We had to write two essays for our Peace Corps application.
Essay #1: The Motivational Essay, was to tell why we wanted to join the Peace Corps. This is what I wrote…
I have lived the typical American middle-class life — military service, college degree, career, marriage, hobbies and family. I have had a few bumps and bruises along the way, but for the most part life has been very good.
Being in our 50’s, my wife and I are in a different place than most of the Peace Corps applicants. Despite our age, we are just as healthy, fit and idealistic as when we were young; and we hope our additional life experience is seen as a “plus.” Recently we realized that our circumstances are such that now we are free and able to offer our service to the Peace Corps. Both of our careers are winding down, and fortunately my wife and I are financially able to step away from our jobs. We had already decided to sell our house, with the intention of eventually settling in a smaller one. Our children are grown and off the payroll. We are healthy and active. It is this “perfect storm” of circumstances that allow us at this moment in time to be free to devote our energies wherever we want to, wherever we are needed; and this is how we are able to make the commitment to serve abroad for 27 months.
Up to now my goal has been to provide for my family and make sure my children got a good education. Most of that goal has been achieved and now I can move in a different direction and look outward to provide help and support for others outside of my immediate family even outside of my country.
It is a blessing to have the opportunities, education and lifestyle that come with being born in the USA. However, I am well aware that any success I have had is partly just an accident of birth. I see the Peace Corps as an opportunity to “give back” some of myself and what I have been given here to people who were born in a developing country and could use some assistance.
Most of my career has been as an IT professional. The standard in that line of work is change. Programming languages and ways of doing things are constantly changing. I am used to changing and updating skills. I am ready to offer what I have learned and learn new skills to provide the assistance that is needed. For me, learning a new language will be one of the more challenging expectations of Peace Corps service. I am hoping that this willingness to learn in my workplace has helped prepare me for the many things I have to learn to live in a different culture.
Another large part of my job as an IT professional is communication and training. First, I communicate with people in all areas of a business to determine just what they need. Secondly, I communicate with a team of other programmers planning how best to create something for the customer. Lastly, I communicate with the customer, teaching them how to use the application we have created for them.
I see service in the Peace Corps as an opportunity to “give back”, but in the process I am confident that I will gain far more than I give. The educational opportunity alone will be huge. Learning another language and living in a different culture will be an amazing experience. Travel has been one of my favorite things to do and over the years I have made a number of nice trips, but just as an observer. Serving in the Peace Corps would give me an opportunity to be far more than an observer, but to get to know and make friends with the people of those countries. Once I have had the chance to immerse myself in the culture of another country and learn about the community, I will be able to help my friends in the US understand what it is really like in the country in which I served. Likewise I am aware that while serving I will be looked upon as a representative of the US and I need to show a good example.
I am aware that the living conditions where I am assigned may be a lot different than what I am used to and may be hard by US standards. I am expecting this to be one of the most challenging of the expectations initially. I have always looked at situations like that as a challenge to face and learn from. I feel that maturity, a willingness to see hardship as an adventure, and a sense of humor can help me. Also, I have had some interesting hobbies over the year that in a small way will help me to adapt. As a runner and cyclist, I competed in duathlon events with some success, including an invitation to represent the US for my age group in the a World Championship. As a competitive cyclist and runner, I have learned to set a goal and see it through, to endure pain, to be organized, to schedule and to be flexible when needed.
Another hobby I have is skydiving. I have a USPA “D” (Master) license and have made about 800 jumps. I was part of the team that recently set the US record for largest wingsuit formation. As a skydiver, I have made a commitment to exercise good judgment and take personal responsibility in the area of safety; and to watch out for others’ safety. I have served the role of coach and mentor to newer skydivers, being a good example for them and teaching them. Skydiving events have brought me around skydivers from all over the world and I have benefited greatly from those relationships. These experiences should prove useful.
I have never immersed myself in another culture in a developing nation, as Peace Corps volunteers are asked to do. It will be a big challenge. There certainly will be culture shock at first, and I will miss the comforts of home, but I am confident that I will adapt quickly and be helpful to the community around me. If selected and sent, I look forward to the relationships that I will form with individuals from such a different culture; and I look forward to seeing how different I will be upon return to the US. In a Peace Corps brochure, I saw a quote from one of your older volunteers, Shirley Triano, who wrote, “It’s never to late to make a difference”. It is time for me to make a difference, and with a position in the Peace Corps perhaps I shall.
Essay #2: The Cross Cultural essay, was to tell about our experience with multi-cultural situations. This is what I wrote…
As a Peace Corps volunteer I will be called on to not only visit a foreign country, but to live within a community in that country, and become a part of that community. I have visited other countries, but always as a tourist. I look forward to the experience of staying for an extended amount of time, making real connections with the local people and speaking with them in their own language.
I have never had to immerse myself in another culture to that extent, but in small ways I have had to adjust and adapt.
When I was growing up my father was in the Army, and we moved on average every two years, sometimes to a foreign country. Changing schools, neighborhoods and leaving friends every two years was an adjustment my sisters and I had to make, and we did make the adjustment successfully. It was not until I came out of the Air Force in my mid 20’s that I was able to move somewhere permanently. During those time when we moved I recall that we overcame our “newness” by becoming involved in activities which brought us into contact with the others and helped begin friendships. We had to initiate the relationships. That is a lesson I have carried forward into my adult years when change was occurring such as when I would change jobs.
In my chosen profession in Information Technology the workforce is very diverse. As I type this my co-worker on one side is from India, my co-worker on the other side is from Ukraine. In this case, I don’t have a lot of adjusting to do as they have done most of the adjusting, but I find that I enjoy their friendship and love to have conversations about what was like for them in their country of birth. I am sensitive to differences in religion and eating habits, and where appropriate I enjoy discussing and learning about those things as well.
You can read Tish’s Peace Corps essay by clicking HERE