Training Grounds

SenegalSince receiving my invitation to serve with the Peace Corps in Senegal, it seems as if my life as becoming training grounds for the 27 months I’ll spend in Africa. Starting a new job, moving to a new city, staying with a host family, making new friends, living in a foreign country, and learning a new language are among the lessons I’ve learned so far. As with many lessons, these weren’t always easy to learn, and some were downright difficult. But, in the end, they all lead to good things and strengthened the skills I hope to use as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV).

Months turn to weeks and weeks turn to days as the countdown to March 3 winds down. As I anticipate arriving in Thiès, Senegal for Pre-Service Training (PST), the anxiousness I felt in my stomach is being replaced by pure excitement. Not that I’m not scared, but the strength that is only present in the face of fear is empowering me.

Empowering me to touch up on my French skills. Empowering me to say goodbye to friends and family. And empowering me to invest in the lives of those around me, even if only for a short period of time. Because, although my remaining time in America may be short, the two years I spend in Africa will seem even shorter.

The most important lesson I’ve learned in the last year is to learn from the people around you. Though someone may only appear in your life for a summer, a month, or even just a moment, each human has a life lesson to share.

To listen, to love, to hope, to dream. A few of these have been shared with me.

When I look back on my African experience in two years, I hope I remember the lessons I learned from the people around me. Maybe I’ll change Africa for the better, but I know that Africa will change me for the best. The men and women I live, work, and travel with will share with me just as much as I share with them.

And, I have no doubt, Africa will be training grounds for something even greater. Because life has a way of always preparing us for the challenges we will face, of using our fears to make us stronger.

So, enjoy today for today, but always look forward to something far greater. Although you may not think you have what it takes, take what you have and face your fears. Share what you learn, because, after all, we’re all training.

At a Crossroads

Peace Corps

Inevitably, as you go through life, you come upon a crossroads. Sometimes, that crossroads seems to coincide with major life events and sometimes a crossroads is a major life event in and of itself. Maybe crossroads allows us to choose the path that will continue to define us, or maybe the path chooses us because it will lead to the person we are meant to be. Whatever the cause and wherever the choice will take us, crossroads will always continue to break the mundane routine of the comfortable person.

With graduation just around the corner, I have been contemplating the various options available to me. Volunteering. Internships. Teaching English as a Foreign Language in Korea. Full-time jobs. Travel. As a soon-to-be college graduate, the possibilities seem endless.

But something was pulling me toward the unconventional…

On a whim, back in April, I applied to be a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV). Just wanting to keep my options open, I never really gave the application a second thought.

Until a Peace Corps Recruiter called me in May, interviewed me, and, at the end of the interview, nominated me to a business program in Western Africa scheduled to leave in early 2014. I would have no further details until an formal invitation was extended to me.

Suddenly, the ball was rolling.

Throughout the summer months, I continued to contemplate the Peace Corps as well as a few other options. Knowing that I was quickly approaching a crossroads, I didn’t want to take the decision lightly.

Then, on Tuesday, September 3, I opened my email to find an invitation from the Peace Corps to serve as a Community Economic Development Agent in Senegal. I had seven days to accept or decline.

This was the crux of the matter.

Not wanting to make a poor decision, I used the full week to contemplate the invitation and seek advice. In my heart, I knew my decision. But my mind was a little slower.

Finally, on Tuesday, I accepted the invitation to become a PCV.

The Senegal program will depart in March. For 27 months, I will serve as a business adviser for small businesses and a mentor for youth and women in the areas of business and information technology. Throughout the three months of training and then my community placement, I will develop language skills in French and possibly another local language while immersing myself in another culture.

These 27 months will be biggest challenge I have ever encountered. But also the most rewarding. Excitement, nervousness, and anticipating course through my veins.

Here at this crossroads, I can’t wait to meet the person at the end of this journey.