Archive for June, 2010


Balancing Act

June 30, 2010

It’s been a fun week! Lots of stuff due very quickly all at the same time. I’m juggling all the Peace Corps stuff with my academic things, and I have to be careful to strike a delicate balance so I can get everything done without stressing myself out (seriously, it’s summer, the first summer I haven’t worked since I was 16 – I’m taking it pretty easy right now despite all the things I need to do).

My to do list:

  • Peace Corps: Aspiration Statement (finish by Friday)
  • Peace Corps: Update my resume (finish by Friday)
  • Peace Corps: Apply for passport and visa (as soon as possible)
  • Academic: Thesis rough draft – 1,000-2,000 words (finish by Sunday)
  • Academic: Conference paper – 20 minute paper (finish by next week)

Peace Corps wise, the statement and resume are almost done. I’m irritated I don’t have my teacher training information here with me to put on my resume, but all that stuff is in storage back home so I’m just going to have to let it go. And the statement! The questions are so vague I don’t even know where to begin. I spent all day yesterday poking at it and, well, I’m not too terribly impressed with what I’ve written. I’ll look over it again a few more times before I send it out in a couple of days. I have an appointment next week to hopefully get the passport and visa stuff taken care of, and I’ll tell y’all all about the fun adventure that’s sure to turn into (ROAD TRIP!).

In between all this Peace Corps stuff I’ve continued working on my thesis. My supervisor wants me to send her a good chunk of the middle because we’ve been having trouble structuring my paper and she wants me to see if what we came up with is going to work. I’ve been finishing up my research and will hopefully start writing tomorrow, which will give me a couple of days to bang it out. Since I pretty much know what I want to write in my head, it should be really easy after I finish the last of my reading.

Now, that conference paper…that’s going to be interesting. I was asked very last minute to present a paper at this huge conference here in Leeds by a friend because someone dropped out. This conference is one of the largest Medievalist conferences in the world (right up there with Kalamazoo) and, well, depending on the day I go from being pretty calm to freaking out. I’ve never presented a paper before and don’t know how comfortable I feel (as a Masters student) presenting my ideas to people who’ve been doing this for years, especially over a topic I have only studied for a semester. Argh. I wrote the paper last term but haven’t touched it to make it presentation worthy yet. I’ll have a week to work on it after all these other deadlines are met, which will be plenty of time (I hope). Because, hey, at least I have a paper. Some people who are also presenting papers don’t even have outlines for their papers yet. It’ll be a good experience at the very least and will look great on my resume if I continue in academia after the Peace Corps.

It’s all about balance, making sure I get everything done in time. I enjoy these kinds of balancing acts, though. Keeps life interesting. And after the conference, it’s going to be smooth sailing until I’m back home.


And That, As They Say…

June 24, 2010

…is that.

After reading through all the materials they sent me, sleeping on it, and waking up still smiling, I sent in my formal acceptance. I’m going to Ukraine in September!

The response from family and friends has been overwhelming, and it warms my heart to know that everyone is supporting me so completely. I am truly blessed.

Now that I’m officially an Invitee, I have lots of things to take care of within the next ten days: update my resume (which hasn’t changed much in the last month so will be easy), write my Aspiration Statement (to tell the in-country people how utterly awesome I am), fill out passport and visa applications (I have to find a UPS office…), and anything else the country desk tells me I need to do. All of this on top of a thesis rough draft due at the same time. Fun times!

After all of that is done, I’ll have about a month downtime before I need to start thinking about insurance, travel arrangements, and buying the things I’m going to need for this adventure (read: warm clothes). I also need to roughly plan out my 20 days at home and buy plane tickets to visit people during that time (shout out to the Seester!). I must say I’m really glad Dad is coming to spend a week with me here in England before I head home (we’re going to drive around Scotland!). It’ll be really good to get some him-and-me time in before the whirlwind that will be my time back home.

Some things I learned in my reading:

  • I’m going to be learning either Ukrainian or Russian during training, though I won’t know which one until I arrive so there isn’t much pre-departure prep I can do. However, there is a language program I’m supposed to look at provided by the PC. Ukrainian is the official language of the country, but since Russian was the official language for so long, a lot of parts still mainly speak that, though both languages are heard throughout the entire country.
  • I will be working at a higher eduction institution in a small to medium size town. ‘Higher education institution’ can mean anything from a university, an institute, or a college that may have either a teaching, technical, or business orientation.
  • Depending on where you are, Ukraine has cold winters with temperatures that dip below freezing and warm summers with temperatures that can get up to the 80s. There will be a betting pool established on how long it will take for this Texan girl to start complaining about the cold.

