J.D. Mitchell’s Journey into the Peace Corps, Part II

Photo courtesy of Peace Corps.gov

“I leap over the moon.

And then, Heather tells me that my nominated assignment in Asia is still available, or, and she assures me this is rare, there is an English-teaching position available in East Africa that leaves at the end of May. She is leaving the decision to me: Asia or Africa?” – from “…Part I

*****

I leap over the moon a second time.

And then I say, “Africa sounds great.”

March 23, 2011: It’s mid-afternoon and I’m trying to convince myself to do some homework. There’s a succession of three hard knocks at the front door, the sound I’ve been waiting for. When I open the door, a large white envelope slumps against my foot and inside is a large blue folder, containing all of the information pertaining to my assignment. The first thing I see is a letter that begins, “Congratulations! It is with great pleasure that we invite you to begin training in Ethiopia for Peace Corps service.”

I didn’t decide to join the Peace Corps on a whim. There’s a lot to consider, especially the time commitment and the lack of modern amenities (running water, electricity, internet). There are vast cultural differences and a new language to contend with. For more than two years, I’ll wash my clothes in a river and my drinking water will come from a well, and it will need to be boiled. There’s new food. There’s not a Taco Bell. But, somehow, each of these challenges and obstacles is something I’m looking forward to. Ethiopia will offer a new way of life and I imagine my Peace Corps service will be an opportunity to learn as much as I have in the past four years.

On May 23, I will travel to Atlanta, where I’ll meet the other 70 volunteers who will be serving in Ethiopia. After two days of staging, where we’ll get to know each other, review pertinent information and receive a few more vaccinations, we will travel to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Through eight weeks of PST, I will receive training to become an English Language Teacher Trainer. In this role, my primary duties will be teaching in conjunction with my Ethiopian counterparts. I will collaborate with primary schools, colleges of teacher education, regional and state education bureaus, and education offices to produce creative methodology that will emphasize critical thinking and language mastery. Additionally, I will lead and partake in a significant amount of HIV/AIDS education and awareness programs throughout my community and region. I will also initiate a number of secondary projects to improve the conditions of my community. Through these experiences, I expect to broaden greatly my world perspective and not only leave my comfort zone, but annihilate it. After 17 years of organized education, I’m enthusiastic about the opportunity to apply what I’ve learned and to continue my education in a radical way.

For anyone interested in learning more about the Peace Corps, I offer this advice:

  • Educate yourself. Visit the Peace Corps website. It’s excellent and comprehensive. There’s information about what volunteers do, where they go, and what it’s like. They explicate the benefits of serving. Besides the obvious cultural and personal experiences, there are graduate school opportunities, transition funds, health insurance, and the potential for partial cancellation or deferment of student loans. There are videos, webinars and stories. Before you consider applying, you should know as much as possible.
  • Talk about your decision with friends and family members. They’ll be curious and will ask you questions, and you’ll see how much you actually know. Plus, it’s a big decision and it helps to talk about it.
  • Try to find someone who’s been in the Peace Corps. Ask about their experiences, the challenges, the rewards. First-hand accounts can be very helpful and informative.
  • Sit and think. Two years is a long time, especially in a developing country. Lay around and think about it. Make a list of the pros and cons. The application process takes between nine months and a year, so you have to apply well in advance of when you would expect to go.

If anyone is thinking about applying or has questions I may be able to answer regarding the application process, or anything else, please email me. The above information is only a fraction of what I’d like to say about the Peace Corps and if you want more details, don’t hesitate to contact me. My email address is jdmitchell@bsu.edu.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s