Many people don’t understand, and some never will understand the draw of moving to a foreign country for 27 months to work with underserved communities and contributing to participatory development projects. Quizzical looks cross their faces…so you want to live in a hut? there won’t be any running water or electricity? My honest answer is that I don’t know yet. While I know I’m headed to South Africa in early July, the nature of my experience remains a mystery, my site placement will remain unknown until I near the end of training, and the experiences I encounter will certainly differ from those even current volunteers know.
Peace Corps is something I initially considered upon returning from serving as a Phoenix Sister Cities Youth Ambassador to Chengdu, China the summer before my senior year in high school. At that point, I was determined to pursue a career that would enable me to work internationally, though in what respect I remained unsure. Over the course of my college career, I expanded my international experience through study abroads in Brazil and Chile, volunteering in Ecuador, an internship at the U.S. Embassy in Suriname, and all complemented by the pursuit of a degree in Global Political and Economic Development. These experiences combined with the exposure to returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) heightened my desire to serve as a PCV.
The nature of Peace Corps allows for development on a personal and maybe even community level, but when the efforts of those involved are combined globally, enables real improvements. I’m not naive, I don’t expect to change the entire world over the course of my service, but I do hope to make an impact on those around me, to encourage pursuit of secondary and maybe even higher education or to instill a love of reading or running in a child who feels they lack these abilities. During my service, I expect for my community members to impact me as much if not even more so than I can possibly impact them, but these interactions will contribute to a future in development or diplomacy, in which there is the potential to make greater waves.