How Has Peace Corps Changed You?

How Has Peace Corps Changed You?

It is easy to go into your Peace Corps service one way and come to a year changed.
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Sometimes it’s hard to process this whole Peace Corps experience. Living in a completely different culture, away from all of your family and friends, in a new community, trying to make new friends, and teaching children that English is not their native language gives you a lot of ups and downs and a lot of areas to learn and grow. I spend a lot of my “me time” and my “self-care” on reflection, which honestly has been really good for me. It has also been good for me to be able to answer the many questions I get from people back home. One of the questions I get the most is, “How have you changed since joining the Peace Corps?” Well first, I am not a huge fan of this question. I mean what if I haven’t changed? Okay, okay, it is very unlikely to not change in this process but you never know. Anyway, since I got this question so much I started to think about it. How have I changed? I honestly, realized right away that the answer was I am way more confident in so many things.

I have been thinking about why, this experience has given me more confidence. I am not exactly known for my confidence, I am actually known for my insecurities and my intense lack of confidence. In some ways my confidence has come from my weight loss, and someone finally getting me to look at myself and see that I am beautiful, (to that or should I say to whom I will be forever grateful). However, it is so much more than just that also. I mean I am living alone for the first time in a foreign country a place I have had to make new friends, learn a new language (that I am guilty of not using very often), and begin teaching in a classroom for the very first time. I am independent and in this situation it is easy to gain confidence in yourself and abilities. I never thought I would be able to live alone in a foreign country. I mean I can travel solo to pretty much anywhere in the country and feel confident and know that I’d be able to make it there in one piece. When I first moved to Uganda I was terrified of traveling and I would never travel by myself. Now I can proudly say that I actually don’t mind traveling alone. I mean don’t get me wrong traveling with others is much more fun having someone to talk to but I don’t need anyone to travel with. I also am starting to enjoy living alone and I have a lot more confidence in being able to care for myself. I am hoping that when I move back to the states after this journey is all over I am hoping that I get to live in an apartment by myself. I can’t imagine living with my parents again. No offence guys I am to comfortable living on my own.

Having new found confidence has helped me a lot. It has helped me make new friends, approach people in town that I don’t know but see around a lot so figure I should know. It has helped me in my relationship. It has also helped me with my anxiety. Now, my anxiety can still be pretty bad sometimes, but I can usually calm it down more quickly because of the confidence that I have built.

I will say this; confidence isn’t the only thing that has changed in me since joining the Peace Corps and moving to Uganda. I have become a better teacher, a kinder person (however I still have my days), a better friend, and I also don’t take people crap anymore. I have also been able to reevaluate my friendships and be okay with the loss of a few. Moving away has caused me to learn who my real friends are and who aren’t because for many it has become out of site out of mind and I am not about that. If you can’t talk to me and be here for me while I am away because damn I have needed people the friendship didn’t really ever mean anything. I know that sounds harsh but I am tired of getting hurt. Peace Corps will always be one of the best choices I have ever made. I am forever grateful for the changes that I have made in myself and I hope that others see them.

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Please Spare Me From The Three Months Of Summer Break When People Revert Back To High Schoolers

They look forward to swapping stories with their friends at the local diner, walking around their old high school with a weird sense of superiority, and reminiscing their pre-college lives.

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I know a surprising amount of people who actually couldn't wait to go home for the summer. They look forward to swapping stories with their friends at the local diner, walking around their old high school with a weird sense of superiority, and reminiscing their pre-college lives.

Me? Not so much. I don't mean to sound bitter. It's probably really comforting to return to a town where everyone knows your name, where your younger friends want you around to do their prom makeup, and where you can walk through Target without hiding in the deodorant aisle. But because I did this really annoying thing where my personality didn't really develop and my social anxiety didn't really loosen its grip on me until college, I have a very limited number of people to return to.

If you asked someone from my high school about Julia Bond, they would probably describe her as shy, studious, and uptight. I distinctly remember being afraid of people who JUULed (did you get high from it? was it illegal? could I secondhand smoke it and get lung cancer?) and crying over Algebra 1 in study hall (because nothing says fun and friendly like mascara steaks and furious scribbling in the back corner while everyone else throws paper airplanes and plays PubG Mobile).

