28 Dec 5 Ways Blogging Changed Our Peace Corps Service
When my Uncle did the Peace Corps in the 70’s, my Mom would record messages for him on tape and wait months to receive his response in the mail. Times have really changed! These days, many Peace Corps Volunteers are just as connected by phone and internet as they would be in the States. While this new digital age certainly has many implications for Peace Corps that can be good and bad, we found the ability to keep a blog during Peace Corps to be particularly rewarding.
Here are some of the key ways that keeping a blog improved our Peace Corps experience:
1. Reflection and Processing
One of the benefits of writing out my thoughts during Peace Corps was that it required me to reflect and process what I was experiencing. To live out the ups and downs and find myself in so many new and unusual (or uncomfortable) situations could be mentally, emotionally, and physically taxing. Termed “the toughest job you’ll ever love,” there is a lot to process when you’re placed in a developing country for two years: leaving home, starting a new way of life, a new culture, a new group of friends, a new job description, new co-workers, confronting poverty, feeling incompetent with the language… Writing reflectively can help overcome these challenges.
Over our two years in Peace Corps Jamaica, I was also developing a deeper understanding of humanity and this world we live in, and it helped me to at least try and put these new realizations into coherent sentences.
2. A valid sense of accomplishment
Not every volunteer leaves their two years with a nice, big, completed project like a building a well in a community that had no water. In fact, even though I consider the work I did in Peace Corps to have been mostly successful, I know I’m not alone when I say that the cross-cultural exchange and relationships we built in our community were the most impactful part of my service.
Fortunately, Peace Corps recognizes that service is not all about your job. Two of Peace Corps’s three core goals are about bridging cultures: to help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served and to promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans. This means that blogging to promote cross-cultural understanding is a valid way to achieve success in Peace Corps.
This is good news, because the success of Peace Corps work projects are often outside of the Volunteer’s control. So on those days when the rain turns all the roads to mud swamps and no one shows up for your meetings and you can’t even get laundry done… if you publish one blog post, at least that’s one win for the day!
3. Taking friends and family along on the journey
We kept a blog before Peace Corps, but it never got quite the attention as it did when we were living and serving in Jamaica. We had a captive and curious audience who were eager to get updates from our “exotic” life abroad. Some of them wouldn’t dare set foot in our host country – others would have loved to visit but couldn’t for one reason or another.
With a blog, you can take all of these people – and more – along on your journey. If you’re strapped for time or can’t afford the long-distance minutes to call everyone, a blog is one way to communicate with everyone at once. No longer are you the only one who gets to benefit from the new knowledge and growth that this experience brings. And when you get home, at least a few more people will have a better understanding of what you’ve been up to while you were away.
4. A way to document memories
Peace Corps is full of precious and unique memories. Our blog was primarily useful for other people while we were in Peace Corps. But now that we’re done, it’s a great way to look back on all that we did and remember the ups and downs. To this day, we go back through our old blog posts to find recipes we used, or recall the name of someone we met, or just to reminisce.
5. Developing useful online skills
Perhaps the biggest and most unexpected benefit of keeping our blog was that it opened doors for us to continue the life we’ve always dreamed of. By using our blog as a testing ground, we learned valuable online skills. We had our first client lined up as soon as our service ended – a non-profit we had interacted with in Jamaica. And we had soon built a freelance web services business that allows us to work online from anywhere in the world.
For anyone who might go into journalism, copywriting, photography, video, social media, website services, etc., a blog is a great starting ground and the Peace Corps experience provides plenty of content to practice with. If done well, your blog can become a portfolio of your work. By taking your blog seriously, being consistent and intentional, and constantly working to improve, you can develop valuable skills for a career or self-employment.
Maintaining a blog and taking it seriously not only helped us get the most out of our Peace Corps experience, it also impacted our lives after Peace Corps. That’s why my new project, Blogging Abroad, is all about helping others bridge cultures through blogging. I hope to share the skills and tools we’ve gained so that others can improve their blogs and make an even bigger impact. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to visit BloggingAbroad.org and share it with someone living abroad who’s passionate about promoting cross-cultural understanding.
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