When I announced that I would be devoting 27 months of my life to the service of others in a country 5000 miles away from my own, a lot of people looked at me like I was crazy. A few other people told me there was no way I would make it that long without the comforts of home. Well, here we are…88 days away from me achieving my goal of completing my Peace Corps service in the country of Moldova.
So, what is my next step?
Over the past 27 months, I have jumped all over the place in terms of deciding what I wanted to come next. Law school, working for the federal government, finding a position at an international NGO, doing educational development work in Eastern Kentucky…yep, all of those were considered for varying amounts of time. However, I kept coming back to one specific path: academia.
I retook the GRE in October here in Moldova in preparation for applying to doctorate programs and had all of my applications submitted by early November. I received letters of recommendation quickly and professionally from former professors and my current employer, vouching for my ability to succeed in a doctoral program. After everything was submitted, it was just a waiting game.
Acceptances and rejections began rolling around in late January- early February, but I sat on making my final decision until a couple of weeks ago. I have always suffered from imposter syndrome pretty severely and it came flying back with a vengeance during this acceptance season: I lack the research focus to do well in a PhD program. I will look like a moron in front of my cohort mates. I am only doing this because I don’t know how to do anything else. I am just a girl with degrees from state universities–there is no way I will survive in academia.
But, as I looked back at my journey to this point in my life, I decided that I owed it to myself to at least try. Maybe I will fail. Maybe I will find that it is not for me. Or maybe I will fall back in love with academia. No one knows.
So, after much thought and consideration, it looks like I am coming home!
I have accepted a 5 year fully funded assistantship position in University of Kentucky’s Sociology PhD program where I plan to focus on sociological problems plaguing rural America, specifically Central Appalachia. I received similar offers from both Washington State University and Iowa State University, but my heart and soul pulled me back to the Bluegrass.
For the majority of my life, I was embarrassed and ashamed to admit that I was raised and educated in Kentucky. Kentucky is often the butt of jokes, ignored by many (including the federal government), and considered to be an insufficient place to live/raise a family. I just knew that my successful future was in a big city somewhere and that I would run full-steam ahead toward that goal, leaving Kentucky in the dust.
Fast forward 27 months living in an Eastern European country that is scarily similar to the mountains of Eastern Kentucky…and here is what I have learned.
- There is a beauty in the simplicity of rural life
- The people of rural communities are, bar none, the most hospitable and caring people I have ever met in my life
- Being proud of your roots is paramount to loving yourself as a person
- Every thing that I love the most about myself exists because of where/how I was raised. I am who I am because of Appalachian values and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
I owe it to myself and to the communities that have raised me to return home and commit myself to the development efforts happening in my backyard. The skills and knowledge that I have obtained during my 27 months of service have been practiced and polished in Moldova–now it is time to return to the States and pick up the torch there.
You can take the girl outta Kentucky…but she’ll ultimately find her way back.