1. So…Why Peace Corps?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

So…why Peace Corps?

As most of you now know, the next two+ years of my life are to be spent as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine. I’ll be spending my time there as an English teacher to secondary school children (which means kids of all ages between 8 and 17). I’m still waiting to find out where exactly in the country I’ll be placed, and whether I’ll be speaking Ukrainian or Russian most of the time. There are still lots of details that are being worked out, but while we’re all waiting for that, some of you might like to hear the beginning of my story…how/when/why did I decide to get involved with the Peace Corps? 

As part of the initial Peace Corps application, you have to write a personal statement which basically asks, “Why Peace Corps? Why do you want to be a Volunteer for the Peace Corps?” For me, there was never an easy answer to that question. I spent hours and days and weeks pondering and searching for my answer.  Even months after submitting my application and being nominated to a placement in Ukraine, the story of how I arrived at this point, as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV), is one that is still unclear to me. In fact, if someone asked me to start at the beginning of this story, I’m not really 100% sure where that beginning would be. But here are a few starting points that come to mind-
 
scene 1 (fall 2006)
set: college dorm room at Santa Clara California
characters: Alexandra, Becca
These two girls sit in Becca and Kathryn’s freshman year dorm room on second floor short wing of the Flip. Although they seem to be close, it has in reality only been a few short weeks (or perhaps months…my perception of time is none too specific) since they first met. Yet the two have shared secrets and dreams and good portions of their truest selves. One evening the girls discuss hopes and ideas for their future. It is Becca who first introduces the idea of the Peace Corps. Although Alexandra had heard of this organization before, she was not too familiar with it. Becca showed her the website and explained to her a little more about what the Peace Corps was about. This was the first Peace Corps seed that was planted in Alexandra’s mind.
 
scene 2 (spring 2009)
set: Taize, France
characters: Alexandra, Ellen, Cody
It is spring break of Alexandra’s year of study in Paris, France. Along with two people who she barely knew at the time, but who would soon have meaningful and important roles in her life, Alexandra took the week of vacation to visit Taize- a retreat center in the French country side. It was a peaceful and formative week when Alexandra met others who were thinking about going into service work and projects after graduating college. Ellen talked about divinity school, and Cody talked about Peace Corps. This was the moment when the Peace Corps idea, which had remained just a dormant half-thought in her head for two and a half years, began to flourish and awaken, and take on the semblance of a future reality.
 
scene 3 (summer 2009)
set: house near SCU
characters: Alexandra, party people
After returning from France in the summer of 2009, Alexandra was at a party with some friends. One of the people there was already in the process of applying to the Peace Corps. It was at this point that she decided that it was time. Time to start the application process! The idea and the thoughts, worries, hesitations, concerns but also excitements and anticipations had been stewing up long enough in her heart and mind and it was time to transfer that boiling stew of energy and emotion into concrete work- time to start applying.
 
scene 4 (winter 2010)
set: 533 Mission St.
characters: Alexandra, Rae, Amy, Sarah
In January of 2010 Alexandra presses “submit” on the online Peace Corps application. In excitement and relief she runs into the living room to tell her housemates that she has finally submitted the extensive application (and believe me, extensive does not even begin to properly describe the length and depth of the application!). Resume has been written, medical questions have been answered, essays have been drafted, and emails have been sent. The roller coaster ride of the Peace Corps had officially climbed up the first big hill and was well on its way to speeding down the first drop. But so many more steeper hills, scarier drops, and stomach turning loops were now well on their way.
 
Each of those scenes could be a beginning I suppose. Each moment stands out to me as key in my decision to spend the next 27 months of my life as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine. My decision to join the Peace Corps has been anything but quick. It was not a whim, or a rushed decision. It’s taken years for me to think about, to act upon, and to finally decide that this was what I wanted to do and was where I wanted to be. I’ve thought of other options, applied to other things, turned away other ideas. 
 
I’m nervous for the next two years. But I’m also going into it confident that this is what I want to do. I’m excited and anxious and nervous and happy. I’m confused and I see clearly. I’m a mess and a jumble, but composed and calm. I’m where you’d expect someone to be who is happy with her decision, but unsure about what the future may bring. 
 
So that was a bunch of feelings and (really) long explanations about where I’ve ended up, but here’s the quick info:
 
Who: Me! Alexandra
What: Peace Corps Volunteer
What x 2: English Teacher for Secondary School
When: Orientation begins September 24th, 2010
Where: Ukraine (exact city/village yet to be determined-I’ll find this out sometime during training in the next few months)
Why: Well, it’s like I said-I’ll never be quite sure where the answer to that question starts or even ends…
… Suffice to stay, because it’s what feels right.

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