I like to tell my college friends that if I met High School Julia, I would beat her up. I would like to think I could, even though I go to the gym now a third of the time I did then. It's not that it was High School Julia's fault that she closed herself off to everyone. She had a crippling fear of getting a B and an even worse fear of other people. But because she was so introverted and scared, College Julia has nothing to do but re-watch "The Office" for the 23rd time when she comes back.

Part of me is jealous of the people who came into their own before college. I see pictures of the same big friend groups I envied from a distance in high school, all their smiling faces at each other's college football games and pool parties and beach trips, and it makes me sad that I missed out on so many friendships because I was too scared to put myself out there. That part of me really, really wishes I had done things differently.

But a bigger, more confident part of me is really glad I had that experience. Foremost, everything I've gone through has shaped me. I mean, I hid in the freaking bathroom during lunch for the first two weeks of my freshman year of high school. I never got up to sharpen my pencil because I was scared people would talk about me. I couldn't even eat in front of people because I was so overwhelmingly self-conscious. I remember getting so sick at cross country practice because I ran four or five miles on an empty stomach.

Now, I look back and cringe at the ridiculousness because I've grown so much since then. Sure, I still have my quirks and I'm sure a year from now I'll write an article about what a weirdo Freshman Julia was. But I can tell who had the same experience as me. I can tell who was lonely in high school because they talk to the kids on my floor that study by themselves. I can tell who was afraid of speaking up because they listen so well. I can tell who was without a friend group because they stand by me when others don't. I can tell who hated high school, because it's obvious that they've never been as happy as they are now.

My dislike for high school, while inconvenient for this summer, might be one of the best things to happen to me. I learned how to overcome my fears, how to be independent, and how to make myself happy. I never belonged in high school, and that's why I will never take for granted where I belong here at Rutgers.

So maybe I don't have any prom pictures with a bunch of colorful dresses in a row, and maybe I didn't go to as many football games as I should have. Maybe I would've liked pep rallies, and maybe I missed out on senior week at the beach. But if I had experienced high school differently, I wouldn't be who I am today.

I wouldn't pinch myself daily because I still can't believe how lucky I am to have the friends that I do.

I wouldn't smile so hard every time I come back from class and hear my floormates calling me from the lounge.

I wouldn't well up when my roommate leaves Famous Amos cookies on my desk before a midterm, or know how to help the girl having a panic attack next to me before a final, or hear my mom tell my dad she's never seen me this happy before.

If I had loved high school, I wouldn't realize how amazing I have it in college. So amazing, in fact, that I never want to go home.

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What It's Like Being An Introverted Leader

Different people lead differently.

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When you think of the qualities a leader or someone in a leadership position should have, being out-going is often mentioned. However, I don't think that always has to be the case. I've been a part of many different leadership opportunities and programs, yet I'm still the same socially awkward hermit I've always been. Being out-going and extroverted doesn't qualify someone to be a good leader, just like being shy and introverted makes you a bad one, it's about your skills.

When I went to a leadership program at a summer camp, I often heard that I didn't talk very much or I was too quiet and shy for a summer camp entertaining kids, I should have been more talkative. I'd also get a few counselors coming up to be that when they were in the same program I was in, they were also the same things I was and not to worry about it. Even now, I'm still quite and relatively shy person, but that doesn't discredit my ability to be a good leader, or anyone else's.

In my high school ASB (Associated Student Body) class, we took a fun personality test to find out what kind of leaders we were; someone who likes to be in charge, be in the spotlight, more organized, or stay in the background. I got someone who likes to be in the spotlight, which was a surprise to me too, but thinking about it, it makes sense. I'm not overly out-going, but given the right motivation, I don't mind going up to people and striking up a conversation.

I can also say that at some point I have possessed all four of these personalities or traits over the course of my different leadership roles. The reason I'm even bringing this personality test up is that it definitely shows that there are different types of leaders out there, and not all of them have to be extraverted. I tried to find the one I took but couldn't find the exact one, but if you're interested there are a ton of different ones out there.

Over time, I've learned and worked on many valuable skills, like conflict resolution, time management, actually listening to what others have to say, and more. I keep myself up to date with my surroundings and what's going on in the world, and I still meet and hang out with people, when I have time. People grow and learn on their own pace, we should let them without overly critiquing them.

In the end, whether someone is out-going or not shouldn't determine the ability they have to be a good leader, sure in some cases it's better to more extraverted, but it's not a make or break trait. So long as they have their mind in the right place and know how to handle different tasks and situations, it doesn't matter.

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