20 Goals for 2020

Peace Corps service is a great time for intentional (or unintentional) self-reflection, which is how I have come to writing this post. Before leaving for my New Year’s trip to Barbados, I spent a good amount of time reflecting on my 2019 and the things I hope for 2020. Like most people, there are highs and lows to my 2019, but I am hopeful for more highs than lows for my 2020.

To keep the momentum of self-reflection going, I have come up with 20 goals for 2020! This year I want to focus on improving different areas of my life such as personal, health, professional, relationships, and fun. The majority of the items on my list are things I don’t do or don’t do enough of, so I tried to set the goals in a realistic and obtainable manner for myself.

So here we go, 20 things to achieve for the new year!

My top 5 goals that I am most excited about are:

  1. Write at least 2 pages in the morning journal every day. I missed the first 3 days of the new year, but today I started journaling and it was great.
  2. Focus on creating & implementing one more meaningful project at site. Our regional HFLE workshop was a success but I am ready for one more successful project.
  3. Finish service feeling fulfilled. This is pretty ambiguous because at the moment I am not completely sure what this will mean but I’ll figure it out.
  4. Read a minimum of 12 books this year. The first book I am reading is Educated by Tara Westover
  5. Write a blog post at least once a month. This will qualify for my January blog and I have more ideas prepared for the coming months.

Here’s to 2020! What are some of your goals for the new year?

Xoxo, Mere

Ambitions for Peace Corps

During college and my AmeriCorps services, I learned that goal-setting can be really important for holding onto your purpose for doing something. Goals can give you things to look forward to and a gentle reminder for why you decided to do something in the first place.

I knew that if I wanted to be able to survive and thrive in my 27 months abroad, I would have to come up with some goals for my Peace Corps service. Starting wayyy back in June 2018, when I first got to Guyana, I started to think about the things I wanted to achieve and the things I wanted to do. My initial lists have grown since then, but I thought I would share with you all my ambitions I set for my Peace Corps service!

First, I came up with a bucket list of all the things I wanted to see and/or do while in Guyana for 2 years. Then as my Pre-Service Training progressed, I swore in as a Peace Corps Volunteers and spent some time at my new site, I decided to come up with a list of goals for my service. My goals are not necessarily specific to my position in Guyana but rather a general reminder of things I can achieve regardless of my job title.

Guyana Bucket List

  • Visit 8 out of 10 regions.
  • Go to Rodeo in Lethem, Region 9.
  • Fly kites on Easter Monday.
  • Successfully make roti.
  • Color it up at Phagwah (known as Holi in other countries).
  • Participate in the different Mashramani (Republic Day) activities.
  • Visit Kaieteur falls in Region 8.
  • Explore Sloth island in Region 7.
  • Experience the different religions
  • Celebrate Amerindian culture during indigenous heritage month.
  • Go to the Guyana zoo.
  • Feed the manatees at the National Park.
  • Party at Guyana’s Carnival.
  • Spend Christmas with my host family.

Goals for Peace Corps Service

  • Improve my health and achieve a healthy weight.
  • Read more and keep my brain challenged.
  • Focus on myself and personal growth.
  • Have at least one project that I define as successful.
  • Stay open-minded – try new foods, experience new things.
  • Start doing yoga to slow down my mind and actions.
  • Improve on my writing/blogging skills.
  • Be more emotionally open.
  • Make new friends – take my time to create meaningful, productive and lasting relationships.
  • Network more – growth professionally.
  • Take chances but stay safe.
  • Leave a positive legacy both at my site and within PC Guyana.
  • Appreciate and celebrate the little successes.

A poster I created for the Resource Book that was distributed at my Region #2 HFLE Workshop in August 2019.

Throughout my service, goals have been an important part of what I do. Goal setting is one topic that I teach in HFLE and I do so by using the acronym SMART. SMART goals are used to help guide goal setting. Its stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.

When you look at my goals I set above, you will see that they don’t follow the SMART acronym entirely, and honestly that is because I didn’t know about SMART goals until I had to teach it in my classes.

When I am teaching my students, I like to provide examples for them, so I often talk about the goals I have set for my service. Since my goals are more broad, I have to develop the goal more to meet the SMART acronym to provide a more accurate example.

After that, I work with the student to develop their own goals by going step by step through the acronym. This allows them to fully understand their goal they want to achieve and to commit to their goal rather than just creating one to get a good grade.

Some students set goals for school, for future careers, for improving relationships with family members, etc. It’s really exciting as a teacher to see my students think past their current situation and aspire for things in the future.

I’ve already been able to check off some items on both lists above, so let’s see how many more I can accomplish with 7 months I have left of service!

Look out for my next post which will be about my new goals I have set for 2020!

xoxo, Mere

PC Interview Tips

Hello from Guyana!

Recently I have gotten a few messages about interviewing with PC. Because of this, I thought I would put together a short post about what the interview looks like and what you can do to prepare for it.

First and foremost, PC has not changed their interview questions in a long time and you can find them online almost word for word. I have also provided the general outline below. If you would like to know more about my responses, just sent me a message!

The interview consist of three parts:

  1. 3 Get to know you questions
  2. 5 Experienced-based questions
  3. 8-10 Topics to consider

For part one, really think about your answers. This part is not only a way for the interviewer to get to know you but also to gauge how serious you are about this job. Your answers shouldn’t be focused on large scale impacts, such as changing the world, but rather wanting to make small impacts like helping a community create sustainable projects.

For part two, you are asked about your experiences in specific ways. Your answers should be based off of experiences that lasted longer than two months to best show your level of commitment. You can use the same experience for more than one answer, but don’t use it for all answers. For this section, I strongly suggest you use the STAR method so you fully and completely answer the question. If you don’t know what the STAR method is, just google it! 🙂

The last part of the official interview includes the interviewer discussing various challenges you might face in service and how you’ll overcome them. For this section, always provide a why. Why do you perceive it being a challenge or why do you not perceive it being a challenge.

