Peace Corps Essays
These are some essays I wrote for the Initial Application of Peace Corps process. Enjoy!
1. Cross-Cultural Experience
Peace Corps Volunteers must be open to ideas and cultures different from their own. Give an example of a significant experience that illustrates your ability to adapt cross-culturally. You may draw from experiences in your work, school, or community in the U.S. or abroad. Please include the circumstances of the experiences and dates. (There was no limit on how much you could write)
In September of 1990, I experienced terror as I faced an uncertain future with a shattered sense of security. I had been on many vacations before, and I had dreamed of returning to the United States to visit my birthplace in California. However, the circumstances that found my family in the US that September were not characteristic of a dream vacation. For the first time in our lives, we were refugees with no home to return to.
My story begins when I was born in 1979 at the Stanford Medical Center. We spent five years in Palo Alto before my father got a job offer from the Kuwait National Petroleum Company in Kuwait. Soon, we left for Kuwait and settled into a large apartment complex that was built to house foreigners. In Kuwait, foreigners could not own houses and women could not drive. However, the company paid for absolutely everything and there was an incredibly diverse population. I was educated in the Al Nouri English School and learned some Arabic as well as the fundamentals. I spent my free time playing soccer and playing games on the Commodore 128. My sister was born on July 26th 1985, and weve been competing for our parents attention ever since. She is the pride and joy of our family, and my best friend.
We would often spend our summers traveling, with my dad’s company paying most of our expenses. We traveled to Athens, Cyprus, India, Australia (we once considered moving there permanently), France, England, and Germany. However, in the fateful summer of 1990, we were in Kuwait watching CNN as trouble was brewing on the borders of the country.
Through CNN we had discovered that Kuwait was being invaded. The neighboring country of Iraq headed by Saddam Hussein had been at war with Iran. Despite being directly in between these two warring nations, Kuwait seemed secure and peaceful. However, on August 2nd 1990, Iraqi troops marched into Kuwait and took over (as part of Saddam’s self proclaimed “jihad”). The people in Kuwait were in shock as this was something we were never prepared for. War seemed like a historical problem, not a current one. The Kuwaiti dinar that was once worth three dollars was now almost worthless. The banks were all closed down so no one could withdraw or convert their money into the liquid foreign currencies such as the dollar (in order to protect their value). We were in deep trouble. Day after day we hoped for an escape out of the War. To the south, Saudi Arabia had closed its borders to refugees and it seemed like there were no escape routes. We heard many stories of people who attempted to escape, but were stopped by Iraqi soldiers and were sent to Iraq. The Iraqi soldiers were not too troublesome for us, but the Kuwaiti looters who took advantage of the situation to steal had become a major issue. Our apartment complex began a protection program where the adults would take shifts to guard our families. Meanwhile, the other kids and I would clean the enormous basement of our complex to prepare for any bombing raids. Food was becoming scarce, and my parent reduced their food intake to make sure my sister and I had enough to eat. My parents were also afraid that I would be taken hostage, as I am an American citizen. Saddam was using Westerners as hostages, and Iraqis had searched our complexes for American and Europeans.
Finally, after six weeks, we got word on CNN that Americans, along with their families, were being airlifted back to America. Although we could only take one suitcase of supplies (and we packed mostly food since we had no idea what the future would hold) for all four of us, we were ecstatic. All the rest of the possessions we had as well as our money would be lost forever. After a nerve-wracking journey that took us to the capital of Baghdad, we wound up in Los Angeles.
America was in a recession when we arrived in California, and we had no money. My father needed a job when unemployment was high. A few quick phone calls, and we were on a plane to Houston where a very incredible family was willing to help us get back on our feet and the labor market wasn’t so rough. For about three weeks we lived with that family and they helped us adjust to life in America, something that we will be forever grateful for. I began my sixth grade education in the United States about five weeks late. I had a few problems adjusting to the changes in the new environment, but I was a star. People liked me because I was a Gulf War refugee and that was just too cool. I really enjoyed that because I missed the dozens of childhood friends I had left behind in Kuwait (I had no idea where they were or what happened to them, esp. since many were vacationing away from Kuwait during the Gulf War).
