The Peace Corps requires a lot out of you once you accept your invitation. As soon as the thrill of becoming a Peace Corps Invitee wears off, the real work begins. I haven’t even begun the tasks required for medical or legal clearance, and I’ve already completed a massive list of undertakings.
Thus far, I have:
- Read the “Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook,” the “Peace Corps Ecuador Volunteer Handbook,” and the “Volunteer Assignment Description” for Community Health Volunteers.
- Read my assignment description handbook
- Completed two online modules (and accompanying quizzes) called “Safety and Security” and “Core Expectations”
- Completed the Profile Information section of the New Volunteer Portal (i.e. confirm visa and no-fee passport application submission, authorization to release financial information, life insurance designation, authorization to release personal materials, and all that fun stuff)
- Read the handbooks for volunteers called “On the Homefront” and “A Few Minor Adjustments”
- Revamped my resume to relate it to my volunteer assignment
- Responded to the prompts given for the required Aspiration Statement
The Aspiration Statement
Volunteers are advised to use the motivation statements they wrote at the very beginning of their Peace Corps application process to help them write their Aspiration Statements. An Apiration Statement is comprised of a volunteer’s goals for service, and this statement often gives the staff in the volunteer’s country of service a first impression of the volunteer’s ambitions.
A: Three professional attributes that you plan to use during your Peace Corps service and how these will help you fulfill your aspirations and commitment to service.
I have a great deal of initiative in my academic, professional, and personal life. I’ve always considered myself to be a timely and industrious worker, which I know will come in handy during my service. From what I’ve learned from firsthand accounts, blogs, and articles, there is often a different attitude toward getting work done in other countries. Hopefully my ability to work diligently will help me transcend cultural boundaries so that I can get the most out of my experience. If I work in a health clinic, I’ll work diligently to reduce the taboo that often comes along with sexual health or women’s health. I know it will be a challenge, but I’m optimistic that my desire to work toward this goal will help me achieve it.
Work can be tough, and I’ve always been one to make it as fun as I can. I generally try to channel my spirit animal, Tina Fey, when I take on difficult tasks. If I can crack a quirky joke, or lighten the mood in any way, you bet I will. I’m confident that my lightheartedness will help me connect with the people in my community so that I can develop closer relationships, and hopefully, fulfill more projects during the course of my service. I’m eager to teach sex education to high school students, and I know it’s awkward. I’ve been there. Even in the US, sex ed. is uncomfortable. Hopefully I can develop fun lesson plans and activities that will reduce some of the inherent discomfiture that comes along with sex ed.
I truly don’t like giving up. When something gets difficult, I have a hard time letting it slip through my fingers. Being a biology major, I’ve developed immense critical thinking skills, and these skills have actually assisted me in day-to-day life and the workplace. If something doesn’t work, rather than giving up, I try to change the dynamic of my project. I’ve noticed that if I treat a difficult situation like a puzzle, I have more patience in reaching my goal. I fully expect my service to have a fair number of frustrations, but I love a good puzzle, and I’m ready to take on any challenge that comes my way.
B: Identify two strategies for working effectively with host country partners to meet expressed needs.
Adherence to cultural norms is an excellent way to gain the trust of Ecuadorian partners. I plan to continuously develop my language skills, maintain a professional appearance, and immerse myself in my community. For example, while I’m not religious myself, I expect to attend church services with my host family, because Ecuador is widely Catholic, and I want my community to know that I take every aspect of their lives very seriously. This cultural immersion will help me befriend community members and discover different projects to undertake.
While I intend to immerse myself in the Ecuadorian culture, I also anticipate socializing with the Ecuadorian people. I think this strategy correlates significantly with cultural devotion, and I don’t really believe one can work without the other. I can dress like them, (attempt to) talk like them, walk like them, and live like them, but if I don’t develop friendships with them, I’m little more than a stranger. I plan to ask community members what kind of change they would like to see, and I intend to record these conversations so that I can better gauge which needs are more often expressed. I’ll share this news with other volunteers and staff so that we can better keep track of the needs of Ecuadorian communities.
C: Your strategy for adapting to a new culture with respect to your own cultural background.
While I’m not a minority in the US, I know I’ll be one in Ecuador. I plan to reduce cultural differences by finding common interests between myself and the people in my community. For example, I love dancing to good music and reading. Perhaps I’ll attend birthday parties and weddings as a guest at first, but as I develop bonds with certain members of my community, I hope to work my way up to hosting dances and music-based events myself. I also love reading, and I’ve connected with many-a-person over books, so I’m eager to see where a love of books will take me. I’m almost positive I’ll have days where I’m missing home, so I’ll make sure to allow myself some alone time, or Skype time with friends and family from the states. I imagine times like those are extremely rejuvenating, and will ultimately help me focus. I’ve always noticed how adaptable humans can be, and Peace Corps Volunteers are some of the best examples of the positive adaptations that each of us can attain.
D: The skills and knowledge you hope to gain during pre-service training to best serve your future community and project.
While I have a minor in Spanish, I can only read and write the language, and my ability to speak it is pathetic at best. I know it’s absolutely crucial for me to gain this important skill during my first few months in-country, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to live with an Ecuadorian host family for the duration of pre-service training. It’s also an added bonus that I’ll be living with another family for six more months at my site. Full immersion in Spanish and Quechua will help me attain the language skills I’ll need to make a substantial difference in my community. Plus, I’m a young female volunteer, and I’d like to have the capacity to defend myself against gender or age-related discrimination. I’d hope to even become proficient enough to have educated conversations about the importance of gender equality. Like I mentioned earlier, I hope to instruct sex education courses to high school students, meaning I’d like to communicate with them in adequate Spanish. I want them to trust me, and knowing their language is a huge step to building that trust.
E: How you think Peace Corps service will influence your personal and professional aspirations after your service ends.
Professionally, I plan to become a primary care physician, working specifically with underserved communities. These groups can range from ethnic minorities to LGBTQ populations. I personally have a deep passion for women’s health, so service in a nation where women’s health is still viewed as distasteful will introduce me to worldviews that I otherwise wouldn’t experience in the US. Seeing every side of healthcare will assist me in becoming the best physician I can be. If I can improve the quality of people’s lives in my Ecuadorian community, then perhaps I can utilize some of the skills I gained during my service to improve the quality of lives in the United States
Personally, I’d love to see myself mature into a full-fledged adult. I could still use more confidence, and while I consider myself an independent person, I’d love to see myself in two years as a brave woman who can take on the world. Hopefully 24-year-old Abbie will pack up the artifacts of her Peace Corps experience, sit down on that one-way flight en route from Ecuador to Idaho, and say to herself, “What a ride it was.”