Last night, I had the fantastic opportunity to share my experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer with students at the University of Oregon by participating in a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) Panel Discussion!
It was great. I was able to share very briefly about my experience in Ukraine and answer questions students had about living abroad and experiencing life as Peace Corps Volunteers.
Here’s my general takeaway and advice for anyone considering serving in the Peace Corps.
- Do it. If you have an inkling that you want to do it or if it seems like it’s something you would do – Do it. You could do many different things – go straight to grad school, get married, start a family, begin a dream job in Washington DC, but I need to be honest with you – the two years you spend in Peace Corps will impact your life in a way and challenge you as a person in a way unlike anything else. Try it. If you’re willing.
- Take something quirky with you to keep your head on straight. Peace Corps can be lonely and can really challenge one’s sense of identity. I recommend you to take one material item that has some meaning to you. I took a ViewMaster with me to Peace Corps Ukraine. I had several sets of the Viewmaster films that my sister would send to me every few months. That Viewmaster kept me entertained when I was tired of rereading the books on my shelf and needed a break from reality.
- Don’t be so picky about where you go or what you want to do. The beauty of Peace Corps is that you have a chance to go to a place that needs your help and expertise AND – they are ready to share their culture and community with you! So try it. Trust the Peace Corps placement people – I think they’ll do a great job placing you!
- Be okay with missing out what’s going on in the U.S. There are many sections of pop culture and modern history that I missed out during my Peace Corps experience. And I missed changes in my friends’ and familiy’s lives – that’s okay. Be okay with being absent. Be okay with having a different direction in your life. And be okay with coming back to changes to your world in the U.S. after two years.
- Journal and take photos. Give yourself a chance to document your experience and keep those memories. When you come back to the U.S., you will have so many opportunities to work on the Third Goal of Peace Corps, sharing your experience. So make sure you’ve gathered enough material. And be at the ready to share it when you get a chance.
I would not be who I am today without my two Peace Corps experiences. I am so proud of what this organization provided for me, the people I met and loved along the way, and the many things I learned both in Ukraine and upon returning to the U.S. So truly, if you’re considering joining the Peace Corps, do it.