However, the following year we had to move again since we were about to purchase a house. I waved goodbye to my new friends and on the one-year anniversary of the Gulf War, we moved into our new residence in Sugar Land, Texas. I took the bus to my middle school (First Colony Middle School) and had to start all over again socially. It was very difficult this time, and it was at this point that I really had to adjust to being in a new environment. The novelty of being a Gulf War refugee had worn off, and I was now nothing more than an overweight Asian boy who couldn’t play American sports.
There were several problems I had to overcome to become accepted at my new middle school. Although I knew how to speak English, I had a thick accent that people would criticize. It was extremely frustrating to deal with people who would not listen to what I had to say, and focus on how I said it. For the first time in my life, I also had to deal with reality. I had lived a sheltered life in Kuwait as the conservative government had control over all forms of media and regulated it heavily. Topics dealing with sex and violence were considered taboo, and were never discussed openly. When I came to the US, I lacked information that many of the other children knew, and it shocked them that I was so clueless. My ignorance of American sports was also condemned. The only sport I had ever played was soccer, which is a relatively simple sport. Baseball and football are incredibly complicated in comparison, and I could not stand them. The first time I got on a baseball field, I was tricked into running the wrong way around the bases and was ridiculed. I was also quite plump due to a mostly sedentary lifestyle, which had its own stigma. My fashion sense was also not up to par, and I would sometimes lack the proper clothes for the weather, for I rarely had to deal with rain or cold in Kuwait. It took me a while to make the changes I needed to prosper in the US.
My accent began to disappear as I spent more time with my friends and at school. Although I instinctively return to my old accent when Im with my family, Ive become a very effective public speaker. Ive also become more accustomed to American culture through television. Along with fashion tips, this helped me adjust to popular American beliefs and ideas that most people take for granted. I took an immediate liking to basketball, and I would watch the Houston Rockets play all the time. I discovered that I had a passion for running and I enjoyed being a part of the school’s Track and Cross Country Team during my high school years. As I made new friends and joined organizations, I no longer felt displaced.
There have been several other circumstances where Ive had to adapt to different cultures and ideas. My college experience exposed me to the numerous ideas and cultures at the University of Texas at Austin. Ive also had to live a dual life as part of an Indian culture at home and as an American outside of it. However, none of these experiences were as tremendous as my assimilation into American culture, and I believe that my success in this situation reflects my ability to adjust to unique and unusual circumstances.
2. Motivation Statement
Peace Corps service presents major physical, emotional, and intellectual challenges. You have provided information on how you qualify for Peace Corps service elsewhere in this application. In the space below, please provide a statement between 150-500 words that includes your reasons for wanting to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer; and how these reasons are related to your past experiences and life goals.
In pursuit of excellence, my mission is to lead my life with integrity and, by seizing opportunities and using all available resources, to discover my massive potential for enriching and improving the lives of those around me. Through the Peace Corps, I want to develop my skills to achieve these goals.
As a volunteer, I will follow this mission with a vivid sense of my priorities. Working within my role, I will work towards my future by choosing the long-term objectives over the short-term pleasures. Along with careful planning, this allows me to maintain a positive direction in my life and a positive attitude. I shall implement habits that aid my mission, while recognizing and changing the habits that hinder it. But most importantly, I shall efficiently focus all my personal resources on my educational, athletic, and emotional goals without procrastinating or settling for the status quo.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I will serve my host community by being the best representative of the USA that I can be. I acknowledge that my greatest resource is the people who fall within my circle of influence. Life is a journey and every person chooses a unique path. I facilitate my mission by helping others find a better route and by not being afraid to follow someone else down the right road. I will practice what I preach. Duplicity towards others cripples my effectiveness. I will exercise congruency in action and in word.
I shall approach each day with a renewed sense of vigor; shown externally with a brilliant smile and internally with an incredible proactive potential. I shall spread this enthusiasm for life to others through my positive words and my explosive actions. To truly love my life and my mission, I must live life to the fullest, using both my time and my effort to achieve my goals.
I understand that experience is the best teacher and that action is always better than regret. Inaction is a choice in itself, and it has its own consequences. If I fear failure, I fear real success. Failure is merely an opportunity to understand the changes necessary to continue my journey in the right direction. I realize that I have many steps to climb to achieve true success; climbing even one a day will eventually get me there. Standing still will not. The opportunities for growth are always available; my job is to go out there and grab those opportunities and make my Peace Corps experience as beneficial as possible for all parties.
There are those who make things happen, there are those who watch things happen, and there are those who wonder what happened.
I, Sandeep Koorse, make things happen.