Corps has served in 141 countries around the world with the aim of creating meaningful and lasting relationships with host country governments and locals.
There is no doubt in my mind that Peace Corps is an effective and powerful program that not only fosters peaceful relationships throughout the world, but reduces the need for war, combat, and conflict.
If you believe in peace, today is your day to take action. We need Americans like you to serve abroad and promote love, world peace, and international friendship.
Life is calling.. How far will you go?
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