So when you’re accepted to serve with the Peace Corps, you might think that all the work is done. WRONG. Accepting an invitation actually begins a whirlwind process of tasks that the invitee must complete–applying for a diplomatic passport, getting finger printed/background checked, a bunch of medical/dental tasks, etc. One of the earlier tasks that we have is to submit an “Aspiration Statement” about our service. Basically, it asks us to talk about our past experiences and skills and how we will employ them in service. It also asks us to take about what we hope to achieve with our service and how we will deal with cultural differences. Anyhow, I just submitted my aspiration statement in just under the wire–they are due 30 days post-invitation, and today is day 30–and figured I would share it here. Service is still a long ways away for me (departure date: August 30), but I know it will be here sooner than I can imagine.
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 know I will need to call on previous experiences and skills that I have developed over the past few years in order to be a successful volunteer. I think that three of my most valuable skills for Peace Corps service are my ability to plan and organize efficiently, my communication skills, and my creativity. In terms of technical responsibilities of my assignment (teaching English), I know that my organizational abilities will be of utmost importance. Having served as an ESL teacher for the past few months, I have concrete experience in planning, executing, and reflecting upon my English lessons. I know how to allocate my time for lesson planning and grading, and I have learned how to facilitate classes of high school students and adults by myself. I have developed a system to manage my classes efficiently as well—through procedures, routines, and patterns—and while I’m sure that I will have to adapt these for my classes in Mozambique, knowing how to organize a classroom and adjust as needed is an invaluable tool. Secondly, my communication skills will be essential to a successful service. Having studied Spanish for several years and Portuguese for one year, I already have strong foundations for continued Portuguese language study. Along with my ability to already communicate at a basic level in Portuguese are my strong listening skills. Having been trained through my positions as a Resident Assistant and Student Orientation Leader and having had three years of practicing what I’ve learned, I feel that I am a skilled listener who knows how to ask good questions. The ability to ask questions and truly listen to host country nationals as well as other Peace Corps staff that I may be working with will make collaboration much easier and will help me successfully integrate into my community. Finally, my creativity will allow me to bring new ideas and fresh perspective into my primary and secondary projects. I have developed creativity through planning my own classes both as an ESL teacher and a facilitator of a course at my undergraduate institution, as well as through planning events and activities in various employment and volunteer capacities. I hope to bring exciting and different ideas to implement in my community. All of these three characteristics will help me serve my community to the best of my ability.
Identify two strategies for working effectively with host country partners to meet expressed needs.
Potentially the most important aspect of working on a team is openness. I think that I will be working hard to be as open as possible to listening to the needs, desires, and input of my counterpart and community. I will ask many questions and clarify their goals so that I can figure out how to best work alongside them. I also plan to ask them about their expectations for me and how they envision my role in the community, so I can meet their needs and fit into their plans for me. I will do my best to make it clear to them that I am always available to chat with, and if my role needs to be reevaluated/changed, that I am open to changes. The second strategy I will use is patience. I think that this is key in working with people in any context, and especially so while living in a foreign country. I
will work to be patient with my community and counterpart and be understanding of cultural differences. I will strive to be cognizant of cultural perspectives surrounding time.
Your strategy for adapting to a new culture with respect to your own cultural background
I think that the most important strategy I can use to adapt to a new culture is to observe traditions, customs, and habits carefully. In doing so, this will enable me to better fit in with Mozambican culture and behave according to local norms and standards. I will pay particular attention to the roles and expectations of women, as I know that in foreign countries, gender roles are often stricter than in the United States. Moreover, I will ask questions about the culture to learn more. I will not make judgments, but rather be curious about the underlying reasons for differences I observe. I will strive to understand as much as possible about Mozambique’s history and cultures. I will do my best to adapt to Mozambican culture through these methods.
The skills and knowledge you hope to gain through pre-service training to best serve your future community and project
There are four major things that I would like to gain during pre-service training: language proficiency in Portuguese and the local language at my site; a decent understanding of the education system in Mozambique; innovative methods for teaching ESL, especially in an under-resourced environment; and survival skills that will help me take care of myself in my community. All of these elements will help me best serve my community and project. Language proficiency, because it will allow me to communicate more smoothly with community members; an understanding of the education system, so that I can learn my place within it; innovative methods for teaching ESL, so that I can be the best teacher possible; and survival skills, so that I can have my basic needs met and thus serve my community better.
How you think Peace Corps service will influence your personal and professional aspirations after your service ends
I hope to emerge from my service with a better idea of my career goals and what I want to focus on professionally. I know that I enjoy teaching from my experiences in classrooms as a volunteer in college and as an ESL teacher in Ecuador, but I want to explore what teaching is like in a different culture and different education system. I believe I want to work with immigrants and refugees in some sort of capacity when I return to the States, and I hope that my service in Mozambique builds my cross-cultural communication skills. I am also excited about and open to the fact that my service might completely alter my career path. Personally, I hope to become more self-sufficient, more open-minded, and more compassionate through the course of my service. I hope to emerge a more global citizen and in general a better, more humble and kind human being.