I just got back from my last and final Peace Corps conference a few weeks ago. Before I even started my service, I had always thought of Close of Service (COS) conference as the ultimate finish line. The conference by no means mark the last day of my service (still twelve weeks away), but it’s the ceremonial end to an incredible challenge. In my case, shaking my Country Director’s hand and receiving my certificate of completion was the moment I achieved a very personal life goal.
The three months after COS conference is an awkward yet necessary period. Even though I still have a month of school left, my motivation has plummeted and my mind is somewhere else. I have bought my flight out of Mongolia and I’m currently planning my six week Asia tour: Korea, Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia. I have one last project to see to the end – TEDxArvaikheer – and then school is out and I’m off on a two week vacation around Mongolia. In July, I’ll be selling and giving away my things, saying goodbye to friends and teachers who aren’t in the countryside and taking the bus out of Arvaikheer for the very. last. time.
Intellectually, I know I won’t be able to seamlessly insert myself back into the life I had before Peace Corps. Yet the allure to go back to the good old days is too sweet; it clouds my ability to see Mongolia as a place that I will miss and cherish. For every one thing I will miss, there is also a long, tiresome list of grievances that I won’t miss. I suppose this would happen no matter where you are especially if it’s not your culture and/or place of comfort. But I don’t regret having joined Peace Corps or coming out here for two years. It’s a trite thing to say, but this experience really did make me grow and become more aware of the kind of person I am.
Another way my two years has paid off is that I figured out what I want to do with my life after this; I discovered a career path that I didn’t know was a real thing until I was here. It’s called ‘Learning and Development.’
Last year, the tune was a little different. I wrote a blog post about how I thought teaching was my calling and I suppose in some ways it still is. Before, I was more attracted to the international teaching route and I started narrowing down which Masters of Education programs I wanted to apply to this fall. Yet the whole time, I was grappling with my anxieties about being in a classroom and my fondness for teaching. And then, I discovered training.
It started with the M27 PST where I was a technical trainer for five weeks. Then my first two quarters at school, I was intensely focused on helping my teachers improve their methodology by designing more cohesive lesson plans without the book. At the end of January, I was invited to present a few sessions at an international NGO conference. I was also attending a bunch of Peace Corps trainings as a trainee which was not as much fun, but I was learning how to run efficient and successful trainings and workshops.
Teaching is rewarding but I can’t see myself being “on” day-in and day-out. I also don’t like being limited to working in a classroom. And I’ve talked about this before, but the teacher life is not very appealing to me, especially in America. I wouldn’t even want to do it for a couple of years before I went abroad to an international school.
Instead, I like that as a trainer, I would only have to be “on” for short and intense periods of time between weeks or months of designing and planning in a collaborative office environment. Additionally, Learning & Development is under the Human Resources umbrella so it is a facet of all industries in corporate, nonprofit/NGO, education, government or even start-ups. The job can be found all over the world, too, so I can fulfill my dream of living the expat life one day. I could settle in the big, expensive cities of the world or opt for a more simpler life in a smaller city. Furthermore, I can try my hand at instructional or curriculum design if I’m hankering for a more creative touch. What makes me happiest about this career path is that I get to be both a teacher and business or development professional.
Every job, internship, and volunteer service I ever took contributed to nearly a decade of soul-searching to find this answer. Yes, I had to do more work than someone who graduated with a more specialized degree, but now I feel secure and fulfilled knowing what it took me to get here. As an added bonus, I got to do so much more than this one future job, for example, my entire Peace Corps experience. It was a stressful 20s, but I wouldn’t have wanted it to happen any other way.