Close of Service Conference. Say whaaaat?!
Seriously, I never thought this day would come. When I applied for Peace Corps and then landed on this island six months later, 27 months seemed like an eternity. But although the days are long, the weeks and months and years (!!!) have truly sped by. Time flies when you’re having fun and love what you do. I’m extending for a few months so my service isn’t quite ending yet, and my entire group has two more months before our time is up but we just finished our Close of Service Conference and oh man, real life feels extra real right now. The conference was three days in a nice hotel/conference center with our entire group of 47 volunteers (the first time our entire group has been together since we swore in!) and the focus was on reflecting on our two years here and learning how to represent our time here as we begin planning for life after Peace Corps. I have been skimming job descriptions casually for a while now but I made a deal with myself a while ago that I would get serious about it after COS Conference. These past couple days have made me realize that as much as I’m excited to return to America, that prospect is also completely terrifying! On a whim I began researching international positions too, including Peace Corps Response which is a program to send returned volunteers and other professionals with relevant experience on shorter term, very specific assignments. And although I have no idea what I plan to do when I leave the DR late this summer, I must admit that this position in Peru has me way more excited than any US-based job description I’ve found. Funny that continuing in the Peace Corps in another country is way less daunting to me than coming back to America! One piece of advice I took from our conference is to not let fear stop you from applying for any job – applying doesn’t mean you have to take the job if you get it so even if you’re unsure, just apply. So that’s what I’m doing. Applying to work in the US, Peru and Panama to start. We’ll see what else I find in my job search. But I sure hope Peru wants to give me a shot!
It’s a weird mix of emotions when Peace Corps is coming to a close. Excitement to return home, uncertainty of what’s next and how you’ll feel in your own culture again, sadness and sentimentality over leaving a place and people you’ve grown to love. I’m glad I have a few extra months to let it all sink in. And I’m especially glad that a large portion of my group is sticking around a bit longer too. It speaks a lot to this place and this program that many of us don’t want to leave quite yet. All I know is that this has been the experience of a lifetime and I’m infinitely grateful that I went through it with this fine group. It’s a bizarre kind of love that comes from doing Peace Corps together but this group sure has a lot of it. Here’s to what’s next for all of us. 517-11-01 is going to do big things, I know it.