School is Cool

Hello! It has been a long time since my last blog post. Can you believe that? Many things (big and little) have  happened since then, so let me fill you in.

Host Family

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I’ve never met a more cuddly pupper!

First off, I am doing fine, great even! As many of you read in my last post, my time with my training host family has not been as smooth as I thought it would be. Thank you to those who reached out to me. It means a lot that you took the time to read my blog and followed up with me. I unfortunately can’t say the situation has gotten better or that my comfort level has improved. I have done everything that I have been told and have followed all the steps to mitigate the issues at hand, but sometimes it is not enough. Sometimes people are too stuck in ‘their way is the right way’ to ever see the world in another persons shoes. Sadly, because of the various attempts with myself and outside persons and inability to change, I have come to the conclusion that I will just stick it out for the next 2.5 weeks. It is no longer worth my time and energy to fight a brick wall. I know this all sounds negative, but here is how I think of it . . . Like I mentioned in the last post, I am not just complaining to complain. I am voicing my issues to show that problems arise during training and service. I have followed through with every step and have not seen change, and therefore I have deemed it better to just suffer in silence then to keep battling. And that’s the other thing, its good to know when enough is enough. Obviously this issue is small compared to others, but I have recognized that its not worth my time anymore. Its not worth me being frustrated.IMG_3102Instead, I looking to the future (aka the 5 months after swearing in) where I’ll be living with a new family, in a new village. I am really excited to meet them and experience the Essequibo coast in a new light. My next host family is relatively younger (parents are in their 30s), they have 2 kids around the ages of 9, and a set of grandparents that live with them too. Both host parents are teachers, and one of them will actually be working with me at the local secondary school! I am very hopeful and interested to see what the next steps in my PC service will be like after the completion of PST.

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Multiple skin rashes have started to appear, but don’t fret, they have been handled each time!

Health Sector

d1d491dc-f1c0-4038-ba91-a3a43f8ec5eeDuring PST, we have various sessions covering language, culture, health, safety & security, and technical skills. A little over 2 weeks ago, our cohort (GUY 31) was separated by sector to start our technical training.When I applied to PC and interviewed for Guyana, I did so under what is now the “old” health framework. The old framework’s primary focus were the health centers in Guyana. Volunteers were to assist at their sites’ clinic first, then teach any health programs after. There is definitely more to the old framework, but I just can’t remember now. Basically, I had said yes to the PC partially on the fact that I would be gaining clinical work I could use for graduate  school.Sadly, unbeknown to me (and to the rest of my fellow health sector people), this framework was changed in November 2017 . . . That’s right last November. Long before I

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How could I not show more of little Capoey?!

would step foot in Guyana and a month after receiving and accepting my invitation to serve. Information about the framework changing did not come into my hands until a couple months before staging during a phone call I had with my Program Manager.Although the misinformation and last minute notification was frustrating, the new framework has its positives. Instead of working in the clinics, we will now be teaching the health curriculum (Health & Family Life Education) in the secondary schools. Even though I am neither a teacher nor did I get my degree in education, I still believe there is value in teaching these important topics to children. It is better to be proactive with youth than reactive with elders.With that being said, learning how to teach has been the majority of my technical img_3332training these past couple of weeks. Everyday for one week, all 12 health sector volunteers planned, prepped and practiced creative lesson plans with and for each other. We made lessons individually and as pairs. Then took those lessons plans and taught them to real, live teenagers in what we called ‘model school.’For model school, I worked with another Peace Corps Trainee, Sir Lumesh, to teach the comfortable and uncomfortable health topics, such as puberty, contraception, STIs, self esteem and personal health. We had such an amazing group of kids that ranged from 12-17. I actually felt sad on the last day of our 2 weeks when I had to say bye to all of them.

I never thought I would say this in my life, but I am excited to start teaching at my school so I get 2 years rather than 2 weeks!img_3318

Hanging with my cohort.

img_3201Come August 15th, GUY 31 will swear-in in the capital city and then be shipped off to our individual sites. Never to see each other again! Just kidding! We will see each other at IST, MST, and COS, and not mention all the in-country trips we will take with each other. But either way, training is sadly (and quickly) coming to a close. I never thought that 8 weeks in country would go by so fast or that I would make so many good friends. Here’s to our last couple weeks together as Peace Corps TRAINEES and making it to swearing in as official Peace Corps VOLUNTEERS!

