Monday, June 23, 2008

Aspirations

The Peace Corps requires each Invitee to answer several questions regarding one's aspirations for service. Here are my answers:

A. The professional attitudes that you plan to use, and what aspirations you hope to fulfill, during your Peace Corps service.
My professional attitude encompasses humility, adaptation, competence, leadership and separation.
As a professional, I acknowledge the range of my abilities. I am dedicated to professional growth and welcome constructive criticism, critiques and advice. I practice adaptation, as every work environment is different. Adapting my professional self and actions to fit the criteria needed to achieve project goals, meet deadlines, and serve those around me results in producing the best work product possible.
I express competence in my field by using my educational background and my previous experience in youth development. I use my educational background to understand youth development theory. I use my past experiences with youth populations as youth in every community have unique needs. To meet those needs, past experience with youth populations is not only beneficial, but also essential.
Professionalism also incorporates leadership. In a previous graduate course, I read several leadership texts and attended leadership seminars, which assisted me in developing my leadership philosophy. In the class exercises, I identified important traits a leader must possess. In working with youth populations, it is imperative to view oneself as a leader.
As a leader, the group is my responsibility. Although, I identify with group members and value their input, I also understand my relationship with the youth is not to be the most popular member, but to assist the group in achieving goals. The demands of a leadership position are different and maintain professionalism is extremely vital to the success of a leader (and the group).
Additionally, a leader assists others in developing their leadership skills. As a professional in youth development, it is my goal to assist those around me in developing their professional attitude and develop the skills needed to become a leader in their own community.
Being a professional also involves separation. As a professional in youth development, I consider myself always “on the job” and act accordingly; however, I know it is important to maintain my health and energy outside the office. Furthermore, when working in a professional environment, it is inevitable stressful situations will occur. I strive to maintain a professional attitude and focus on keeping my professional relationships and views separate from my personal relationships. Although, I may disagree with another’s professional opinion, I will strive to maintain a friendship and positive relationship with that person outside the office. Separating my professional self from my personal self allows me to accept constructive criticism and critique graciously and focus on being a highly valued and contributing team player.
Thus, my aspirations for my service are to continue my professional development in youth services and young adult marketing. I hope to continue developing my skills in working with people from different cultural backgrounds, as that is the work environment in my home community. In addition, my service will supplement my graduate education, as I am a part of the Peace Corps Master’s International program. My service experience will earn me credits toward my graduate degree and will assist me in becoming a more capable and well-rounded master’s student.
Personally, I hope to learn a new language, experience a different culture and serve others. I am excited about sharing my experiences and culture as my Alaskan / American background is uniquely different than that of other Americans. The opportunity for cross-cultural communication, positive reinforcement of American peoples, and opportunity to experience a culture while immersed in it is very exciting and presents a rare challenge. I am proud to say I am ready to accept that challenge.
B. Your strategies for working effectively with host country partners to meet expressed needs.
In developing a working relationship with my host country partners, I plan to approach the relationship as a facilitator and provider. My beginning strategy will include developing a clear picture of our project and project goals, defining responsibilities and expectations, and developing a strategic plan. Additionally, it is important to focus on resources and positive community influences before identifying potential barriers.
As a facilitator, it is my responsibility to encourage, support, and assist in achieving outlined goals. A facilitator does not work to achieve their own successes, but instead focuses on the needs and wants of the community. My role as a facilitator will be to assist the community achieve its project goals.
As a Peace Corps volunteer, it is my responsibility to not only assist my host country partners in achieving project goals, but to make goals that without my presence would be impossible, possible. This may include teaching English, organizing youth groups, or painting a youth facility. My time and energy will be donated and therefore other funds and personnel will be available to complete other project goals.
In addition to these strategies, I hope to learn how to relate and effectively partner with my host country partners during my pre-service orientation. Learning from those around me is essential to understanding the cultural dynamics of partnership building.
C. Your strategies for adapting to a new culture with respect to your own cultural background.
As a person with a multiracial background who was raised in an Alaskan indigenous community, developing strategies for maintaining my own personal identity while assimilating and adapting to other cultures is extremely important. My adaptation strategies currently include curiosity, investigation, exploration, evaluation, self-evaluation and reflection.
My curiosity stimulates my inquisitiveness resulting in my enjoyment of discussion and dialogue on a myriad of topics. I am a proponent of research and enjoy being well informed. I explore all available facets of a topic and often perform an evaluation through journaling and discussion to develop my own opinion. Once my opinion is developed, I continue to reflect and incorporate additional information, thus allowing the processes of information gathering to be dynamic.
In addition to these strategies, my parents taught me the value of maintaining an open mind and impartiality. My parents stressed the importance of acknowledging my upbringing and cultural background as a limiting factor in accepting other belief systems and value structures. These lessons allowed me to understand how my value system and belief structure are not default systems of analysis.
It is my goal to continue to develop to my adaptation strategies while serving in the Peace Corps by remembering the lessons of my parents and learning from others around me.
D. The skills and knowledge you hope to gain during pre-service training to best serve your future community and project.
During pre-service training, I hope to gain a more culturally accurate view of Azerbaijan peoples. Prior to beginning pre-service training, I have accumulated information from available resources, such as the internet and Peace Corps publications; however, this information may not accurately describe Azerbaijan culture and peoples. I hope to gain accurate information through pre-service training, contact with local people, and personal outings, prior to being placed in my service area.
I also hope to gain an understanding of culturally appropriate professional and personal behaviors, values, expectations and activities. It is my goal to become a resource in my service community and without understanding cultural personal and professional expectations, it will be difficult to accomplish this goal. Additionally, I hope to become proficient in the Azeri language, thus allowing me to communicate effectively with my service community and host partners.
Finally, I would like to spend pre-service training assimilating to my new home. I anticipate experiencing relocation anxiety, homesickness, and other emotions associated with life changes and hope to use the months of pre-service training adapting to my new environment and surroundings. This will assist in making my next transition into my service area easier and more fluid.
E. How you think Peace Corps service will influence your personal and professional aspirations after your service ends.
As my service in the Peace Corps is part of my University of Alaska Fairbanks MA in Rural Development degree, I believe this experience will enhance my educational knowledge base and assist me in becoming a diverse and informed student and community member. As the University of Alaska Fairbanks approaches Alaska issues in an American and Alaskan context, my experiences in the Peace Corps will assist me in identifying different approaches to rural development issues faced by small communities.
It is my intention to utilize my Peace Corps experiences, higher education degrees and professional expertise to continue youth development within western Alaska. Reference material on Azerbaijan indicates many similarities between Alaska and Azerbaijan youth populations and community involvement in youth development. The professional and personal experiences, knowledge, and skills I gain from working with Azerbaijan youth, community, and government organizations will assist me in continuing to develop and enhance Alaska’s youth services.
In addition to professional development, my service in the Peace Corps will assist me in developing additional tools in cultural adaptation and assimilation. As Alaska is culturally rich and diverse, learning from indigenous knowledge structures is of extreme value. It is imperative to develop adaptation and assimilation tools. Learning how to incorporate other culture’s knowledge, Alaskan indigenous knowledge, contemporary knowledge and my own cultural knowledge and background is extremely important to me. The Peace Corps will assist me in challenging and enhancing my own adaptation strategies, my own beliefs and will assist me in becoming a better person.