Saturday, January 29, 2011

How I got here...

I leave to begin my Peace Corps service in Senegal in a little over a month!  Time passes unevenly sometimes, and recently it's felt like a flash.  Two years ago, I was about to begin my last month teaching English in Thailand.  I still can't believe it's been almost two years since I left Thailand!

Let me back up a bit to explain how I got to this point of leaving for the Peace Corps.  Throughout college, I had always planned to go to law school, but the summer before my senior year, I realized that I wanted to take a year off in between.  I had just returned from studying abroad in Paris and had the travel bug.  I started researching Teach Abroad programs and had my heart set on Thailand, which seemed a random choice at the time.  After long conversations with my dad, I decided that I should be practical and start looking into paralegal roles during the gap year to save up some money for law school, so I tabled Thailand for a while.  In February of that school year, I wasn't having much luck in my job search, and I fortuitously received an email about a Teach in Thailand program with an October departure.  I applied that day.

Before leaving for Thailand, I took the LSAT, applied to law schools, and was prepared to begin school the following fall.  Thailand changed all those plans.  I absolutely fell in love with the country and the people, and I started rethinking law school.  Somehow veering off course seemed like the right thing to do, although I missed having direction.  I had an interest in international development that emerged in high school debate, my summer internship in NYC, and even my senior thesis, but I never considered it as something to build a career around.  I knew I needed more time to figure out what my next step should be.  So of course, with an interest in international development, why wouldn't I work as a foreclosures paralegal at a law firm?

I've spent the past 20 months working at a law firm in downtown Seattle, trying to figure out what I wanted to do next.  I lucked out and met some incredible people at the firm, but I realized while there that I didn't want to go to law school.  After several failed attempts at getting jobs at aid organizations abroad and hearing that I needed more experience, I finally decided to apply for the Peace Corps last August.  The Peace Corps had always seemed daunting, with the 27 month commitment, and it still is!  But I now know that it is my best shot at getting hands-on experience in global health.

When I was on my backpacking trip with my amazing friend Caitlin around Southeast Asia after my teaching stint in Thailand, she suffered through my indecision about law school.  She had me write down a list of things I was looking for in a job, and I wrote: leadership, problem solving, challenging, taking risks, helping people, working with people, making a difference.  Seems like Peace Corps is exactly what I needed then but was not ready for yet.  Now I'm ready.

I feel like I'm finally on the right path and am passionate about empowering women in developing countries.  Over the past year, I've done my reading on the issues that women face, but by living alongside them in Senegal, I will truly make their problems my problems as well.  My goal is to improve the health of the people in my community and create sustainable development projects as a Preventive Health Educator.

It took me a while to get here, but I know I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be and am about to do the kind of work I'm meant to do.