Well, I’m back in the U.S. now, and had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday time. I’m going to be at home this week relaxing, reflecting, and starting the job search before moving to Northfield, MN next week. This post is about what I accomplished during my time as a Volunteer and how I view my choice to go into the Peace Corps now.
What I did: Sometimes it feels so abstract to think about the time I spent in Nicaragua, so I’ve come up with a list of some of the personal and professional accomplishments I had during each phase of my time there.
Training (3 months)
- Became close with my host family
- Attended 30 hours/week of Spanish language/Nicaraguan culture class
- Received training on teaching theory and practice, English education, language acquisition, cultural awareness, planning and observation techniques, etc.
- Began co-planning and co-teaching with a Nicaraguan English teacher
- Started an English community class
- Read 8 books
- Wrote 14 blog posts
First site (1 year 5 months)
- Lived with a host family for 9 months, then moved into a small house by myself
- Cooked for myself, hand-washed my clothes, traveled by bus, bicycle, and foot maybe 5-10 miles per day
- Worked with three counterpart teachers, planning and teaching classes together
- Co-taught about 350 students with my counterpart teachers
- Gave approximately 10 trainings on diverse educational topics to Nicaraguan teachers
- Gave four English-specific trainings to Nicaraguan English teachers
- Taught countless community English classes over the 17 months to about 60 people in total
- Ran two 21km races, an 18k race, and ran 42km around Conception Volcano
- Helped start and train a group of Nicaraguans who wanted to offer Spanish classes to foreigners
- Began training local teachers in technology use in the schools
- Climbed three different volcanoes a total of 8 times
- Supported efforts to standardize and improve discipline efforts in local high school
- Made close friends and became known and respected in the community
- Attended English education training sessions
- Received USAID Project Design and Management training
- Read 64 books
- Wrote 50 blog posts
Second site (5 months)
- Established first Peace Corps English program in the region
- Worked with four counterpart teachers, planning and teaching classes together to about 220 students
- Worked with a local university to design and support two 2-week English speaking courses
- Supported other volunteers by helping with discipline trainings, developing training and English materials, and giving teacher-training sessions
- Ran a 6k race
- Designed and implemented with another volunteer a training course for tourism workers
- Supported an English program on an archipelago island by co-planning and co-teaching with a teacher
- Survived Dengue Fever
- Read 24 books
- Wrote 16 blog posts
Favorite memories: I was going to try to choose one memory that typified my experience in the Peace Corps, but the truth is that my experiences were so varied that no one experience seems representative. My favorite moments in Nicaragua were my community classes, building relationships with my counterpart teachers, going on adventures or throwing parties with my Nicaraguan friends, and spending time with fellow Peace Corps volunteers.
Would I do it again, knowing what I know now? Yes, I would. My time as a volunteer has challenged me to grow and learn in ways that would have been impossible if I had stayed and found a job here. I have met incredible people, become part of another community, seen a beautiful and unique part of the world, and come home to tell the tale. I certainly wouldn’t do it lightly, nor recommend it for everyone, but if I could go back in time I would do it all again.
If I could do it again, what would I do differently? I would try to step outside my comfort zone more frequently. I too often stayed in my house and read books rather than walking around, playing sports, or visiting friends and neighbors. I would do very little differently, but working more on building relationships would be one thing I would change.