After months and months of going through the formal application process for the Peace Corps it is official! I received my official invitation to serve in the Peace Corps on January 11, 2012 while I was working in the IFSA-Butler Santiago, Chile office for DePauw’s Winter-Term 2012. My placement officer sent me the parts of my invitation packet that I needed to read over in order to decide whether I was going to accept or decline my invitation via email since I was out of the country at the time. So I took the next two nights after work reading through my assignment description and through the Peace Corps Ethiopia Welcome Book and finally decided this is going to happen. The next night on January 12, 2012 I finally finished reading everything and I sent in my official acceptance email.
Once returning back to DePauw’s campus I finally got to see the real thing, the hard copy of my invitation packet. I opened it right away and started reading through the whole thing. To say the least it is all a little bit overwhelming but I can’t explain how excited I am. I sent off my Peace Corps passport and Ethiopian Visa application at the beginning of this week and I just completed my aspiration statement and updated resume. These two documents are the way I introduce myself to the the Peace Corps country staff in Ethiopia so I literally spent all afternoon fine tuning everything. I’ve included the text of my aspiration statement below the map of Ethiopia for those who are interested in seeing it. It basically is suppose to describe me and my expectations for the Peace Corps and what strategies I will use to adapt to a new culture and in the end what I expect to gain from my service. For now, I wait and do paperwork. When I know more I will post updates. My set departure date is two weeks after I graduate from DePauw University (yeah kind of fast I know) on June 4, 2012. Then I will have two days of orientation in the states before heading off to Ethiopia on June 6, 2012 to begin my 27 months of service.
A: During my Peace Corps service I plan to use my leadership skills and my ability to listen and mentor others in order to assist in the building of a successful TEFL program in Ethiopia. The aspirations that I hope to fulfill during my Peace Corps service is to work hand in hand with English teachers in my host community to fully understand the language needs of the community where I work. At the same time I will help students, teachers and other community leaders I work with to integrate English learning into their daily lives.
I hope to be able to work with leaders in the education community where I am placed to not only help them improve teaching methods in their schools and organizations but also to create and implement new learning methods for their students and for themselves to make learning English not only educational but fun at the same time. Through a fun learning environment all parties will be more motivated and confident in studying and practicing a new language.
I am optimistic that my prior knowledge and experience working with students and teachers will allow me to help create an after-school program focused on promoting practice and conversation in English. This will allow for room to not only practice and mature English speaking skills but also it will foster conversation to gain an understanding about the differences in Ethiopian culture and the culture in the United States.
B: In order to work effectively with my host country partners the most important strategies I will use are to listen and observe. I must be open minded and be aware of the cultural differences in Ethiopia so I can understand and earn the respect of my host country partners with whom I will be working. It will be important to listen and observe so that I can understand what the specific needs are in my community so that I can work in collaboration with local community leaders to meet those needs. I must be attentive to local cultural norms and be willing to fully integrate myself in the community in order to gain the trust and friendship that is necessary in order to be successful in my assignment.
C: In order to adapt to the culture that I will find in Ethiopia I must remain open-minded and treat everyone I meet with respect. It may be hard at first to understand some aspects of the culture that I am not used to but I have to have patience and be flexible as I work to integrate and adapt myself to this new culture. It will be necessary that I understand that everything will be a learning experience and that I could possibly make mistakes along the way. I will have to adjust my lifestyle to fit the everyday lifestyle of an Ethiopian in order to fully assimilate into the new culture. This means possibly adding or possibly eliminating things that would normally be included in my everyday routine in the United States.
The other important strategy that will be needed to adapt into this new culture is to work hard to learn the local language. Understanding and speaking the local language will help me to gain the trust and understanding of the people I live and work with in my host community. Therefore, it will be essential to learn the local language in order to be able to communicate with the people I work with and not only for them to understand me but also so I am aware and understand their specific needs.
D: During my pre-service training I hope to gain at least an intermediate proficiency in the local language so that I am prepared after training to go out and begin practicing and speaking the language. If I can leave pre-service training with at least this proficiency level of the local language it will allow me to be confident and comfortable to practice the language as I begin my work in my host community where I am placed. I know my speaking skills in the local language will not be perfect at the end of pre-service training but with a lot of personal effort and studying it is possible to at least have the basic knowledge and framework needed to go out and practice the language with those I live and work with.
In addition to learning the basics of the local language I want to learn more about the local culture and about the technical skills that will be essential in successfully completing my assignment as a TEFL volunteer in order to work with students, teachers and other leaders in my host community.
E: At this moment it is unclear exactly how my Peace Corps service will influence my personal and professional aspirations after my service ends. However, I do believe that it will be a learning experience. I will grow as a person and I will potentially gain new skills that I never thought I would have had before.
I have a passion for learning about other cultures and different aspects around the world and I know my Peace Corps service will allow me to dive into to another culture completely different to the one that I have been accustomed to in the United States. My Peace Corps service will give me time to think and reflect on what it is that I really want to do with my life. After my service I would like to participate in the Coverdell Fellow program and earn an advanced degree in the field of international development. I not only love to travel and learn about other parts of the world but I like to help others and I believe going to graduate school and possibly applying to be a Coverdell Fellow will allow me to find work in the future that allows me to not only travel and learn about other cultures but also to help others so that they too can have opportunities to learn about what life is like in other parts of the world. What exactly my Peace Corps service will lead to I do not know, but I’m excited at the challenges I will have to face and things I will get to learn during my service and what my experience in Ethiopia will possibly lead to in the future.
*** Throughout the duration of my Peace Corps service I will be maintaining this blog to share updates, etc. If you don’t want to miss a post make sure you sign up to receive my email updates at the top of the sidebar on the right hand side of the homepage of my blog where it says “Subscribe via Email”.