Xoxo, Mere

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Hello From Guyana!

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The land of many waters.

Guud Dey. Ram Ram. Hello from Guyana!

Since my last post, I sure you’re wondering what’s happening in my life?

administrative-regionsLet me first describe where I am training. As I said in my previous post, Guyana is separated into 10 regions. We are training in Region 2, Pomaroon-Supanaam on the Essequibo coast.

You’re probably thinking, “none of the things you just said are registering with me.” Understandable, so I’ll just tell you what’s happening with me. I have spent two weeks with my host family and I have finished my third out of ten weeks of Pre-Service Training (PST). Training has consisted of language, Guyana specific sessions, health, and safety and security, and starting next week we will be doing technical training on our sector specific roles. Since being in Guyana, I have already learned and heard so many new words, so I thought I would share some of my favorites so far. Do you think you know what they mean or how to pronounce them?

  • Guud maurnin’
  • Fada
  • Pickney
  • Wa yu neem?
  • Mii na know!

Host Family

I am living with a 61 year old woman and two of her grandchildren in a small community not far from training. The grandkids live with her because their img_3034mom works in the capital city during the week but comes back every weekend. Her son, his wife, and their two children live next door. We all share a yard. In the backyard, my family has cats, dogs, chickens, ducts, [loud] roosters, and a 22 year old parrot named Susie who knows how to cough and bark but not speak. In the back you can also different fruits like coconuts, cherries, guava, and water spice mango.

Fun fact: there are many types of mango and apples in Guyana! My host family is Indo-Guyanese, which means they are of East Indian decent and they also practice Hinduism.

I am not gonna lie, the experience has not been all smiles. In two weeks, it has been a roller coaster for myself. There are times where I don’t feel like I am getting to know the community I am in or that my host family is providing the same things as other trainees are receiving/what I am supposed to be receiving (example, food).

The biggest issue I am working on is letting some of my independence go. Although some people love having someone do something for them, I am not that person. I have very much enjoyed doing things for myself, such as getting groceries and leaving when and where I want to. It makes me feel proud and self sufficient when I can do adult things for myself. However, I am not sharing this to complain about my home stay, but rather to express that the challenges you face in the Peace Corps don’t just happen at your permanent site. They can happen at anytime, during training or service, and with your first or second host family.

Challenges come in different shapes and sizes, and affect everyone differently. My challenges are definitely affecting me negatively. When something doesn’t go right, I shut down for the rest of the day. I stop participating in training, hanging out with fellow trainees, or ‘go to bed early’ when I am home. However, I am recognizing that my response to the challenges I face are not healthy, productive, or desired, so I made 10 goals for myself during training and service that I can continuously reflect and remind myself of.

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Hammock days are the best days.

  1. Be and stay positive.
  2. Keep an enthusiastic open mind.
  3. Keep trying (and re-trying) new foods.
  4. Its okay to be home sick but don’t let it consume your service.
  5. Explore what it means to be ‘Meredith Brewer’.
  6. Pursue and commit to new hobbies, such as journaling, blogging and yoga.
  7. Self care is the best care first.
  8. Be willing to ask for help.
  9. Worry less, trust more.
  10. DO SMALL THINGS WITH GREAT LOVE.

My life with my host family has greatly changed my daily schedule. I’m sure some of you are going to be surprised at my new start and stop times. Here’s a glimpse at my Monday-Friday schedule.

  • 5:30am – wake up and do 30 minutes of yoga/light exercises.
  • 6:00am – shower and get ready.
  • 6:45am – go downstairs for coffee, breakfast, and to gaff (chat) with my host mom and niece.
  • 7:30am – catch a ride with 3 other volunteers who live near me to our training site (30 min drive).
  • 8:30am to 12:00pm – morning training sessions.
  • 12:00pm – lunch.
  • 1:00pm to 4:00pm – afternoon training sessions.
  • 4:00pm – get a ride back at host family’s house.
  • 4:00pm to 8:00pm – gaff and eat dinner with host family.
  • 9:00pm – probably passed out in bed from waking up so early.

Site Placement

Yesterday, my fellow trainees and I found out where our sites are going to be following completion of training and swearing in as official volunteers!

Drum roll please . . . . . .

For the next two years, I will be staying and serving in Region 2 at one of the coastal community’s secondary school. I will be co-facilitating with the school and local health posts to further Guyana’s Ministry of Education and Health new health curriculum.

