Archive for May, 2011

5 Days

So, as of midnight I have 5 days until I officially start my Peace Corps experience. I will have a 12 hour pre-departure program in Philadelphia, a 3 day orientation in a city about 1 hour from Quito, Ecuador, and then a weekend of “quality time” with my host family before beginning my 11 week training program. As the countdown number gets lower and lower, I find that reality is definitely sinking in, and specific worries are starting to pop up, but I also experience moments of pure excitement and intense anticipation. In honor of my 5 days left in the USA, I decided to write out 5 things I am worried about and 5 things I am looking forward to. Let it be noted that you will find many things have made both lists- let the paradoxes begin.

Things I Am Nervous About

  1. LANGUAGE: I am nervous for the loss of language. The loss of familiar English in day to life, but also that first week or two where you communicate mostly through hand gestures and pointing rather than vocabulary. I am worried about how fast I can learn Spanish. Personally, I want to be able to communicate with the people around me. Professionally, I will have to pass a language exam at the end of 11 weeks of training in order to be officially sworn in as a Peace Corps volunteer and assigned a post.
  2. HOMESICK: I am so nervous that I will miss my friends and family so much that it will become unbearable. I understand that homesickness to a certain extent is normal. But what if I am thinking about it constantly, everyday? What if it doesn’t fade at all? What if I am tempted to come home?
  3. RELATIONSHIPS: I am nervous that I will lose touch with my friends, or that things will be too different when I come back. I am anxious about my Peace Corps training group members and how we will all get along. I am scared that I will not be able to build relationships with the people in my community.
  4. ADJUSTING: I am worried about if or how long it will take me to adjust to my new life as a PCV. I will have to adjust to the language, training, food, living arrangements, gender expectations, cultural norms, work environment, and limitations. Its a lot to adjust to.
  5. COMING BACK: Yeah, I realize its a little bit early to be thinking about that, but I can’t help it! Everything I have read to prepare me says that coming back to the U.S. after 27 months can sometimes be harder than joining. I will come back with no car, no job, very little money, and wonderful exerpience that will be difficult to explain to people. Who knows what will happen.

Things I am Excited for

  1. THE PERSONAL EXPERIENCES: I am excited to see new things, to live somewhere completely different, and to (hopefully) make an impact. If I do my job right, I will be helping to make sustainable change! I am excited to overcome challenges on my own. I am excited to be independent, to broaden my perspectives, to make onnce in a lifetime memories.
  2. THE PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCES: I am so thrilled to be learning about a new area of focus (health). I am excited to have the opportunity to work creatively and indepently with little supervision, to become more resourceful. I am excited to become fluent in another language.
  3. THE PEOPLE: I am excited to meet so many interesting people. I can’t wait to see who else is in my training class, and I am excited to meet my host family. I know that I will learn so so much from the community members I will be working with. I know that I will encounter people who are difficult for me to work with, but that these experiences will be just as valuable.
  4. THE DIFFERENCES: I love new things. I love wandering around a city with no destination, trying foods with mystery ingredients, saying yes to an invitation just because. Trying a new strategy, a new method, whatever. I know this comes a surprise to some becuase it doesn’t really mesh with some of my other personality traits, but its true. One of my favorite things about India was that most of the time I had no idea what the hell I was doing. Its a great way to live, because you walk into situations with minimal expectations.
  5. THE CHANGE: I am most excited because I know regardless of the mountains and valleys along the way, my Peace Corps experience will change me forever. It will shape my opinions, perspectives, values, and expectations for years to come. It will change my path in life.