Kara Anthony, 130 TESS
You know what they say, “Behind every successful woman, there is a group chat of other strong women hyping her up.” I am confident most, if not all of my fellow Peace Corps volunteers (PCVs), male and female, can agree with this statement. The group chat is what gets us through the tough times, through the isolation, loneliness, and boredom. Being across the country and miles away from friends and family is incredibly difficult, so kudos to those of you reading that have been in my shoes and even those of you that are planning to be. I have found that there is an abundance of comfort in knowing that right at your fingertips is a tribe of people that get it.
You see, before joining Peace Corps, I did my share of research, a.k.a. I read every blog that I could get my hands on. A few of the top points that PCVs discuss in their blogs regarding the tough moments of their service are isolation, loneliness, and boredom. After having done my research, I was convinced and simultaneously terrified at the fact that potentially, I could spend the next two years alone. From the outside looking in, it is easy to believe that you will spend a lot of time alone for the next two years but reality is that pre-service training (PST) and Thai culture is constructed in such a way that being alone is seemingly impossible. During PST, the idea that you can successfully make it alone on this journey will become non-existent and here are four reasons why:
- You are surrounded by the same people tuk wan (every day, all day for 3 months). As exhausting as it may sound to be surrounded by the same people everyday, surprisingly, that was not my reality at all. In fact, having the opportunity to spend three months with these crazy and incredible humans turned out to be an unexpected blessing. Even on our days off, we still wanted to be in each other’s presence, which speaks volumes about how closely knit our group became.
- You struggle together (learning Thai language, navigating the market together, biking in the sun and rain together, etc.) We got through some of the hardest moments in PST together. We truly were and still are each other’s best resource on this journey.
- You lean on one another (assisting with flat tires, studying together to pass the LPI, crying and venting when you have really hard days). I’ve found that bad days are not all that bad when you are not enduring the day alone. Being surrounded by people that care about you makes so much of a difference.
- You hold one another accountable (to be at every session, to wake up in the morning and be present, to push through language and technical sessions, and to successfully complete the two year service). Essentially, we push one another to be the greatest human/teacher/friend/mentor that we can possibly be.
The bond that I have established with my fellow PCV’s within the duration of these short months is very similar to my relationship with my brother of 25 years, and my strong relationship with my sorority sisters (5 years). Though these relationships are incredibly different, they all have one thing in common. In each of these relationships, there have been occurrences where we have had to endure difficult times together. I did not expect to have such a strong bond with these people so early on, but what I have learned is that when you struggle and go through obstacles together, it brings you closer. You establish trust in the midst of tough times.
Being a PCV has allowed me to meet some of the most beautiful, strong, and courageous people. For my group (130) especially, one of our greatest resources is the group chat. The group chat works for us. Within the group chat we are able to share our ups and downs, our struggles and our victories. We are able to stay connected and uplift and celebrate one another, even while being miles apart. Between the group chat, direct messages, video chats, phone calls, emails, etc., we never miss a beat of each other’s journey and that for me has been crucial, on my worst and even my best days. I am incredibly grateful for my tribe, for their words of encouragement, for their empathy, for their selflessness, and for their support throughout this journey. It has been exactly what I needed. So yes, it is true—even when I am alone, I am never truly alone. I always have real good company, no matter where I go.
Read Kara’s previous article Being a Teacher Saved Me.