I am very excited to see what’s to come with my site and for my friends’ sites too. Only 7 weeks left of training then we are off to lend a hand to our community!

Can’t wait to share more from Guyana!

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

The Three G’s

Graduation. Goodbyes. Guyana.

I have been working on this post since finals week until now, when I published it. I wrote each topic shortly after the occurrence. So here is a little snippet of my last 4 weeks! 

This last month and a half before leaving to live abroad has been hard for me. Although, I’ve tried to keep a good face, it definitely has hit me [silently] how much I am going to miss my friends and family.


To my friends,

Whether we met through school, Danville, Bradley, Chi Omega, traveling, or someone I have bonded over common interests, you have made an impact on my journey thus far. I am very thankful for all friendships I have made, even if some are no longer flourishing. These next 27 months will be different and difficult. I will have to make new friends (even though that sounds exhausting in itself), but I will not forget about the ones who have been apart of my life thus far. In fact, I cannot wait to brag about you all once I am there!


Graduation

May 12

In the last three months, I’ve been asked more times than I can count if I was excited or nervous or felt prepared for the Peace Corps. And through all of those questions regarding Peace Corps, I was never asked how I felt about graduating and leaving the place I called home for the last four years. I too also never asked myself that question. I was so focused on June 10th (departure day) that I never thought about May 12th (graduation), and because I never thought about it, it felt like the end of my semester went by in a blind of the eye.
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The past four years at Bradley University have been so great, and I could not ask for a better college experience than what I had. I am thankful for my professors, classmates, friends, and Chi Omega for these experiences and for being so supportive in my endeavors.

Before I started at Bradley, I knew I wanted to work in healthcare, specifically physical or occupational therapy. After my first semester as a Health Science major, I received a 2.9/4.0 GPA. I honestly was proud of myself. I didn’t get a 2.0 or anything lower. However, I was still told by an advisor that my grades (after one semester) were not good enough and I was not going to (1) succeed in Health Science,
32423145_10215933931685778_2462804624860512256_n(2) be able to get my grades up to be a competitive grad school candidate, and (3) get into physical therapy school. (Side note: To be considered ‘competitive’ for PT school, you must have around a 3.6 GPA). After being told all of this negative feedback, I told myself to prove her wrong and to never see her again for advice. I mean seriously! What advisor is needs to be that discouraging to a freshmen? 

I can now say that as of graduation, I (1) never sought out that advisor for help again, (2) received my B.S. in Health Science and two minors in Health and International Studies, (3) will get into physical therapy school after my service with the Peace Corps because (4) I ended my college career with a 3.65 GPA!


Goodbyes

May 17-June 9

“Tour de Meredith” is what I have been calling my trips to say goodbye to the ones I care about. In 18 days I have traveled to 6 locations, taken 2 flights, and racked up a total of 3,200 miles. Here’s a summation of where I went and who I saw!

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Comprehensive map of my Tour De Meredith

  1. Chicago, IL – Sarah, my friend from high school, and her newborn twins Noah and Mia.
  2. Dallas & Tyler, TX – Aunt Susan, Uncle Scot, my brother Dane, and his wife Dom. 
  3. Wisconsin Dells, WI – Old and new camp friends as they were training to be ropes and lifeguard staff. 
  4. Buffalo Grove, IL – my friend from Bradley, Barrett and her mom, Sheree. 
  5. Indianapolis, IN – my mom Janet
  6. Peoria, IL – college friends Meg, Kat, Kelly, and Molly. 

After departing from each of these locations, the thought of me leaving is slowing setting in.

 I was not able to visit everyone, but I am grateful for the friends I have made in my life thus far. 

However, as I write this post, I am on my plane to Philadelphia wiping away my tears so they don’t damage my laptop. I am neither much of a crier, nor an emotional person, but today I have been both.

Today my mom, grandma, dad, step-mom and couple of my closest friends, Kat and Meg, came to the airport so we could say our goodbyes. I knew this would be a difficult morning, but I did not imagine it would be this difficult and emotionally trying on me. As soon as the goodbye hugs started, so did my tears. It has finally hit me the journey I am going to start. Up until now, it has all been talk of me leaving, but today I left. I left and won’t be back for 2.5 years. I left to start a new chapter in my life. I left to see what the world has in store for me.

