First one- I'm over on the amount of words but I cant decide on which topic is more important to expand on (why i enjoy enriching others lives or why I want to do this cross- culturally)
Upon graduating high school, I remember thinking, "I am going to join the Peace Corps." As I began filling out the application, I realized the seriousness of the commitment and although full of compassion and adventure, I was not ready. I needed more time to experience the world to prepare myself. Instead, I began my next chapter by obtaining a bachelor's degree in psychology. Studying psychology became my gateway into better understanding the human race; it allowed me to begin to follow my dreams of connecting and sharing mutual growth with people through my career.
After my degree I left for Spain to live abroad, learn Spanish and work. Although there are major differences between living abroad for three months and serving 27 months, being in Spain gave me the assurance I needed to apply for the Peace Corps. Picking up and leaving my home of 23 years taught me adaptation. I now know I have the ability to adapt and to adjust - encompassing the ten core expectations of the Peace Corps and beyond. My time in Spain taught me that wherever I am, I can find home.
Among the many reasons I want to serve are the most significant: to contribute to the welfare of others, challenge myself and play a role in cultural connectedness. I recall many times in my life that I have been lucky enough to be a link in connecting our world, particularly working with refugees and traveling outside the U.S. In addition to cultural connectedness, there is nothing quite as exhilarating as watching a person grow into a stronger individual, knowing that you may have played even the smallest part in their developmental growth. In my life, one of my most significant and memorable experiences of helping another was in Spain when eight-year-old InĂ©s, who knew no English prior to my stay, held an in-depth conversation with me. In helping others grow and reach their personal goals, I will grow simultaneously - helping me better serve my community, my world and fulfill my purpose here.
I am aware that at times serving in the Peace Corps will be challenging, but this only accelerates my desire to serve. I need challenge - emotional, physical and intellectual. I anticipate that among the most challenging obstacles I will face will be missing the familiarity of my Colorado home; and within the ten core expectations of the Peace Corps I believe that gaining trust will also be difficult. Trust, like all great things, takes time to develop. I will meet these challenges with optimism, respect and honesty, knowing that it is okay to miss home and that over time I will assimilate into the new culture, gaining the trust of my new family and friends abroad.
Kahlil Gibran once wrote, "You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give." I am ready to give myself back to a world that has blessed me in so many ways. There is no doubt, no question and no hesitation with me that I belong in the Peace Corps. I am ready to serve.
Throughout my life, I recall many times in which I have experienced social and cultural situations different from my own. Briefly living in Amman, Jordan - a primarily Muslim society - and working with refugees at my internship were both among two of the most diverse situations I have yet to experience. However, even simple visits to other cities throughout the United States and the move away from home for college taught me more and expanded my horizons regarding myself and others.
The most prominent social and cultural challenge I have faced yet was in the fall of 2012, when I moved to Guadalajara, Spain to live for three months. Surprisingly enough, it was not necessarily the new location or even the new culture that was most challenging about this experience: The most trying obstacle within this undertaking was living with another family. I stayed with a host family in a small four-bedroom loft and although I became very close with them and it was ultimately a great experience - there were, without a doubt, exceedingly difficult and challenging times.
When I arrived in Guadalajara my new roommates were complete strangers to me. Not only did I have to develop a relationship with them but I had to get to know them as both roommates and individuals. I had to learn their schedules, sleeping habits, food choices and understand that personal space was essentially non-existent. These habits all differed from my home - where sleeping early is important, meals are less cherished and autonomy is the norm. However, I was a guest in their home and culture, I had to learn their ways and adapt.
In addition to the basic living arrangements, I came across another difficulty: the language barrier. Effectively communicating with my host family's limited English combined with my limited Spanish was tough at some points, but rewarding nonetheless. Hand gestures became a regular occurrence - an adaptation. I was living with a family who had traditions and a religion that they took very seriously - all cultural entities that I was not a member of. By integrating myself in their lives with respect and an open-mind, over time I gained their trust as they gained mine.
I learned many things in those three months that I will bring with me to the Peace Corps. I learned the importance of getting to know my host family inside and outside our cultural differences. I learned what is most important to them and why; I learned where culture lies within their sense of being. I learned how to cope with a good book, meditation or running when I felt frustrated with my space. I learned that a smile or laugh goes a long way when communication gets frustrating; but most of all, I learned that human connectedness does not always rely on spoken words but rather on shared experiences.
Any input is appreciated thanks! :)