Monday, January 16, 2012

2 Months until Departure!

In seeing that I am leaving for Morocco in only 9 weeks, I think it is time to write my first post! Hmm….Where to begin….Well, with many people asking me the question, why the Peace Corps? And, in seeing that this blog will be a place to record my ups and downs of Peace Corp life, I think it may be best to start off with an answer to that question.

I have faith that the Peace Corps is supposed to be the next chapter of my life. I truly feel called to become a Peace Corps volunteer. I have a strong curiosity for learning about other cultures, a passion for positively shaping the lives of others, a desire to seek out life challenges that foster self-growth, and an insatiable thirst for travel! Thus, the Peace Corps merges together my many interests and passions and serves as a unique pathway to reaching my potential as a leader and a mentor.

My passion for travel developed during the fall semester of my junior year, when I had the opportunity to study abroad. During this semester, I was exposed to new cultures and experiences that broadened my global perspective. I began to grasp that this type of perspective helped me better understand people from different backgrounds and life experiences. I wanted to learn and experience more and go abroad again in the near future.

My study abroad experience served as a seed that eventually grew into the decision to become a Peace Corp volunteer. During the remainder of my junior and senior year I gained more volunteer experience and began talking to Peace Corp returnees on campus. I made the decision to postpone applying for graduate school and solely focus on my dream of becoming a Peace Corp volunteer. The application process began in the beginning of my senior year. I submitted my application in September 2011 and interviewed in November. I was nominated for Community Service and Youth Development in the region of Asia on December 1, leaving July 2011. Woo hoo!! I distinctly remember jumping around the Knapp computer lab in extreme excitement upon hearing this news. Then I began completing the long medical portion of the application. I submitted my medical paperwork to the Peace Corps, and the waiting process began. I waited, and waited, AND waited to be medically cleared. At this point, I learned what it meant to be patient…a much needed Peace Corps skill, that and flexibility. Once I was medically cleared, I waited some more to hear details about departure and country of service. However, I was given little information and graduated college not really knowing where and when I would be leaving for the Peace Corps. I did not hear anything until June 2011. About a month before I was originally supposed to leave, I received an email informing me that due to the budget cuts I would be reassigned to another region and possibly another sector of the Peace Corps. (Ahhh What!?) I also would not be leaving until sometime between January and March of 2012. (January!!??) And, more waiting began… I was surprised to hear this news, but also grateful. (I must also note that I went through this entire application journey with one of my best friends, Elizabeth. I am so grateful to have someone to talk to about the ups and downs of the Peace Corps application process.)

I realized that after I graduated college I was physically and mentally exhausted. I needed time to rejuvenate and prepare for a 27-month commitment abroad. I didn’t mind the idea of saving money…more travel money! More time at home also meant more time to spend with my best friends. (I love my weekly trips to Columbus to see Anna and my trip to Michigan to see Bethany and New York City to see Hillary were fun ones too!) With this news I started to plan a life for myself at home for the next 9 months. It seemed like a long time, but I knew that it would go by quickly. I started waitressing at a local Pizza place and learned about volunteer opportunities in my community. I started teaching English to refugees and immigrants in the city, helped counsel girls in an anger management class, taught inner city kids about healthy eating and exercise, and started nannying for a family.

During the summer, I became close friends with Tom, who is currently serving in the Peace Corps. I had never felt a strong connection to my hometown, but with Tom’s help I learned that Cincinnati is actually a fun and interesting place. I did new things and got to talk about the Peace Corps as much as I wanted with him. Thanks Tom!

It was not until August that I FINALLY received my invitation to serve in the Peace Corps as a Youth Developer in Morocco. Quite a drastic shift from Asia, but I couldn’t have been more excited. Tears of joy! All the waiting had paid off. I could not wait to bury myself in books about Moroccan life and culture. Oh, and I have to learn Arabic! (A little more difficult than I suspected. I’ve been trying to self-teach on you-tube…going a bit slow.) I learned that my first preliminary project as a youth developer will include teaching English. Then, I will complete a community assessment. Based on the needs of the community, I will be responsible for developing more youth projects. I am thrilled that I have been placed in the Youth Development sector of the Peace Corps. My passion for youth empowerment really blossomed when I led a weeklong service trip to a girl’s empowerment organization, mentored youth at a Domestic violence shelter, and taught dance at a summer camp for girls. I want to help youth recognize that their unique talents and abilities can foster change in their communities.

I also made a long list of things that I wanted to accomplish before leaving for Morocco, including learning as much Arabic as possible, reading lots of books about Morocco, learning how to play the guitar, spending as much time as possible with family and friends, study and re-take the GRE, save lots of money, do lots of yoga, take modern dance, and be healthy. I can say that I usually set my expectations way too high, but I have managed to read some goods books, do yoga, dance, get healthy, and save money. I still have a couple more months and hope to accomplish a few more things on my list.

My main focus is to try and prepare myself to be the best volunteer that I can be in Morocco. I am still so naïve to what the Peace Corps experience will encompass, but am aware that this will be one of the most challenging, but rewarding experiences of my life. I have read about others experiences in the Peace Corps, but I know that every individual experience is 100% unique. I am looking forward to being immersed into an environment where everyday will include learning and experiencing something new. I am thrilled about integrating myself into the Moroccan culture and am excited about building relationships with people that will shape my life forever. I am so grateful I have been given this opportunity to serve in the Peace Corps. I feel I will be engaging in rare experience of life!

As my time of departure comes closer and closer, emotions are beginning to set in...I find myself tearing up knowing my sisters will grow so much while I am gone and I will not be here to witness it, family members won’t be the same, and I will miss my friends so incredibly much! Life will keep on going no matter where I am in the world. Although it may seem scary at times, I know this is what I am called to do. And so my Peace Corps adventure begins…much more to come! 


  1. Hey Melanie,

    Saw that you made your first post and just wanted to make a little comment! As we finish up our extra long waiting process for departure , it helps me to know that I am not alone in the process. Your experiences, thoughts, and emotions over the last few months mirror mine quite well. I am excited to hear how your Peace Corps experience develops and helps you grow as a person! And enjoy the time you have left here in the US of A :)

  2. Great meeting you Mel! Keep in touch!

    1. Great meeting you too! Thanks for all your help and advice!