My hope is that in Guyana, I can find people who are just as loving and strong as my family and just as charismatic and encouraging as my friends.

 


Guyana

Staging June 10-12

38875ec0-9419-4423-95be-bdd8af428720Kindergarten, junior high, camp, high school, college, and first big girl job. What do all of these things have in common?

If you answered “These all have awkward first in which you are trying to make new friends,” then you CORRECT!

Before going into staging, I started to get concerned with how I am going to make new friends again. Something that seems so simple to some, was a daunting task to me. It is really easy to get caught up in your established friendships for four years like in college and in high school, and that is exactly what I did. I got comfortable. I forgot the steps you take to make new friends. However, like riding a bike, it came back to me effortlessly.

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Within hours of meeting some of my fellow Guy31 cohort members at staging, we were getting food, drinks, and running in pouring rain in downtown Philadelphia just to see the LOVE statue. After that, staging sessions went smoothly, and our travels to Guyana was handled with laughter.

If you were curious, here is a total break down of all the traveling myself and my group endured.

  1. Everyone fly/drive/get to Philadelphia around 6pm on June 10th

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    View of NYC from our bus to JFK.

    (many ranges of time)

  2. On June 11th, take a bus from Philadelphia to JFK airport. (2.5 hours)
  3. On June 12th, fly to Georgetown, Guyana at 1:25am. (5.5 hours)
  4. From the Georgetown airport, take a bus to the Essequibo River. (2 hours)
  5. Ride the ferry boat across the river. (1.5 hours)
  6. Get back on the bus and drive to the resort we are staying in for orientation. (2 hours)

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Many days and many hours later, we all made it to our first location. Mainstay Resort in Essequibo. Currently, my cohort and I are in orientation and next week we will move in with our first host families and Pre-Service Training (PST)! 

So here they are, my new family for the next 27 months and beyond! 

Stay tuned!

XOXO, Mere

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GUY31 reporting for duty!

 

Aspiration Statement & Resume

After receiving your medical and legal clearance and you are a couple of months from your staging, you will be asked write an aspiration statement and update your resume for your host country. Since your placement officer is the person who sees your application and performs your interview, your host country does not know much about you, and therefore, the purpose of these documents is so your host country officers can better know your strengths, weaknesses, previous experiences.

If you’re concerned about writing this, don’t worry! There hundreds of examples from other PCV blogs, and PC provide a structured outline. (See link below)Image result for good luck gif

Aspiration Statement & Resume PDF
So, if you are curious about my two documents, here they are! Good luck with yours!

 


ASPIRATION STATEMENT

A: Three professional attributes that you plan to use during your Peace Corps service and how these will help you fulfill your aspirations and commitment to service.

As a member of the Peace Corps, I plan to fully incorporate the professional attributes I have attained throughout my previous experiences in student organizations at Bradley University and AmeriCorps.

Strong communication skills. As Personnel Chair for my sorority, I needed to communicate in various ways. There were situations where I needed to address the whole chapter, and there were situations I need to pursue on an individual basis. No matter the circumstances, I strive to be direct and transparent when communicating with others for their consideration.

Committed. This professional attribute is one that I hold high value for. When I commit to something or someone, I do not give up on that commitment. During my time in Peace Corps, I will execute my projects and assignments within my service with the same dedication I have learned so I can make a positive impact on my community.

Time management & organizational skills. Being involved with numerous student organizations and having a rigorous area of study at Bradley University has helped me to gain valuable skills to maintain my schedule and excel academically and professionally. With these skills, I intend to pursue secondary projects within my community, and to set aside time to spend with my host family and friends.

B: Identify two strategies for working effectively with host country partners to meet expressed needs.

One of my strategies for working effectively with host country partners is using collaborations throughout my training, assignments and time within Guyana. Although I will be working within Guyana’s health sector, that is not where my impact will stop. Health is deeply integrated in education and the environment, and they all function collectively. Understanding this and using it to better collaborate with host country partners will provide benefits to the Guyanese people.

Other strategies I will use are staying open-minded and optimistic. Being a part of Peace Corps is a journey of a lifetime, but as exciting as it is, there will be challenges and obstacles I will have to encounter. The best way to overcome these hardships, is to stay positive and remember why I am taking on this new chapter in my life. If I am optimistic and open-minded during training, my assignments, and towards Guyanese people, not only will I enjoy my time of service, others around me will enjoy their time too.

