First Impression

4 hours by bus from Philadelphia to JFK, 14 hours from JFK to Johannesburg, 4 hours from Johannesburg to Kampala, 5 minutes in the bathroom to change into business casual attire, 30 minutes to clear customs, and 40 minutes to collect baggage before clearing customs to be greeted by Peace Corps staff. First impressions and dressing to Ugandan standards was on all of our minds, but traveling in business casual wasn’t much of an option. In these 5 critical minutes in addition to washing my face and brushing my teeth I was able to fully change from vans, beyond faded but extremely comfortable black jeans, a t-shirt, and hoodie required during the frozen flights, to a shined pair of black dress shoes, pressed and cuffed slacks, and a crisp short sleeve button up with the tags still requiring removal. Once our 52-person cohort was dressed, through customs, and in possession of all we could bring in two checked bags for a 2 year move to Uganda, our Peace Corps staff happily greeted us and loaded us onto a couple buses for another 3-hour journey to our training site in a neighboring city.

Upon strategically acquiring the shot gun seat of the bus and chatting with the driver, I gave a few looks back at the tired faces to see all the excitement penetrating through the sleepy, glossy eyes. First impressions were slowly starting to sink in.

The Cohort

Our 52-person cohort consists of 28 Agribusiness and 24 Health trainees. For some, this is the second country visited whereas for others this is over their 20th. The best part about this new family hailing from Alabama to Oregon is the communal nature. Although in the United States our various backgrounds and interests would lead us on diverging journeys, the overriding collective goal to serve in the Peace Corps for 27 months has set us on the same path and has bonded us together.

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Going with the flow

I was raised with the phrase “go with the flow.” Today, it is engrained in my thought process and driving my decision to accept an offer to join the Peace Corps. I’ve been considering applying to and joining Peace Corps since high school, so what do I mean by go with the flow?

Since last October, I have been mentally and physically preparing to join the Peace Corps in Peru. This preparation included reaching out to my gap year host family in Pisac, Peru, quitting my job perhaps a bit early to see a new part of the world before service, reading Conquest of the Incas, Death in the Andes, and listening to Spanish language podcasts. The bulk of the load was consumed more recently while motorcycling down Vietnam to prepare for my Spanish language interview held the following week when I returned from the trip. 

None of these activities were hindering or felt required, but they brought on nostalgia and reignited my interest to return to Peru, one of the first countries I discovered on my own six years ago. A discovery that has influenced my decision to prioritize new experiences, guiding me to taking the trip I was on and initiating the journey to come.

When I received the call that my cohort’s placement to Peru had been canceled with minimal explanation, a day before my Spanish language interview, I was less than enthused. Upon further reading about the state of emergency called by the Peruvian government in response to intense flooding and corresponding mudslides, I slowly began to understand the decision made.

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