I want to join Peace Corps too!
Hey, that’s great! And I’m glad that you’re as stoked and excited as I was when I was in your shoes as well, but if I could have a talk with my previous self, here’s what I would say:
Let’s Be Honest
Peace Corps is not for everyone.
To recommend such a challenging experience to just anyone would be more reckless than optimistic. There are many, many other options that don’t have to put you in such a tough position. Joining Peace Corps was a personal endeavor me to learn and absorb as much as I can about myself, others, and the world. I would challenge the person on why they want to join and have them understand why they want to leave the safety of home, rather than aimlessly promote it to someone who just wants to travel for work.
It’s not the easiest thing to leave the safety of home, family and friends and being literally on the opposite side of the world doesn’t make communication easier. In the eyes of others: you’re the foreigner, you’re the American with the money. They will badger you with questions. They will ask you for money. They will make assumption upon assumption about who you are and what you do. And this isn’t a sort of 40-hour workweek job. This is 24/7 commitment as a pseudo-ambassador of America for the next two years.
The Benefits of Peace Corps
Beyond these challenges, however, there are the benefits. You have the opportunity to travel the world and live among a society that you would otherwise be inaccessible. You get to learn and work in a field of interest, to sharpen your skills as a intercultural communicator, and you can afford the time to learn more about yourself than you would have imagined. You obtain the grit gained from working in an environment like this. You obtain the self-confidence that you are far more capable than you imagine. You obtain so many personal skills that can only benefit you in the long run.
In my area of work, I get to work among those that envision this world to be without HIV/AIDS, without issues of hunger, without issues of poverty, and one day to see it through that the many women, young children, orphans and vulnerable children see that they are no longer limited by their socioeconomic predisposition.
Instead of the Africa that we all shamefully imagine, the Africa of the poor and less fortunate, instead, I see the Africa that is full of brilliant kids and inspiring adults that have just as many dreams as we do in America. And I have the opportunity to find and work with these kinds of people everyday.
You get excited to teach and excited to see others grow and learn that life doesn’t have to be so hard, and it was through your small impact that you can see it all unfold.
Say it out Loud
To those who are keen on joining Peace Corps: say your commitment out loud.
“I’m going to live in Africa for the next two years.”
“I’m going to work in an environment that I’ve never known before, with no way to turn back.”
“I’m going to live without running water and electricity.”
Saying something like this out loud puts things in to perspective that this is real. This isn’t a fantasy trip that you will all be fun and games, this is you as a professional in the real world. Fear is consistent and present in this job, but will you feign under pressure or find the courage and persevere?
Some people might say that Peace Corps would be the most difficult job you’ll ever have. I disagree. Rather I believe that Peace Corps would be the most intense lesson on your identity and self that you’ll ever have. While the mission of your job is how can you help others, the result of my experience is really how can you help yourself.
Still Committed? Read on.
I want people to be excited about Peace Corps, but I also want to paint a picture that includes some of the more difficult things to swallow. Therefore, I’ve written a few things that I aimed to try and help others out on what to expect.
Most of these articles are directly related to my experience in Peace Corps Uganda only, therefore, take this, like all information, with a grain of salt.