C: Your strategy for adapting to a new culture with respect to your own cultural background.

My time spent with Global Medical Training (GMT) and AmeriCorps have provided me with experiences where I learned strategies to adapt through respect and acceptance.

GMT allowed me to experience two similar, but different Latin American cultures in Panama and Peru. Countries throughout Central and South America are diverse with language, religion, art, food, tradition, etc. GMT gave me the opportunity to appreciate different cultures within the region, and it taught me how to respect and embrace other cultures as well as mine. Respect is vital for positive communication and building relationships. I will have to be able to foster both while working Guyana’s health sector.

My experience with AmeriCorps taught me another valuable strategy for adapting to a new culture. While serving three terms at Easter Seals Wisconsin Camps, I learned how to accept everyone for who they are. It did not matter their age, gender, ethnicity, disability or ability. Acceptance and being open-minded are important strategies when faced with a new culture, lifestyle, and/or surroundings. By showing the Guyanese people that I accept their culture and I am open to learn about their language, religions, and traditions, I can strengthen the relationships I am creating.

D: The skills and knowledge you hope to gain during pre-service training and throughout your service to best serve your future community and project.

The knowledge I hope to gain during pre-service training is a better understanding of Guyanese Creole and the confidence to speak it fluently to my host family and community. Although Guyana’s official language is English, Creole is deeply rooted in their history and culture, and I hope to gain first hand experience and understanding of Guyana’s traditions through their language. Along with learning Creole, I am eager to learn about Guyana’s healthcare system. Cultural norms are an influential factor within healthcare. I want to be conscious of these norms so I can best serve the community I am in. I hope to build on my health related skills and become a more effective healthcare provider.

E: How you think Peace Corps service will influence your personal and professional aspirations after your service ends.

Professionally, I believe that my Peace Corps service in Guyana will help me pursue my future career goals. After Peace Corps, I plan to attend graduate school and get a dual degree in physical therapy and an occupational therapy. The past experiences I have had made me want to either work with children with disabilities or returned veterans from active duty. I also believe that my Peace Corps service will help me improve my writing skills. I am hopeful that I will become more confident in my writing as I help develop, deliver, and lead assignments with my host country partners.

Personally, I believe that the Peace Corps will help push me to be stronger, more self-sufficient, and more optimistic in the face of obstacles. It is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture in life, but I am confident that my Peace Corps service will constantly remind me that the little moments in life are important and today’s issues do not have to be tomorrow’s problems.


RESUME

Experience

AmeriCorps Terms of Service Easter Seals Wisconsin Camps, Wisconsin Dell, WI

  • Camp Outreach Liaison [450+ hours] 2017–May 2018
    • Collaborated with the staff to develop materials and cultivate relationships with statewide organizations.
    • Worked independently to promote and foster positive relationships through social media.
    • Assisted the ESW office in Madison, WI, with updating and maintaining camper information and mailing lists.
    • Planned, programmed, and facilitated activities for camp weekends and winter four-day session.
  • Aquatics Specialist [900+ hours] Summer 2017
    • Served as camp’s primary lifeguard & assisted instructor during lifeguard training.
    • Managed and helped operate camp’s aquatics facility.
    • Facilitated pool orientation for all staff and AmeriCorps Members during camp’s general staff training.
    • Offered extra assistance to counselors and campers while using the pool area.
  • Respite Apprentice [900+ hours] Summer 2016           
    • Responsible for a small group of campers of different ages each week.
    • Gained an understanding of what caring for a person with disabilities entails.
    • Coordinated with other counselors, programmers, and leadership staff for camper needs and wants.

 Global Medical TrainingBradley University, Peoria, IL

  • Chincha, Peru [Secretary] January 2018
    • Assisted the chapter president in planning and preparing for GMT’s January 2018 trip.
    • Responsible for group flights and communicating with travel company.
  • Panama City, Panama [Member] January 2017
    • Coordinated with local doctors in Panama to provide healthcare services to underdeveloped communities in student-led clinics.
    • Gained clinical skills, medical knowledge, and first-hand experience of cultural, social, and historical life in Panama.

Chi Omega Fraternity Bradley University, Peoria, IL

  • Personnel Chair –Dec. 2016
    • Served on Standards Board to enforce rules and policies of Chi Omega.
    • Created a fun and friendly environment that fosters Sisterhood.
    • Planned and executed chapter programing.

