Why We’re Here: Peace Corps Personal Statements

Our first post on this blog was about where we live, what we do, and how we are. This one is about an even more important question: why we’re here. To that end, we’re going to share our personal essays from our Peace Corps applications. They ask for two main statements, one of motivation and one on cross-cultural experiences. These are our motivation essays, aka our official reasons for joining the Peace Corps! We wrote these in 2013, but we stand by these words still.

The Prompt:

“Peace Corps service presents major physical, emotional, and intellectual challenges. You have provided information on how you qualify for Peace Corps service elsewhere in the application. In the space below, please provide a statement (between 250-500 words) that includes:
• Your reasons for wanting to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer; and
• How these reasons are related to your past experiences and life goals.
• How you expect to satisfy the Peace Corps 10 Core Expectations (please be specific about which expectations you expect to find most challenging and how you plan to overcome these challenges).”

Who knew we'd end up here? (Swearing In Ceremony, April 2015)

Who knew we’d end up here? (Swearing In Ceremony, April 2015)

Robert’s peace Corps Personal Essay:

To me, serving in the Peace Corps is an opportunity I cannot let slip away. It is a program that encompasses so many of my dreams because it allows me to fulfill many of my own goals while simultaneously helping others.

Although the list of things I wish to accomplish in life is long, it is astounding how many serving in the Peace Corps will accomplish. I want to learn a different language, I want to be immersed into an entirely different culture, and I want to travel. One of my primary goals in life has been to help people in a meaningful way and I feel that Peace Corps uniquely provides me with that opportunity. By serving in Peace Corps, I would be given the time to truly understand what the problems are in a community—not only on a superficial basis, but in a cultural context as well. This in-depth understanding would allow me to help problem-solve ‘with’ the community as opposed to doing it ‘for’ them.

What motivates me most is how well Peace Corps overlaps with my life aspirations. I plan to go to medical school to become a primary care physician. One of the most overlooked things in medicine is the need to make a bond with your patients, the need to make a connection with each person on an individual level. I truly could not think of better training for this than being thrust into a different culture where one’s success as a volunteer is dictated by the connections one makes in the community.

In my desire to help people I have come to understand that no problem can be fixed overnight. It takes commitment, it takes patience, and most of all it takes respect from both parties. The only way to gain this respect while living abroad in a different community is to follow the cultural norms and practices of wherever you are living. This to me will be the most challenging part of serving abroad. However, this is not to say that this will deter me. I feel emboldened by this challenge, because this gives us an opportunity to show our community different cultural norms.

I cannot wait for the adventures and challenges that Peace Corps will present my wife and me, and I hope that through my service I will be able to leave a lasting effect on my community.

Julie’S PEACE CORPS PERSONAL ESSAY:

Whenever I thought about my post-graduation, pre-grad school plans, I always came back to the same themes. Traveling. Teaching. Volunteering. I want to serve as aPeace Corps Volunteer because I want to share my passion for language and creative expression with other people by empowering their own individual voices. The Peace Corps is an opportunity to do everything I’ve ever wanted: to travel, to live abroad, to teach my passion, to be a global citizen, to empower youth, to help alleviate poverty through self-determination, and to be directly involved with education equity issues.

I have been a volunteer and advocate for education equity for many years, and because of my experiences, I have come to realize the vital role that language plays in the world and the inflaming effect it can have on individual lives and social justice movements. The Peace Corps is a focused and hands-on way to impact the issues I care about most. Not only will serving with the Peace Corps build the skills I need as a future teacher, but it will allow me to continue to make a difference while engaged with my passions. I want to continue serving my community—and why should I limit the borders of that community?

The Peace Corps’ core expectations ask volunteers to serve “under conditions of hardship, if necessary.” I know that my service will present challenges that I cannot foresee or directly prepare for, which is why “effective service” requires flexibility. While I can say with certainty that I hope to dedicate my career to cultural understanding and community service, I admit that these are idealistic phrases that are often difficult to reconcile with the concrete daily challenges I might encounter. Because of this, I will need to truly utilize my adventurousness—a code word for my adaptability, open-mindedness, and appreciation for difference. I will need to constantly expand the lines of my comfort zone.

I’ve dealt with linguistic barriers as a former ELL student and a current ELL teacher. I’ve addressed issues of race and gender as a woman of color in the United States. I’ve worked under unfamiliar rules and regulations, complex social situations, and the pressure of improving human quality of life. These obstacles have made me into a more empathetic teacher and a more creative problem solver, but they will be on a much larger scale in the Peace Corps. Committing to my work will be a greater challenge in every way—and it is a challenge I can’t wait to undertake.

 


 

This post is also the first in a new series of posts we’re launching this year: Should I Join?. It’s all about the whys of our journey and the whats of our futures. The vast majority of our readers who contact us are people who are considering the same path we’re on, and we hope that this series will help them! Questions we will answer (based only on our experiences, of course) include:

  • Should I join the Peace Corps?
  • What should I expect when I’m applying for the Peace Corps?
  • What should I expect when I join the Peace Corps?
  • Should I join the Peace Corps as a married couple?
  • Should I join the Peace Corps as a person of color?
  • Should I join the Peace Corps if I want to go into academia as a career path?
  • Should I join the Peace Corps if I want to go to graduate school for something other than international development/public service?
  • Should I join the Peace Corps if I want to go to medical school?
  • Should I join the Peace Corps Morocco Program?
  • Should I join the Peace Corps Youth Development Sector?

You should definitely join us for this blogging journey, at least! There will be much more to come.

Yours Truly, 

Robert & Julie

Blogging Abroad's Boot Camp Blog Challenge: Starting January 2015
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