Reasons for Joining the Program
I’ve divided this into two parts to illustrate all the angles I used to examine my decision to join the US Peace Corps. To be honest, I think that the Historical Reasons primarily convinced me to make my choice, while the Personal Reasons were my justifications for the decision. I wish it were the other way around, but I was simply not confident enough at that point to allow my moral convictions to overrule the practical aspects in determining my future. Overall though, it was a combination of both that made me happy with my choice.
- Historical Reasons – Identifies the chronological and economical reasons for my decision
- Personal Reasons – Identifies the specific personal development aspects of my decision. I also used these in my Aspiration Statement during the Application process
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The first time I heard about the Peace Corps was in April of 1999 when I was having lunch with a new friend who had just gotten an Peace Corps assignment at the Dominican Republic and decided to go for it instead of a lucrative job offer from Goldman Sachs. He was a finance major in the Business Honors Program who had accomplished a great deal while he was at UT, and it seemed like he was going to throw it all away to help out others. I was inspired by his commitment to this ideal, but I wasn’t sure if I could do the same. I’ve always loved volunteering, but two years is a long time especially if you are involved in the technology sector where things change overnight. But there was something about his enthusiasm that was contagious, and by the end of that lunch I was warming up to the idea. After all, my previous job in a start-up company in Austin hadn’t convinced me that I was in the right field anyway.
I spent the beginning of the summer researching the Peace Corps program, and was surprised to find out how well-known and respected it was. Reading about other people’s experiences in the program illustrated how amazing it is, and the variety of tasks that it accomplished overseas. I told my parents that I was seriously considering it as an option upon graduation, and I was shocked to see how agreeable they were to the idea! They’ve always placed more trust in me than I deserve, but I didn’t expect them to be so cool! However, the rest of the summer weakened my resolve for the US Peace Corps. I was fortunate enough to get a job at NASA in Cape Canaveral, Florida and I loved it. I enjoyed the work, enjoyed the people, and enjoyed the beaches. The economy was strong, and it seemed like there was so much to lose by going overseas for two years (to an unpredictable assignment and coming back with rusty skills) instead of going straight into a great job. Despite the promise of a positive life-changing experience through the US Peace Corps, the opportunity cost of two years seemed too great.
It wasn’t until my job with IBM that I began to consider the Peace Corps again. While I was getting paid a considerable amount for what I was doing, I did not feel like I was a valuable asset to the company and that I would ever be. I initially enjoyed working with other interns there, but as more of them opted to telecommute from home rather than go to work due to the rigors of university classes, I began to realize that I really didn’t like the work. It probably would have been the same in Florida if I hadn’t enjoyed the environment as much as I did. At that point, I was set on the Peace Corps and there was no turning back. During the winter break of 2000, I began working on my Peace Corps application.
The following year was a horrible one for the IT industry as many companies fell victim to the dot.com bust and the economy soured. I was extremely fortunate in making my Peace Corps decision because it gave me work in the short-term future while many of my peers were struggling to enter the job market. Suddenly, the opportunity cost of joining the program became a moot point. And after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, I began to believe more deeply in the cross-cultural implications of the Peace Corps program. The world needs to know that Americans aren’t a self-absorbed homogeneous entity bent on oppression (as their media often portrays us, and we sometimes reinforce through our foreign policy) but are a diverse group of caring individuals. The Peace Corps keeps us from being a faceless enemy and promotes our efforts in world development. While I may question the amount of aid that I can offer an impoverished community, a Peace Corps assignment is as much of a public relations effort as it is a community service program and I hope I can do my part. Although the option to quit is available, I do not intend to take it during my Peace Corps service.
One of the main reasons I joined the Peace Corps is because of my obligation to the United States. I was born in California, but I spent most of my childhood in Kuwait. In 1990, my family survived the Gulf War and returned to the US as refugees mainly due to the fact that I was an American citizen. Ever since Ive wanted to serve the country in some manner, and the Peace Corps is the best way for me to utilize my talents.
Professionally, I think the Peace Corps will give me the experience I need to become more successful in any potential career or continued education. I also find myself at a crossroad where I need to consider what Im looking for in a full-time profession – do I continue to look for material wealth or is working with the community more important to me? Im not certain whether the Peace Corps will adequately answer this question, but Im certain that this will be the best chance for me to explore the issue before I am burdened by other commitments.