International Humanitarian LawRed Cross Central Illinois Chapter, Peoria, IL

  • Team leader 2015–May 2016
    • Educated peers and community on the rules of war through action campaign.
    • Recognized as one of top five action campaigns nationally twice.
    • Invited to youth leadership summit in Washington D.C. June 2015.

 

Degree

Bradley University, Peoria, IL Expected May 12, 2018

  • Bachelors of Science in Health Science with minors in International Studies and Health
    • GPA: 3.60/4.00
    • Awards: Broski Scholarship [2017], Neumiller Scholarship [2015-2018], & University Scholarship [2014-2018]

 

Training

Relevant Coursework:

  • Human Anatomy & Physiology I & II (with labs)
  • Nutrition
  • Women and Health
  • Men’s Health Issues
  • International Health
  • Lifespan Development Psychology
  • Globalization in World Affairs
  • Oral Communication process

Certifications:

  • Lifeguard, First Aid, AED and CPR [American Red Cross] – expires May 2018
  • Water Safety Instructor [American Red Cross] – expires October 2018

 

Personal Interests/Hobbies

  • Reading
  • Crafting (painting)
  • Hiking
  • Swimming (lifeguard for 6 years)
  • Working with people with disabilities
  • Card games
  • Sports (baseball, hockey, basketball)

 

 

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!

Geography Lesson

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Mashramani Festival. Annual country-wide celebration in observance of its Republican anniversary.

Guinea? No, that’s in Africa.

Ghana? Nope, that is also in Africa.

[French] Guiana? Correct continent, wrong country.

In June, I will be going to GUYANA.

Never heard of it? Me either until my interview with the PC placement officer. Here’s a quick tutorial and basic knowledge on the place I am going to call home for the next 2.5 years.

Location

Guyana is located on the north coast of South America. It is wedged between Venezuela, Brazil, and Suriname, and is slightly bigger than my home state, Illinois. The country is further divided into 10 regions. After training, I will be designated to a community within one of those regions.

Fun Facts About Guyana

  • Guyana is the only South American country that has English as their official language, and everyone speaks it regardless of background.
  • Guyanese Creole is also a common language, and is a altered version of English with an Indian/African influence. It will become my second language while in the Peace Corps.
  • A large portion of Guyana citizens live abroad.
  • The currency is the Guyanese Dollar.
  • It is one of two countries in South America to drive on the left side of the road.
  • Guyanese people identify more as Caribbean.
  • Guyana was the location of the Jim Jones cult that took place in the 70’s.
  • Over 700,000 people live in Guyana, and 90% of those people live along the coast.
  • Hinduism is the official religion.
  • There are no roads connecting Guyana with Venezuela.
  • Guyana is the 2nd most densely forested country in South America (after Suriname) – 3/4 of the country is covered in trees.
  • The national animal of Guyana is the jaguar.

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Phagwah or Holi. Annual Hindu Festival of Colors celebrating the arrival of Spring!

History

The Cooperative Republic of Guyana, or Guyana (formerly known as British Guyana), has on its historical background quite a long record and experience on being struggled upon and conquered by different countries. Below I will highlight important points in their history.

1498 – Guyana was discovered by Europeans. For 500 years there were many battles between the Dutch, French, Spanish, and British to gain control of this area.

17th century – Dutch colony, and in 1815 the British conquered the Dutch.

17th & 18th century – the large landmass north of the Amazon River and east of the Orinoco River has been divided into 5 sub-regions, namely: British Guiana (now Guyana), Spanish Guiana (now eastern Venezuela), Dutch Guiana (now Suriname), Portuguese Guiana (now northern Brazil), and French Guiana which is at present a French department in South America.

Late 1800’s – slavery was abolished. Guyana has started to become a home to the black people, and Indians started to storm the country and work in its rich sugar plantations.

1966 – Guyana gained independence from the U.K.

1970 – became a republic

1992 – believed the elections this year was their first fair and free elections since they gained their independence.

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Easter in Guyana. Annual holiday celebrated in Guyana with kite flying.

I can’t wait to share my personal experiences with you all once I am in country!

xoxo, Mere

(Disclaimer: these images are not my own and outsourced from explore Guyana.org.)

FAQ . . . Thus Far

Since receiving my invitation to serve in October 2017, I have had many people ask me many questions regarding my service. So what better way to universalize my answers than to create a frequently asked questions post!

