After I accepted my invitation to serve in South Africa, I had to do a lot of things quickly — apply for my visa, renew my passport, get the yellow fever vaccine, update my resume and write an aspiration statement. Here’s my aspiration statement, which is the first glimpse the Peace Corps staff in South Africa has of me!
A) The professional attributes that you plan to use, and what aspirations you hope to accomplish during your Peace Corps service:
During my Peace Corps service, I plan to use professional skills I attained through my year of domestic service with AmeriCorps as a City Year corps member. Working in a classroom taught me preparation and organizational skills, which I plan to use when structuring my lectures for my classroom. Likewise, I plan to practice my teaching and lectures before actually delivering lectures to my students so I am prepared and don’t run into any difficulties that could have been avoided. I will set realistic goals and expectations for myself as a school teacher, other teachers and for my students based on their age, grade level and English experience. It is also important that I use my creativity to develop fun lessons for my students and share best practices with other teachers about teaching and subjects being taught. My interpersonal communication skills will also come in handy to connect with other Volunteers and South Africans I will be working with. The aspirations I hope to fulfill as a Peace Corps Volunteer range from becoming a better educator to making lifelong friends and family. I hope to use these two years as a school teacher to give me the utter most confidence to teach in the future. I aspire to give my students as decent of an education about English and HIV/AIDS as they can receive, regardless of the lack of resources there may be at their school, as I have done so with City Year. I understand that change is a slow process, but although I may not see any direct change within my classroom for a long time, I want to know that I made a difference in at least one person’s life. I want to fulfill integrating myself into a culture different from my own and truly feeling part of that culture. I dream to find friends and people I can call family through my community, Volunteer group and host family.
B) Your strategies for working effectively with host country partners to meet expressed needs:
One of my strategies for working effectively with host country partners is understanding the cultural norms of women in South African society. I will dress appropriately and professionally and withhold some of my personal beliefs that women may not be able to express in portions of South Africa. I will also adhere to the religious protocol. Although I am not religious, I will openly take part in, respect and learn my community’s religion. I will work hard to ensure that my young age does not hinder my success as a Volunteer. These measures will help meet expressed needs in schools because I will be taken more seriously as a school teacher. Likewise, I will use my communication skills and be very personable with those around me to create a welcoming environment, which will show my community counterparts that I am a hardworking and genuine person who wants to experience their culture and is honored to be living in the community.
C) Your strategies for adapting to a new culture with respect to our your own cultural background:
My strategies to adapt to a culture different from my own start by bringing the minimal number of American things I use consistently like advanced technology, stylish clothing and food items. Although it may be hard in the beginning without such things, if I live like the community, I will adapt to it more easily. I will always keep who I am as a part of me — like my tattoo on my wrist that says “hold fast to dreams” that is a symbol for my ambitions in life — but I know I will have to cover it up with jewelry, a watch or clothing due to cultural norms; that’s one way of conforming to South African culture, but also not losing sight of who I am as a person. A major part of who I am is also that I enjoy writing nonfiction stories about my experiences, which is something I won’t have to give up when assimilating to a new culture. Journalism reporting is the most important to me culturally, so I think being able to keep writing will allow me to take in other aspects of South African culture easily like food, language, religion, living arrangements and traditions.
D) The skills and knowledge you hope to gain during pre-service training to best serve your future community project:
The knowledge I hope to attain at pre-service training is supplemental material about South African history, politics, economy and how these subjects relate to the educational system. I plan to do a lot of research beforehand, but I hope pre-service training is somewhat like a college lecture — I read and then the trainer supplements the research I’ve already done for a greater understanding. I want to learn enough about South Africa and its educational system so I can be productive and effective when working in a school and understand the school’s rules procedures. I would also like to learn more about the use of corporal punishment in schools and how Volunteers should respond to it. By living with a host family for cross-cultural training, I hope to learn how families interact and value education so I can translate my primary experiences into creating an efficient plan for parent-teacher relationships at the school I am assigned to. I would also like to gain more knowledge about the specifics of the Schools and Communities Resource Project; for example, I want to understand how we help other teachers understand material being taught or how we identify that we need to do so. As for learning new skills, I am determined to learn the language of my community during pre-service training so I can comfortably speak with those I live with and work with when I arrive in the community I will be serving in. I hope to learn from my peers in my Volunteer group about different techniques they may be using to teach, assimilate to South African culture and cope with the transition from America to South Africa.
E) How you think Peace Corps service will influence your personal and professional aspirations after your service ends:
Working at a middle school in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles has interested me in coming back to a similar neighborhood and working as an English and journalism teacher. I believe teaching in South Africa will widen these aspirations even more and help me build the experience I need to teach in Los Angeles when I return to America. If I do not end up teaching, I am interested in pursuing a master’s degree in public diplomacy, which is a combination of international studies and journalism. The Peace Corps is valued as a form of public diplomacy because I will be experiencing a different culture, teaching South Africans about America and will be able to share my experiences back in America for years to come. My 27 months in South Africa will be a real life approach to public diplomacy, which will help me contribute to the study of public diplomacy in American universities because it is a relatively new academic study. My personal aspirations are to just be happy in life, keep helping others and always be passionate about her work I am doing. I know that I will be passionate about my Peace Corps service, which will motivate me to keep doing service work after I return to the America. I am not the type of person who can sit in an office and do work that I know isn’t positively helping combat social issues or working directly with others. I need to be interacting with people and be always on-the-go. My Peace Corps service will instill these values in me even more so I will continue doing similar social issue work whether that is in America or abroad after my Peace Corps service ends.