The cohort after mine just finished their COS conference, their last formal gathering as the M27s. They’ll be completely finished in three months. And when they come home, it will also be one year since I finished my service.
I did not hurry elsewhere or somewhere when I finished. Some of my friends went straight into graduate school programs, others traveled for a couple of weeks like me, and a few went back to their previous job/field. Some joined Peace Corps again, others joined AmeriCorps, one got a Fulbright research grant, and a couple of people stayed in Mongolia to work in Ulaanbaatar.
I considered all of these options for myself, especially extending my stay in Mongolia. I may go back one day – I know I’d love to – but I decided to come home for now. I chopped off my hair and used a good amount of my readjustment allowance to travel. I visited South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, and Hawaii. In September, I moved back home with my parents in Ohio. I worked part-time as a substitute teacher and tutor to make some money. I joined a fencing club and a Krav Maga gym. My boyfriend moved to Columbus to be close to me. I applied to graduate school. I had a quiet life and easy routine that was very pleasant.
And then in March, I had to make some big decisions.
I heard back from all my graduate schools. I recognize how very fortunate and privileged I am to have received admission and scholarships to all the programs I applied to – two in teaching, two in international education policy (IEP). While I love to teach, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to study at the Harvard Graduate School of Education or the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education.
I was very torn between the two IEP programs. Penn has a built-in internship component and less hurried curriculum; Harvard has a world-renowned reputation and a larger international cohort. Both are accelerated Ed. M programs and are run by outstanding faculty. In the end, it came down to money (cause it always does). When I heard back from Harvard’s financial aid office, I was more nervous opening that email than I was when I received the official acceptance email. I’m happy because in the end, both my logical and emotional selves were able to come to one decision: Harvard.
In March, I went to Washington D.C. to attend the RPCV Careers Conference and Job Fair. I knew I was going to grad school in the fall so I used the opportunity to just learn. I thought the conference was well-organized and very insightful. Nick Crain and Jody Hammer, our two dedicated RPCV Career Coaches, are fantastic at what they do. They pulled in experts from all over D.C. to speak with us and evaluate our resumes, elevator pitches, and networking skills.
During the week, I also carved out some time to see my former AmeriCorps VISTA supervisor and colleagues. After catching up, they asked if I might be interested in working with them as a contractor for a couple of months. Within a week after that meeting, they sent me a formal contract. Within two, I had packed two suitcases and moved back to D.C.
So that’s where I’m at right now. I am sitting in my living room “bedroom” in a friend’s high-rise right by the Pentagon. It’s kind of weird to see my life take on the same pre-Peace Corps routine again – same job, supervisor, commute, etc. I am grateful for the opportunity though, one that came about completely by chance and unexpectedly.
I also miraculously found off-campus housing near Cambridge and a summer subletter, too! I’ve finalized plans with my family for our reunion vacation to Olympic National Park in July. I mean, knock on wood, but life is pretty good.
The only thing I might have changed about this last year is that I wish I hadn’t traveled after COS-ing. I know, gasp! regret travel?! But I honestly spent way too much money visiting countries that are miserably hot in the dead of summer (Korea & Japan). Indonesia could have been better if my boyfriend and I hadn’t tried to see so much in such a short period of time. Hawaii was pure gold though. I don’t regret that trip. Anyways, a good portion of that money could have gone towards alleviating my anxiety about grad school debt. But what’s done is done. I can only plan for what’s coming next.
It’s been about three years since I started this blog. Thank you to all who stayed on with me and written to me; to feel like I wasn’t writing into the void helped me keep this blog alive for my entire service. I’m not sure what will happen to it now, perhaps it’ll be a place to talk about my experiences at Harvard. Or perhaps the blog will have to be archived, having run its original purpose. We’ll see, but in the meantime, expect change. Or silence. One of the two.