As I go through my training and service, my hope is to frequently update this post so I can keep you guys updated!

During this post and other blog posts, I will use acronyms and other shorthand words to describe my life for the next 2.5 years. Here are some common terms

  • PC – Peace Corps
  • PCV – Peace Corps volunteer
  • RPCV – returned Peace Corps volunteer
  • PST – pre-service training
  • Invitation – what PC calls the job offer
  • Swearing in – like the military, PC is funded and programmed by the government. Invitees go through extensive training, and when they have completed this training, they swear by oath to continue to do the work in which they were trained to do.

I guess I’ll stop rambling and answer the questions you’ve all been so curious about!


FAQ Thus Far

Where are you going? I will be in Guyana, South America. It is on the north coast of the continent between Venezuela and Suriname.

How is it pronounced? Guy – Ana

How long will you be there? My service will be a total of 27 months (3 months of training and 2 years as a sworn in PCV).

How long does training last? 10 weeks (so almost 3 months)

When do you leave? Simple question. Multiple answers.

  1. June 9th @ 10am – I will leave Champaign to go to Philadelphia and see some sites before having to meet for my PC staging.
  2. June 10th @ 6pm – meet for staging.
  3. June 12th @1:30am – leave for Guyana.

So I’m done seeing everyone and “gone” by June 9th but I will be officially out of the country on June 12.

Can you come home? If I pay for it.

The PC gives 2 days off every month. I’d rather use those days for traveling around Guyana and/or South America. Home is cool and all, but I’ve never considered myself a “home body.” I want to see the world while I’m already out of the country.

What will you be doing? This is a great question mainly because at this moment I only know what I was told in my interview and a couple of documents sent to me a couple months ago.

My official title (after I swear in) will be a Community Health Promotion Specialist. And basically that mouth full means I will volunteer within the health sector to promote health education among adolescents in Guyana through collaboration with teachers, medical professionals, community leaders, etc.

What are your daily tasks? To be answered when I am in Guyana.

Are you going by yourself? No. I will be going with, what I’ve heard from other RPCV, a larger cohort. My group/cohort, GUY31 will consist of around 45 people. Each PC sector of Guyana (health, education, and environment) will have around 15 people each.

Do you know anyone going? I do not know of anyone going to Guyana.

Do you get paid? Yes and no. While in country I will be given money to buy things like food and any other items I need.

How will I be able to contact you? Yes. I can receive paper and package mail, both ranging between 3-6 weeks to get to me. If you would like my mailing address, please send me a message on my CONTACT. Please note that my mailing address will change after August 15, 2018, because I will be moving to my permanent site.

Starting June 12, 2018 my phone number will no longer work. I will still have my iMessage account, Skype, the Whatsapp.

At this time I don’t know what kind of consistent internet access I’ll have, but I know that every so many weeks I can go to a place like an internet café. I prefer email and that can be found on my contact page of this blog!

Can you get care packages? UMMM YES! Pretty please. I will create a list of things people can send me and post it another time.

Do you have to learn Spanish? No. Guyana is officially an English speaking country. However will have to learn Guyanese Creole which is not like common French based language everyone assumes. Guyanese Creole is English with an Afro/Indo twist on it.

During my PST, I will be in intense language classes to learn their language.

Are you excited/scared/nervous? My answer to this every time is “Depends on the day you ask me!” Which is totally true. Some days I am excited. Some days I’m nervous. New journeys are always both, so it’s best to embrace what you’re feeling that day.

However, I would like to say that even though my feelings go back any forth, I have never in the past year since applying, felt cold feet. I am confident with choice and I am hopeful for this new adventure I am about to embark on.

What made you want to join Peace Corps? I decided to apply and join the Peace Corps for different reasons.

  1. Chance to Travel. If I ever chose to go back to school, I want to pursue a degree in physical therapy. PT currently has a good job market, so my thoughts are that I will will gave a job opportunity when I finish school, therefore not have time to travel and see the world.
  2. Volunteering. I have always enjoyed volunteering and doing things for others. After 2 terms of service with AmeriCorps, I wanted to challenge myself more and pursue a new volunteer experience.
  3. Resume builder. Although grades are important, the experiences you have will have greater impact on the future you want to have. PC will allow me to expand on the skills I have gained and teach me new skills.
  4. WHY NOT? There’s no better time than the present.

