One of the most important elements of Peace Corps service is the development of relationships. While forming bonds with local community members increases the chance for sustainability and the general effectiveness of our projects, relationships with our fellow volunteers can be equally important. Being submerged in another culture, experiencing challenges and opportunities that most people will never experience and can’t fully understand, our fellow pcvs become our support system. Not only that, but who better to offer advice than someone who has walked the same road recently?
If I were to give a future PCV one piece of advise it would be to find a volunteer from a previous batch to be an advisor, confidant, and friend as soon as you can. It is immensely helpful to be guided by someone who has recently experienced many of the same challenges. My friend Liz, from Guy 28, acted in this role for me, so much so I nicknamed her my sensei. She provided tips and translation to cultural differences, networking, etc. Liz not only offered excellent advice to spur on projects and help me to be more efficient in Guyana, but motivated us by her actions. She somehow found the perfect work/play balance. She initiated several impactful projects and shared her wisdom on how to do so freely. Having a previous volunteer to consult helps to make your work more efficient, because you have a leg up in navigating interactions with locals and staff as well.
On top of choosing someone whose work you admire, it is a good idea to choose someone who will make a good friend. I spent many days unwinding with my own personal sensei and usually benefited from her sage advise slid in between the fun. Having the rapport with her, and knowing she cared about my service as well as myself, made me put more stock in her advise – helping me to be more productive and happier. Not only that, but she often had the best travel tips, and encouraged me to enjoy the aspects of Guyana outside of my work. (I tend to get tunnel visioned and feel pressured internally to focus solely on making a difference, to the point I would forget to stop and smell the roses.)
Thank you Liz for all the free therapy sessions, career guidance counseling, and most of all for inspiring fun.