Random end note: I just realised something –  perogies, a dish I was introduced to here in England (thanks, Melody!), is a Ukrainian dish. I about spazzed. I LOVE perogies. The next two years are going to ROCK!


A Little Red Slip and a Big Blue Envelope

June 23, 2010

Every time I’ve walked into the mail room (yes, twice a day…), I’ve looked at the pile of packages, wondering if there were any new ones, if one of them could possibly be mine. I would open my mail box, hoping for the little red slip that would say I had a package, sighing in disappointment when there was nothing there.

This afternoon, there was a little red slip.

I felt myself get light headed as he pulled the package out from under the desk. I anxiously waited for him to find the book I had to sign, and, completely ignoring the elevator, I raced up the five flights of stairs to my flat. I quickly unloaded my backpack, taking deep breathes, putting things away until I could focus on the package. Ripping open the DHL packaging, I carefully pulled the contents out.

Finally, it was here. In my hands. The big blue envelope I’ve been hoping, praying, waiting for all of this time.

I opened the flap, and right in front was the paper that would satisfy all of my curiosity (it really did feel like Christmas morning):

Yes, that’s right! I’m going to Ukraine to be a University English Teacher!!! I almost started to cry when I saw those words, I was so happy. I leave September 17th, 2010, which means I have a grand total of 21 days at home before I’m off on my next grand adventure. Wow, that’s going to be fun!
I am absolutely ecstatic! This placement lets me work toward both of my possible future careers: my job position will give me experience if I decide to get my PhD and become a University professor, while living in the Ukraine means the possibility of learning Russian, a language that will really help me if I decide to join the State Department. It’s perfect. I am So Unbelievably Happy!
However, I’m still going to read through everything before calling and accepting. Even though I am BEYOND happy, I want to be completely informed before making such a huge decision. This basically means that my productivity is shot for the day because will you look at all the stuff they sent me:
Going to take some time to get through that. I’ll let you know what I learn!

Checking the Mail

June 21, 2010

The office of my dorm is only open for four hours every weekday: 8-10AM and 4-6 PM (closed on weekends). Our mail boxes are in the office, so if you want to check your mail, you have to do it during those hours. During this school year, I have checked the mail maybe a dozen times total, most of those during the anxious month when I was waiting for a letter from my endocrinologist to prove to the Peace Corps I’m perfectly healthy. So the fact that I checked my mail twice today and anticipate this to be the trend until I have my invite in hand should really tell you something.

At first, I was determined to avoid becoming obsessive and only check the mail in the mornings after my jog. I came back to the building, ran downstairs, went to the office, and then headed back to my flat. No big deal, totally easy. No need to dwell any more on it. I decided to leave the building and work on campus to avoid even the possibility of temptation to check it again this afternoon. I mean, seriously, it’s Monday. The invite was sent off on Friday at the earliest. No way it’s going to be here yet. I diligently worked on campus all day, and when I finished everything I had, I went back to the dorm, smugly patting myself on the back for my clever plan to avoid the mail room. But an unconscious glance at my watch told me it was only 5:50. Oh no! I found myself seized with the desire to check the mail. No, no, there was no point! I had checked it this morning, it’s only been one business day, it couldn’t possibly be in yet. But what if it was?! What if it had been put on the first plane out and had been sitting in the mail room all day and I could have had my invite for all of that time?! Taking deep breathes, fighting for control, I entered my building and faced the elevator. Up would take me to my flat, but down…down would take me to the office. I hesitated. I admit it: I was weak. I was going to push up, really I was, my intentions were pure. But my traitor of a finger pressed the down button. That was it. I was doomed.

It’s actually not excitement or anticipation or anything like that which has made me check my mail so regularly now. It’s pure, unadulterated curiosity. I am So Freaking Curious about my invite! Where am I going? When am I leaving? What will I be doing? Of course I am excited, but it is 100% dwarfed by sheer curiosity. It’s like a Christmas present under the tree when you’re a kid. You weigh it in your hands, shake it, listening as hard as you can as if you could guess what’s inside by the sound it makes. The curiosity burns inside of you, you just want to know what’s hidden under that pretty paper and shiny ribbon. But you have to wait until Christmas morning, when all of the curiosity, all of the waiting, pays off in the sweetness of unwrapping the present and feeling that rush that comes from finally knowing. It doesn’t even really matter what the present actually is. The feeling of curiosity being satisfied is such a pleasure in and of itself. Or at least it always has been for me.

