For the longest time after leaving America in June 2014 to teach English in Ethiopia, I felt like I wasn’t living life. When trying to explain my reality to friends back home, I grasped at ways to connect with them on how badly I needed a life changing experience. At times, my world felt isolated and idle, while the rest of the planet was moving at an unprecedented rate.
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Switch back to present day back in America, where I questioned if I had made a difference or if my community really found the presence of Peace Corps to be helpful in southern and rural Ethiopia. I listened to a podcast the other day that was about coming home after living abroad and how important it was to follow three steps: Return, Reflect and Re-Launch. In returning after being abroad, you process and develop good coping skills. In reflecting, you use what you learned abroad to share feelings with people who might not have had the global life experience that you just had. In re-launch, you use global life ingredients to bring meaning and adventure into your life.
What this podcast ended with was: we need more global citizens!
I messaged my students one day over Facebook to get a feel for what they thought of Peace Corps and if my being there had impacted them or the community in any way. The following are three of my kids answers (with some minor grammar and punctuation adjustments).
The time we spent was unforgettable. You have done and tried to do so much. I still remember those times talking together, spending time with ELIC (English Language Improvement Club) club members, training in Amharic and improving my English. For all this, I would like to give my thanks to Peace Corps and you for having done many useful things in rural Ethiopia specially around Chiri village. For a couple of years, we were not able to communicate by English and we even hesitate to meet foreigners. But now it is not like that. Yes, it is hard for volunteers to adapt our cultures and customs but the most interesting thing is that you did not give up. Andrea, I can say that you are strong and wonderful. You were alone in a village which you have no any experience about, you spent all your years in a situation that everything is complicated. Of course I have met many foreigners before but I can say one thing; they prefer to come if there is another foreigner like them and most of them don’t want to live alone. But you did that! Although you are girl. Thank you for every thing and thank you Peace Corps. God bless you. – Tariku
Andrea, to me, is not simply a Peace Corps’ volunteer teacher but also a sister who advises me how to act as a good person. – Eletu
We (I & all my classmates) were satisfied by your thought. You let us improve our language skill by practicing English specially in a conversation. We were amazed and we were interested. – Tekalign
Time abroad broadens perspectives. What would our country look like with more young people spending their time understanding a global issue by experiencing it first hand as opposed to just scrolling through it on their Facebook feed? What will convince more young people to interact our world in a bigger way? How can America recruit more global citizens?
The answer is easy – be the change you wish to see in the world. Working and living in a developing country, you are helping a young man and woman learn to think differently than what they know. In turn, you are also learning about the greatest injustices around the world: extreme poverty. Most importantly, we learn that no matter the culture, religion, or gender – we’re all the same. We all have doubts, fears, wishes, hopes and dream. Whether it’s joining the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, or some other volunteer opportunity, do it because you never know how much of an impact you can have and others can have on you. Fight and become a global citizen because we know that we must be the ones to do something about it.