The more serious you take the interview, the more prepared you’ll be and more confident you’ll feel during the interview. Just take a deep breath, be a confident, and be yourself!

I hope this helped. Email me through my Contact tab above if you have any questions! My next post will about my first couple of weeks in Guyana. Stay tuned!

XOXO, Mere


PEACE CORPS INTERVIEW

GENERAL STRUCTURE/QUESTIONS

Part One: 3 Get to Know You

  1. Why do you want to be a Peace Corps Volunteer?
  2. Why do you want to serve in the (insert your field) sector?
  3. Why do you want to serve in this part of the world?

Part Two: 5 Experience-Based

  1. Tell me about a time when you had to adapt to living or working with people from another culture. Have you stayed in touch or visited them?
  2. Tell me about a time when you worked in an unstructured situation. Were you effective or successful?
  3. Tell me about the most meaningful situation you have experienced helping others. What motivated you?
  4. Tell me about a time when you had to fulfill an important obligation but it ended up being harder than you thought.
  5. Tell me about a time when you were able to transfer knowledge or skill to others. Walk me through your lesson plan. What challenges did you face?

Extra questions you could asked:

  1. Tell me about the most challenging experience you’ve had working in a team.
  2. Tell me about a challenge you faced with little or no support.
  3. Tell me about a stressful time in your life. How did you cope?

Part Three: Topics to Consider

  • Different foods than I’m used to (specifically asked if vegetarian)
  • Health issues
  • Living without electricity or running water
  • Privacy
  • Geographic isolation
  • Gender roles
  • Minority challenges
  • Lack of access to one’s own religious services
  • Alcohol (in cultures where it’s either excessive or prohibited)

 

Questions to ask interviewer:

  • What where some of the interviewer’s challenges they had to overcome?
  • What motivated you to get up each day when things got hard?
  • During their 27 months, did you ever consider resigning?
  • Under the section Professionalism, Dress and Behavior, the paragraph said you cannot wear shorts, t-shirts, and open toed shoes. Is that just refereeing to in a professional setting?
  • What are the steps taken to ensure the safety of the volunteers?
  • How would I be able to take advantages of the benefits of serving with the Peace Corps? (Loans)
  • I tried to make my application flexible and available to many open positions, why did you chose me for this specific position?

 

Information to have on hand

  • Country’s Peace Corps page
  • Info on your sector (both general and specific to position)
  • Current events in your country

My Peace Corps Timeline

The Peace Corps application process is nothing short of a lengthy waiting game, but in my tedious journey, I just kept telling myself, “Be patient. You are qualified. You’ve been preparing for this for awhile now. Trust yourself. You want this and you can achieve this!”

The biggest recommendation I can provide in regards to the Peace Corps is RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH. Before applying, research Peace Corps. Research the history, purpose, and current programs of Peace Corps. Find out if your strengths align with other Peace Corps Volunteers (PCV). Research and understand the application process. Find a local recruiter or returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) because they can answer your questions and/or help prepare you for the application process.

Below I have outlined my timeline thus far as I prepared to apply, my application and all the steps that followed after my invitation to serve. I hope it is helpful for first time applicants!

  • September 2016 to April 2017 – Preparing my resume for the application process. 
  • May 9, 2017 – Application submitted.
  • May 12, 2017 – PC reviewing my app for Guyana.
  • May 12, 2017 – PC offered an interview.
  • June 2, 2017 – Interview.
  • August 20, 2017 – Sent follow-up email to PC interviewer.
  • October 3, 2017 – Uploaded updated resume to applicant portal.
  • October 5, 2017 – Received formal invitation to serve as a Community Health Promotion Specialist in Guyana departing June 10, 2018!
  • October 12, 2017 – Completed and submitted forms for legal clearance and passport and visa.
  • October 20, 2017 – PC background investigation initiated.
  • December 2, 2017 – Completed all medical clearance tasks.
  • February 19, 2018 – Submitted additional forms for medical clearance.
  • February 21, 2018 – Received medical clearance!
  • February 26, 2018 – Received legal clearance!
  • April 12, 2018 – Completed Aspiration Statement and Resume.
  • April 25, 2018 – Completed Onboarding activities and pre-departure courses
  • May 2, 2018 – RECEIVED MY STAGING INFO! 🙂

After serving my first term with AmeriCorps in summer 2016, I knew Peace Corps was a post-graduation path I wanted to look into and pursue. Starting in September (2016), I started researching what it would take to get into the Peace Corps.

During my investigation, I learned a couple things.

  • Connect with your local recruiter.
  • Read current and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers’ (RPCV) blogs.
  • Know the ends and the outs of the Peace Corps website and see what positions/countries you are qualified for. (ie. my degree is Bachelors in Science, therefore I only qualified for those positions.)

Between September and May, I frequently visited the PC website and read various pre-application blogs (like this one!). Its important to understand that PC releases applications in three month blocks. I don’t graduate until May 2018, so I had to wait for the April, May, June block of applications to come out (in 2017).

It took me about two weeks from start to finish my application. Its an easy process, but there are a couple important short response questions that you should take seriously. The time it took me to complete the application was primarily due to writing and editing the short essay.

Since I applied a year in advance, it gave me an advantage over other applicants that might not apply until closer to the due date. This advantage is seen when I received a review and interview offer three days after submitting my application! If you know that the Peace Corps is something you want to do, get a head start on your timeline! If you’re not sure if the Peace Corps is for you, just browse around on the website and blogs like mine!Image result for good luck gif

It is a big choice, but once you make it, it is so rewarding!

If you have any questions regarding my application experience, comment or email me!