So here I am, knowing full well I’m going to be checking the mail twice a day for the foreseeable future no matter how much I try not to, with curiosity welling up inside of me more and more with each passing day.

I wonder how long it takes a package to cross The Pond?


It’s Official

June 18, 2010

Oh, wow.

It’s official. They have sent me an invite.

I am going to be joining the Peace Corps. After over a year, after filling forms and writing essays and seeing doctors and being tested and stressing and worrying, there’s nothing else. The last hurdle was cleared, there’s nothing more. I am invited to join the Peace Corps.

She gave me no hints about where I’ll be going. All I know is that I’m leaving in September and the rest of the information is in the mail.

It’s done. I’m going.



One Step Closer…

June 18, 2010

Oh, wow, that was a lot faster than I thought! I really wasn’t expecting any contact from the Placement office for at least a month, and then today I received an e-mail saying that the final assessment of my application has been completed! She said I ‘possess a great skill set and demonstrate strong motivation to serve’ (hell yeah I do!).

But alas, there was just one more thing between me and that beautiful blue envelope.

Last year, a lot of changes occurred in my life. Big Changes. Apparently, there is a policy in the Peace Corps I didn’t know about called the Major Life Change policy (MLC) where they want a full year to have passed between a major life event and the beginning of service. One of my Big Changes happened just over a year ago now and my Placement officer asked me to write a statement about how this event won’t effect my service.

Seriously, this is probably the easiest thing I think I’ve had to do in this whole application process. Because yes, last year was hard. A lot of things in my life changed and it hurt and it was painful. But I have grown as a person because of it. I love where I am now and what I’m doing, and I have never been happier because, honestly, how can you not be happy while living your dreams? The hardships in life are the things that teach us, and I would like to believe that because of all the things that have happened, I am stronger for it. I will be able to be a better volunteer because of all the lessons I have learned about myself and my abilities.

I just sent in my statement, and now my application is in the actual placement stage. I’m still being considered for a September departure to Africa or Central Asia, possibly Eastern Europe. Basically if it’s leaving in September, it’s fair game, which means the Staging Dates listed on PCwiki don’t really help me much in trying to guess where I’m going. Which I think is really cool because I always love a good surprise! Anyways, I was told all of the details about when, where, and what I would be doing would be included in that big, beautiful envelope they are going to send me.

This is really happening. This is actually, really, finally happening. I’m excited and happy and thrilled beyond belief. How can you not be happy as your dream comes true?


The Joys of Limbo

June 12, 2010

I’ve had some time to think about this whole Nomination Confusion thing and to get used to the idea that I no longer have a program I am nominated for. A part of me is still generally very confused about how this all happened (I never would have agreed to leave before my Masters program was done, how did I get nominated for a time I couldn’t leave?) and another part of me is still worried about the consequences of this Confusion (do they still want me? will I still get an invite? what if they think I’m not dedicated or responsible enough because of this happening?), but as the days go by, these parts grow smaller and smaller. And more and more of me becomes excited.

When I thought I was leaving in September to Eastern Europe / Central Asia, no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t keep off of PCwiki and looking at the staging dates and trying to figure out where I was going to go. I had narrowed it down to two or three places, and I had read blogs about them and wondering what life would be like in those places. I was constantly wondering about where I would be going and secretly hoping for one of those two or three places. I know you shouldn’t get your heart set on any specific place because it’s probably going to change, but I just couldn’t help it.

Now, pretty much any place is a possibility. Any program leaving in September or October (or beyond) anywhere in the world is fair game. I gave a quick look at the list of places with Staging in those months, and it’s just incredible the wide range of places that are possible: Jordan, Tonga, Ukraine, Mozambique, so on and so forth, on and on. And pretty much every place I read about, that I do a little research into, I get excited about. Each place has their own challenges, their own personality, and sounds simply amazing.

It’s funny, now that there are so many more possibilities of where I can go, I am no longer plagued with wondering where I’m going like before. I am no longer hoping for a specific place. That aspect of my restlessness is completely gone. After my quick search through PCwiki, I no longer have the desire of trying to figure out where I might be going. There are just too many places, too many possibilities to even begin to wonder which of them I could be heading to. The entire world is a possibility. It’s incredibly liberating and very exhilarating.

As my wonderful dad said: ‘It will work out and you will be assigned someplace that you will find interesting and challenging; a place where you can help the people the most.’ I am absolutely thrilled to see where that place turns out to be.