My biggest worries about Peace Corps Service

My departure for Kosovo is less than one month away. Although I have done my research and read many blog posts from current volunteers, the truth is that I have no idea what to expect. The unknowns are killing me.

Here are my biggest worries:stick figure happy3

1. Living with a host family

I have lived in an apartment by myself for the past two years. I have become accustomed to having lots of alone time in my peaceful little home. When I am not working I can usually be found sitting by my window reading a book. Adjusting from this to living with roommates would be a transition… but living with an entire family that speaks another language?

stick figure smiling3What if they don’t like me? What if they have a bunch of little kids who won’t leave me alone? What if all of our interactions are full of long awkward silences because I can’t speak Albanian?

(Update: Read what I wrote about life with a host family after serving for one year.)

2. Burnout

The biggest thing I have craved while living in an Alaskan village has been newness. No stores, no restaurants, no way in or out except by plane. I miss seeing new things, going new places, meeting new people. Although I crave these things, a large part of me has become accustomed to the slower pace of life. After living such a simple life, beginning Peace Corps service may be an overload of newness.stick figure mad3

Fortunately I’ll have adrenaline on my side. The excitement will get me through the first couple weeks… But after that?

It will be exhausting to adjust to life in another country. There will be high highs and low lows. Trying to communicate my thoughts will take immense effort, and I will be constantly translating Albanian to English in my head. Having my language skills laughed at as I stumble through simple sentences will be frustrating. (More about the language barrier here.)

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When the honeymoon period is over, the real challenge of Peace Corps service will set in…

Thankfully I feel that my time in Galena has prepared me for some of the isolation that PCVs often feel during their service. I mean, wherever I end up in Kosovo is sure to have roads leading in and out, right? Kosovo may feel less remote than Galena in some ways. And I bet I won’t have to order my toilet paper from Amazon anymore!

3. Losing touch with important people

I am horrible at staying in-touch. I may have great intentions of calling friends or sending them a card, but it rarely happens. It has taken a lot of intentionality to stay in contact with a couple close friends while living in Alaska.

Now I am leaving the students who I have grown close to over the past two years. I worry that I will become so wrapped up in integrating into life in Kosovo that I will discard the relationships I have worked to build for the past two years.

4. Packing & getting ready before June 5th!

Living in a village with no roadway access and no stores makes preparing for my departure difficult. I have things to buy and boxes in storage in Minnesota that need to be sorted through… and I only have four days to do it.

I move out of Alaska on May 22nd and fly directly to Phoenix to spend six days having a family reunion. Then I fly to Minneapolis for a weekend retreat with my closest friends. That leaves a Monday-Thursday to do all of my unpacking, shopping, sorting, and re-packing. I don’t even know what suitcases I am bringing. Add to that more goodbyes to family & friends. It’s going to be a stressful four days.

Despite these concerns, I am feeling much more excited than anxious. I have not doubted my decision to join the Peace Corps once. It will be a challenge. There will be awkward moments with my host family. I’m sure there will be nights when I cry from missing my quiet little Alaskan home or being around people who know me. But it will be worth it.

Next: Read about my departure and staging in Washington D.C.!