Friday, December 4, 2009

And It Begins...

After nearly a year of anticipation, I have finally received the news I have been waiting for. I opened my mailbox and inside was a packet from the Peace Corps. I had officially been invited to serve in the Peace Corps as an English as a Foreign Language Teacher in Romania. The excitement running through my veins at this time is more than I can almost handle. This has been one of the longest years of my life, but it has all come into fruition at this very moment.

This whole process began nearly a year ago when I left for Cusco, Peru on December 27, 2008. I had been thinking about the Peace Corps for years prior to this but I knew my first chance at international service would help me make my decision. We worked hand in hand with the people of Cusco building classrooms for a small school and needless to say, part of me is still in those mud bricks and in the plaster of those walls. I will never forget that city and the people, but even more important it solidified my desire to serve abroad.

When I arrived home, I talked things over with my parents about my decision to apply for service in the Peace Corps. While apprehensive at first they eventually came around to the idea when they discovered I had already been filling out my application. They knew they would not be able to stop me from doing what I wanted to do, so they gave me their support in going through this process. I finished my application and waited for a phone call from a recruiter.

A few days later that phone call came from Liz Ategou from the Chicago regional office informing me she had received my application and would be sending me forms which needed to be filled out before I could move on through the process. I received the packet of information and I was now entered into the realm of the governmental job process, paper work. I spent a good few weeks completing everything which included job experience addendums, getting fingerprinted for background checks, and various other loopholes which for someone finishing his senior year on-campus, somewhat stressed to have all of these things to do on top of school work.

I worked through everything and was finished and ready to send off all of my completed forms back to Liz so they could be processed. Once again, I waited. It was not until April when everything had been cleared and I set up a date and time for my interview with Liz which would be my final part of the application process. On May 2, I sat down for what would become the most important job interview of my life. It lasted for what seemed like an eternity and when I left I knew I had done my best. Two days later, I received a phone call from Liz, telling me I had been officially nominated for service in the Peace Corps in Eastern Europe.

Up next came one of the most hectic summers of doctor's visits, blood work, and more doctor's visits. My medical packet came and the check-ups and tests I had to do was more medical work than I had ever had done in my life in such a short amount of time. I guess when you are going to be taking care of someone overseas for 27 months, you want to make sure they are healthy and will not cost you money. I managed to get all of these forms completed and sent off relatively quickly and once again the waiting game continued, for months on end this time. Slowly, my application status began to update more and more online, only until all that was left was for me to be placed. I wondered if an when it would ever happen, until that day officially came on November 28.

It was the Saturday after Thanksgiving and we were celebrating the holiday with my father's side of the family when I decided I would check my email before I delved into the world of family get-togethers. I looked at there was only one new message sitting in my inbox. It was from the Peace Corps with the subject reading "Application Status Update". I logged into my toolkit for nominees, only to see my whole website had changed and in bright blue letters at the top it read:

Congratulations! You have been invited to become a Peace Corps Volunteer.


I had no idea of what to think. For nearly a year I had filled out form after form, waited for months on end to see that I had officially been invited to serve in the Peace Corps. My invitation packet was sent in the mail the day before and I would be able to know where I was going by the end of the coming week. So once again I waited and waited, checking the mailbox like Ralphie from "A Christmas Story" as if I were a kid waiting for his Little Orphan Annie Secret Decoder Pin.

Then, on Thursday I looked in that mail box to find a packet from the Peace Corps. I opened it up in the cold December air to read on the letter that I had been invited to serve in Romania to teach English as a foreign language. The smile on my face was as large as a kid who just got a puppy. I had to contain myself from screaming for joy at the top of my lungs or running down the street cheering. My lifelong dream was another step closer of being completed. When I got into the house, I read over everything I would be doing while in Romania and an overwhelming sense of joy came over me.

The next day was somewhat bittersweet for me. I was so excited to be able to tell my students about where I would be going, but it was also my last day with them because my student teaching would be completed. As the day progressed, I knew I would never forget each and every one of my students and I would keep in contact with them as I went on this journey of a lifetime. It was a hard day for me, but the words of encouragement I received from them as they left the school let me know this one fact. I had an impact on many lives at that school by the time I left with only a few months with them. I can only hope that when I am gone and serving wherever I go, that I can have that type of impact on those students as well.