*** Disclaimer: The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps. ***
Visiting PST, regardless of what point of service you’re in, is a complete trip. Returning to a space where trainees are incredibly eager to learn and get started, eager to please and do exactly as they believe Peace Corps expects of them, and unsure how to and to what extent they can set boundaries while maintaining cultural sensitivity can be exhausting and plain weird. But visiting PST while being in a cohort nearing COS and after 20 months of the roller coaster that is Peace Corps is surprisingly a bit of an emotional ride. When talking to PCTs, you’re pushed into a space of mentorship despite your own remaining confusion on how you have managed to push through the muck thus far. Trainees tend to accept the words eschewed from a volunteer’s mouth as gold, clinging to any taste of life beyond the PST bubble and causing volunteers to very carefully weigh the words uttered in their presence.
Beyond the opportunity to meet a set of new faces intent on embarking on this insane journey, a visit to PST forces introspection. You are instantly sucked into remembering your own mental space during training and all the ensuing shit you’ve persevered through to be standing here. What trainees don’t see when they meet visiting volunteers is the fights they’ve had to crawl their ways through, the bitter and depleting days when you stay up all night questioning even staying.
I’m not typically one to humble brag, but I recently had someone who knows the struggles of my service well tell me that “lesser people would not still be here”. It gave me pause. Has my service really been exceptionally challenging? The reality is that it has been hard as hell. It’s a goddamn miracle that I’m not only still kicking but that I have found the strength and resilience to grow into love and acceptance for my service.
Today I’m an emotional mess, not because I’m plagued by depression or anxiety but because I’m overcome with gratitude. If anything, my Peace Corps service has been a crash course in resilience, growth and vulnerability. As I begin to contemplate my last few months in country, I do so a completely different person from the girl who stepped off the plane on a freezing July day.