I applied to serve in the Peace Corps thinking that after 6 years of studying French and doing a Master’s Degree in Human Rights with a focus on West Africa I would be a perfect candidate for Africa. The Peace Corps had other another idea.
The day I learned that the Peace Corps serves in China is the day that I was invite to go there. Apparently, I hadn’t studied this map very well. I was shocked, angry, and even a bit relieved. If I hated it, at least I could blame it on the Peace Corps for making this ridiculous choice. Not having made the choice to serve in China was my scapegoat- I wanted Africa but felt like I was settling for a lesser position.
I put away my lightweight summer clothes and sandals, camping gear and cookware and took out my business attire. Going to China seemed like staying in the US with the strict dress code (no shoulders- no shorts!) and the need to look professional. I was less than excited. Why was I giving up my career in higher education in the US to work for free at a University in China? Was this going to be worth giving up my awesome rent stabilized apartment?
I ended up serving for two incredible years in the Peace Corps. I shocked even myself when, at the end of my service, I stayed in China to take on a position training the next group of volunteers.
China is a place that grows on you. It welcomes you with a slap in the face but slowly reaches out and reconciles. Before you know it, you’re a local at a hole-in-the-wall noodle shop where the owner knows your order and feels so comfortable around you she’ll tell you that you’re looking fat and need to eat less. It’s a place of brutal honesty, which you’ll also learn to accept.
Serving in the Peace Corps was one of the best decisions that I’ve made, once I allowed myself to fall in love with the country. If you’ve been invited to serve in China, I hope you’ll enjoy the experience as much as I did.
Questions about serving or living in China? Feel free to reach out.