I used to love Stratego as a kid. I’m very much a planner and a strategist, although I’ve managed to gain some spontaneity! So in thinking about the challenges and benefits of being a PCV, I’ve come up with some approaches that I think will be useful. I’ve had the benefit of having a lot of returned PCV (RPCV) friends as well as some lessons learned from my own experiences in development, and I’ve gleaned some valuable lessons. I want to commit now to taking these approaches in the field because I believe they’re critical to me accomplishing PC’s goals and having a fulfilling service. This will require constant reminders and a lot of work, but I’m definitely up for the challenge.
- Trust- and relationship-building are one of the most important parts of my service. One of the most important periods for a PCV is the trust-building process. The first 3-6 months (well, my entire service really) have to be all about learning, listening, and forming these relationships, so I want to commit to not making major suggestions during this time. These men and women know what they need and how to accomplish it. They don’t need another person coming in and assuming they know everything. This will be difficult for me, because I like identifying and fixing “problems.” But, alas, that’s not how the world- or PC- works.
- Assume I know less than, or as much, as those around me. PC is the ultimate learning experience. I pride myself on my knowledge and intellect, so this will be a humbling process. But I think it’s really key to go in prepared to listen and learn. I have a lot to learn and unparalleled access to a lot of great teachers!
- Avoid making assumptions or judgments as much as possible. This one will be tough. I make assumptions and judgments every day about people I don’t know, both on a subconscious and conscious level. Again, though, I think it’s very important for me to make as few assumptions as possible in PC. I try to mentally identify when I make subconscious assumptions and judgments here in the U.S. When we’re in situations that are less familiar, people tend to rely more on assumptions and categorization, so I’ll need to work hard on this one in particular.
- Don’t expect things to go as planned. This one is definitely going to be a challenge. But if my talks with other PCVs, work in international development, and previous visit to SA taught me anything, it’s that it’s better to expect Murphy’s law rather than getting upset that things aren’t going according to the plan.
- Celebrate failure. No matter how great I am, some of my projects and tasks are going to be a failure. But if I can turn that around and celebrate my failures as necessary learning steps (and probably also the result of factors outside of my control), I can appreciate the value of failure. Besides, this is one of the few times in life when you have the ability to try a project and, if it fails, learn, adjust, or move on!
- Make small, achievable milestones for myself. At first, this might be furnishing my room, or figuring out the best path to work. I find chunking big things, like a life-changing experience that involves a move halfway across the world, into little steps is really helpful for scaling down my expectations of myself, especially at first.
- Remember that I am always representing PC and the U.S. Peace Corps reiterates that you will be viewed as a representative of PC and the United States at all times, even when “off the clock” or away from my site.
- Appreciate the little things, and give/value “small” human interactions. My staging roommate, Kristin, helped me add this one! I want to adopt a gratitude practice, and also to recognize how even “small” human interactions, such as a smile in passing or speaking the local language, can have a tremendous impact.
What do y’all think? Did I leave anything out?