If you told me a few years ago that I was going to one day leave the great state of Arizona for Eastern Europe I would’ve said, “դու խելագար ես!” Actually, that wouldn’t happen because I didn’t know Armenian then (although I don’t know much now). That jumble of words means “you’re crazy” in Armenian, by the way.
I’ve always had a desire to travel and work internationally, especially after my time interning at the United Nations. I was never really sure how to go about it though. For a while, I thought about teaching English in East Asia or South America, but I disliked how I wouldn’t be involved in any sort of development or politics. I felt as though I would live in an academic bubble far removed from what was going on in my country of residence. So I took part in some other professions hoping something would stick. Between working on a congressional campaign and later at a high-end resort, I never found anything fulfilling.
However, I had an inkling as to what my next step should be. While I was at a festival for my campaign job a friend of mine, Emily, spotted a booth with Peace Corps recruiters and encouraged me to go talk to them. At that point I assumed the Peace Corps consisted of hippies with unrealistic expectations of themselves and the world. Man, was I wrong.
The Peace Corps definitely consists of people from all walks of life working in so many different ways. The work volunteers do ranges from urban planning to health education with so much in between. Also the places they live and work span the world from Samoa to Colombia to Mongolia. These dedicated people live in settings, so different from home, for over two years. The fact that they are able to navigate through an unfamiliar culture in a language so unlike our own is an incredibly feat. Needless to say, I learned quite a bit that day.
After that late summer day in Phoenix, I always had the idea of joining the Peace Corps in the back of my head. After the campaign, I worked and lived at a resort in Florida where I had room and board paid for and lived a simple life. Still thoughts of doing something more fulfilling persisted. I moved back to Phoenix and resolved to finally get around to applying for the Peace Corps.
I put teaching English in Armenia as my first position preference on my application. Friends have asked me why I’d ever want to live in a place so very different from the Sonoran desert. Why would I trade my saguaros and micro breweries for snowy mountains and cognac? There are so many different reasons. Armenia seems so picturesque in a way that can only be slightly conveyed in the photos I found online. Its culture comes across as both sincere and warmhearted. Its language and script is so mysterious that I can’t help but want to know more. The more personal reason is the challenge, however. I wanted an unfamiliar setting to see if I had mettle to be successful. I wanted to know if I had as much resolve as other volunteers who came before me.
After a few weeks, I heard back from the Peace Corps and got just the position I wanted! I was going to be teaching English in Armenia from March 2016 to June 2018! I found this out August of 2015, so needless to say my departure seemed incredibly far away. I slowly started getting ready for the big move by buying up things here and there, such as snow cleats (as someone who lives in Arizona I had no idea what they were). I filled out a whole bunch of paperwork, took online classes on teaching and the Armenian language. I’ve traveled all around country spending as much time as possible with loved ones before I leave the hemisphere.
I’m still in the process of packing and clearing out my room at my parents’ place. I still need to buy a few more gifts for my host family. I still need to walk my dogs a few more times. I still need to watch a few University of Arizona basketball games with my family. I still need to play music with my friends. I still need to hit up Old Chi. I still need to say goodbye to a so many more people. I know I’ll never be fully prepared for this adventure but with these last few days, I’m trying my best.