In the mean time, I'll post the two short application essays for your reading enjoyment.
I have a desire to share my knowledge and experience, my culture, my hands in labor, and likewise to be receptive of the same from others. I also believe that to have the expectation of "saving the world" by coming into a developing country does a disservice to all involved. From my own experience, I find that open person-to-person interaction is often a powerful influence for positive change.
I am enthusiastic about becoming immersed in another culture and all the joys and trials that come with it. To some small extent I have been on the other end, hosting students coming in from another country to experience American culture first hand. This was an important part of my high school experience, putting a crack in that "me"-oriented notion of the world. Although these exchange students did not come here with the intention of teaching, or aiding our development as a community, their presence did just that.
My formal education has largely centered on becoming a professional artist and teacher. However, to do either well, I believe one must first be a member of the world. I am rewarded every time I broaden the circle around myself. I find that I get so much out of listening, teaching, and learning. As an artist I appreciate creative solutions and challenges, and welcome unique perspectives. I will, in some sense, always be an artist even if my present activity might not outwardly be considered "art". Art is about communicating an idea, emotion, or message, either simple or complex. It is my lifelong goal to continue to have something to communicate by continuing to push myself and engage with humanity.
The man who had my heart was also one of the best examples to me of how to love and serve others. He worked for a Christian non-profit organization and had also volunteered to teach English in Taiwan for a year. We had hoped to help with the AIDS crisis in Africa through his work connections this coming summer. Tragically, these plans quickly derailed when he passed away in September. His life is a continued inspiration to me. However, I must emphasize that my interest in the Peace Corps is not that I feel I must do this for him, or anyone, but through him I realize that this is something I could do. He was an example of strength through adversity. Overcoming and enduring difficulties have strengthened me as well. I feel empowered to help others, and to live in the moments that we are given to make a difference on an individual level.
"You aren't like a typical American girl," was commonly directed at me during my recent trip to Paris, in October 2007. I knew the stereotypes I was being compared to. More importantly, it made me aware of my own preconceived notions about the city and culture I had placed myself in and how those ideas were continually reshaped or destroyed.
This was my first trip abroad without family, and my first trip to Europe. I was staying with another American friend who had been there a month before I arrived. However, I was largely in charge of exploring the city on my own. Completely dependant on myself and the kindness of strangers, this experience forced me out of the comfort of the known.
I had never taken a French class. Although many Parisians have some grasp of English, I was determined to use the limited French I knew when I could. It is easy to be the tourist who demands the locals to bend to his/her wants and expectations. I found it to be much more enriching to be the tourist who acknowledges that I am a visitor to another culture. I took pride in the moments when I could communicate in French without falling back on English, such as when I successfully confirmed a restaurant reservation.
There were several instances that may have proven inconvenient under normal circumstances that were heightened by their taking place in a city and language unfamiliar to me. The transportation strike drove me to find alternate routes and come to new understandings of how to get around. In turn I saw sides of the city I may not have otherwise encountered. At the end of my stay, the 20-hour flight delay out of Paris caused headaches for many of my fellow passengers. I decided to view it as an opportunity to have extensive conversations with a man from Spain and a woman from a city just north of Paris. On the flight back, the seat next to me was occupied by a French West-African, Bido, who broke the ice with: "I saw some of these people here arguing with the airline yesterday trying to get their way. I decided to not let this situation anger me, and instead accepted where was in the moment. I see that all of us ended up on the same flight."
I agree with Bido, in that some situations call for higher levels of patience and understanding. I came into the trip determined with a sense of adventure and openness to something new. This served me well. I also found how important flexibility, a willingness to learn, and keen observation are in facing a foreign environment and culture.