What are you plans after PC? I would like to eventually go back to school and get my Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT). But who knows? In 2.5 years I could change my mind and work at a NGO (non-governmental organization) like the Red Cross.

Did you have to get shots? Yes. The most difficult thing I personally faced was tracking down my vaccinations records. I needed know if I had all my basic childhood immunizations or if I needed still get them. Here were the list of the shot I got:

  • Yellow fever (hardest to track down)
  • Hep A and Hep B
  • 2nd varicella (or chicken pox)

I also have to take medication for malaria and typhoid.

Have you started packing? As of today? Nope. I honestly will probably wait until two days before I leave.


If you have more questions go to ASK MERE and I will answer them!!

The Back Story

Hey there! Welcome to my first post!

For anyone who knows me, you know that I am not an “open book” kind of person, but you also know that after graduation, I will be leaving the States behind to live in South America for 27 months.

Image result for comfort zone gifOver the next three years I will be challenged daily by my Peace Corps service. However, I want to challenge myself outside of my occupation, and that is where this blog, Peace of Guyana, comes in! I have neither considered myself a strong writer, nor have I ever used writing to express myself. But, here I am trying something new and out of my comfort zone. Let’s see how this goes!

First, I thought we could ease into my first blog ever with some “fun” facts about me.

  1. I am a senior at Bradley University, and in May, I will be graduating with a B.S. in Health Science with minors in International Studies and Health.

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    Me and my cute grandma!
  2. My grandma is my favorite person in world and the funniest travel buddy!
  3. I am obsessed with sloths. They are about the only living thing that I get emotional over. 
  4. After the Peace Corps I want to continue school to become a physical therapist.
  5. My favorite movies include Step Brother, Forest Gump, and White Chicks, and I love binge watching Grey’s Anatomy, Parks & Rec, That’s 70’s Show, and Game of Thrones.

Now that I shared the most basic knowledge about myself, I’ll provide some background info. Put simply, I like to say I am from Central Illinois. A broad statement right? Well, I lived Mahomet, IL, until I was 11 years old, and then moved to Danville, IL, where I livedScan 19 until I graduated high school. At seven my grandpa died of cancer, and my parents divorced when I was nine. What a sob story, am I right? Well from then on, it hasn’t been rainbows and butterflies, but since I am still getting used this “sharing your feelings on a blog” thing, I’m not quite ready to share those aspects of my life yet. 

I would like to mention that not every moment in life has been sad and traumatic. In fact, I am very fortunate to have had the opportunities and experiences put before me thus far (a.k.a. the Peace Corps). I honestly have to thank the influential and inspiring teachers I had at Danville High School for impressing upon me the aspirations and goals I have right now. Without them, I would not have been recommended to be in AP classes, attend Bradley University, study Health Science, or pursue the Peace Corps. Although I do not go back to Danville as much as I should, I will always appreciate the people and experiences I’ve had there, and it will always be home to me! Go Vikings! 😁

During my time at Bradley, I have also had just as many influential professors and alumni advisors. I have been fortunate enough that they have now impacted my post-graduation path. They have helped me take my aspirations from high school and shaped and prepared me to obtain these goals after college. I have learned valuable skills, and I am ready to use them during my service. All of which I had to convince the Peace Corps I had. 

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For those of you who do not know what Easter Seals is, it is a national non-profit organization that provides services to children and adults with disabilities.

My last (and most momentous) influence on joining the Peace Corps was serving three terms with AmeriCorps at Easter Seals Wisconsin (ESW) Camps.

During summer 2016 and 2017, I left Central Illinois behind for the woods in Wisconsin Dells, WI, where I fell in love with camp. During the first summer, I served as a Respite Apprentice (i.e. a camp counselor) at Camp Wawbeek. My experience that summer was so life-changing that I re-applied for the next summer as the AmeriCorps Aquatics Specialist! My time with AmeriCorps inspired me to seek out similar opportunities for the future, and that is how I started considering the Peace Corps for my post-graduation plans. Before returning for my second term with AmeriCorps, I spent my junior year researching, pursuing, and preparing the Peace Corps application. I applied so early, that I was fortunate to recieve an interview while at my second summer of camp!

 

Although I am sad I cannot return to camp for a third summer, I know this next path I am pursuing will provide me with lasting memories, new friends, and new experiences! So stay tuned because . . .

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