In a lot of ways today marks an upsetting end and an exciting beginning for every member of my Peace Corps stagier. The beautiful upset stems from the notion that we are each losing the sense of community we have built over the last two months as each of the newly sworn-in volunteers take leave to their sites. Together we ran around Senegal facing new challenges, learning lessons both academic and personal, discovering our new reality and leaning on one another while hysterically laughing or when the weight of it all felt too much to bear.
This group of strangers became quickly and deeply connected in ways few others understand. As a family, for the last time, we rejoiced in each other’s individuality, tenacity and triumphs; we celebrated an end and the start of everyone’s beginning. In the early morning light, as each of us said goodbye to another with whom this experience was shared, I think we all were thankful for everyone and everything Pre-Service Training brought into our lives.
While the good far outweigh the bad and I am so glad I decided to accept my invitation to serve, this experience is not without its setbacks. One of the most important aspects of training is the attainment of language proficiency. We have a dedicated set of experiences designed to facilitate the acquisition of our given language, mine being Pullo Futta. Feeling confident after the final language proficiency exam, I began anticipating in excitement the opportunity that lie ahead. However, I would later discover that despite my efforts, I did not pass the exam. It was certainly not due to a lack of trying that somewhere along the way I fell behind my peers.
Joining the Peace Corps is a journey few decide to embark on. To enter this experience anticipating anything, really, is a disservice to oneself. There is no tangible way to understand, prior to arriving in country, anything about what service might look like for you. To enter such a unique opportunity with expectations, notions of what will constitute a “good” journey and so on only serve to rob you of what those who complete service describe as ‘the hardest thing you will ever love’.
I have only just began to understand service. I have yet to truly even embark on the adventure of my dreams. How could I ever qualify this experience? How could I have expectations about something as dynamic and fluid as the daily life of a Peace Corps volunteer? I came here with one notion, that the opportunity to enhance the lives of others is a precious opportunity I am willing and ready to pour myself into; that I will be the absolute best volunteer I can be.
I believe that when I pass my language proficiency exam and make it to site that waking up each day with this intention will allow me to facilitate the positive change I wish to see in rural Kedougou. It is not the world, but it is certainly a start.
The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.