Why the Peace Corps?

            Although it is senior year, I am often reminded what it was like to be a freshman and meeting new people all the time. Truly, the number of people whom I am being introduced to has not dwindled as might be suspected, rather it’s quite the opposite. It really is nice to see that even in senior year–when we have less than eight months or so left–we are making new friends and are open to the diversity that comes with it. Regardless of the setting these conversations often turn to our future plans—we are seniors after all. And that’s is where I get a lot of practice telling my peace corps story.

Whether it is after a 5k, at the pub, or even in class; the fact that I am taking part in the peace corps almost certainly comes up. Since many people don’t have a solid idea of what the Peace Corps does, let alone the logistics of the program, those are often the first questions I field.

“How long is the commitment?” “Where will you go?” “When do you leave?”

And inevitably this question arises: “what made you think of doing the Peace Corps?” A question that defies the short, one sentence answer that the others allowed, and one which will shape the entire conversation. This is the point where I can give a superficial answer, or I can give an honest answer. And here is my honest answer:

I actually didn’t know anything about the Peace Corps until about a year ago when a friend asked me about the Peace Corps assuming that I would be knowledgeable about the program. Well, it was this question which led me to seek-out some information regarding what the program actually does. My first stop was Wikipedia, of course, and then whatever random sites I stumbled upon. After reading about both the good and the bad things people were saying about the Peace Corps online, I was still intrigued and figured a book should be my next avenue of pursuit: I decided to read Fiesta of Sunset by Taylor Dibbert and The Peace Corps: Misadventures in Love and Africa by Andy Christofferson. Both turned out to be unbelievable narratives of their respective times in service. As it were, the two accounts couldn’t be more dissimilar: Andy taught chemistry in Africa while Taylor planned water systems in Guatemala. But what I saw in both of their experiences was a path directed by service, exchange, and hope. A path I could see myself walking.

At this point I felt fairly confident that I had enough information to start my application process, but there was still one more thing to consult before I could confidently move forward. I knew my friends were sure to have a pertinent perspective and to raise important questions since they know me quite well. They know me so well in fact that some of them claimed to have foreseen my interest in the Peace Corps even before I knew anything about the program. Like I said, they know we well, perhaps too well. There are few things as motivating as having everyone support your plans even among doubt, and my choice to pursue the peace corps was no different. So many of the people I talked with, whether it be a professor, a friend, or a coworker, all said something akin to: “The peace corps? Yeah, that is most definitely you. I can see you doing that!” It was touching having all these people, whom I care deeply for, saying that I could do this. So with their benisons I started to slowly fill out the application–throwing my lot into an unknown future.

So, why the Peace Corps? Because the Peace Corps can offer the challenge, the novelty, and the opportunity for experience that none of my other options can guarantee. I get an exciting, yet nervous, feeling in the pit of my stomach when I try to imagine what my experience might be like since virtually nothing is predetermined. I suppose that is part of the draw, the same draw that brings me to run ultramarathon distances.

For an update on this front check out this update.

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