Friday, April 26, 2013

Approaching the End

This past Wednesday was our Senior Honors Convocation, and I was so honored to receive the ACBSP (Accreditation Council of Business Schools and Programs) Student Leadership Award.  As planned, I headed to a faculty dining room to have lunch with my academic advisor before the ceremony, but was incredibly surprised to see who was there to join us- my dad!  As a surprise for me, he had driven all the way from East Tennessee to Pittsburgh the night before so that he could be there to celebrate with me.

Abby and Dad2
Abby and Sadie
Honors Convocation (45)
Abby and Dad

As I had lunch with the two of them and then celebrated with both friends and classmates afterwards, I was overwhelmed by the sense of community and love that are present here at Saint Vincent.  As I walk across the stage to receive my diploma two weeks from tomorrow (how has time gone so fast?!), I will be so proud to become an official alumna of this school and to use and share the skills and virtues I have gained throughout the past four years here.  Here's to making these final two weeks the best they can be!  

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Isla Mujeres

Since I've been reminiscing about Mexico over the past few days I figured I would share one last set of photos I never got around to blogging.  

Dying to get out of the resort (as glorious as it was), I managed to get our little group to agree to a day trip to Isla Mujeres on our last day in Mexico.  Just a quick ferry ride from Cancun, Isla Mujeres is a beautiful, albeit tourist filled, tropical island.  We couldn't stop taking pictures of the brightly colored buildings and turquoise waters, and if you're willing to barter a bit, the island has some great souvenirs.  

Smaller towns with a local flavor are definitely more my travel style, and I'm looking forward to exploring more of Central America this coming summer!


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Peace Corps: Just somewhere for hippies to postpone "real life"?

In the past few weeks since officially accepting my assignment as a Sustainable Agriculture Systems Extension Agent to Panama (That's a long way of saying I'll be working in Agribusiness), my excitement has bubbled over to whoever will listen.  For once, I've actually been looking forward to the common, "So, what will you be doing after graduation" question.  

When I give the short answer, that I will be moving to Panama, Central America to work in agribusiness with the Peace Corps, most people are incredibly supportive.  I've been blessed to receive offers of prayers, support, and even the contact information of some friends-of-friends living in Panama City.  Unfortunately though, not responses have been so positive.  

"Eventually you will have to get a real job... like where you'll actually have to do work."
"You're just gonna go and sit in the sun with them all day long, huh?" 
and my personal favorite
"Ha.  So you're trying to go make world peace or something.  Good luck with that."

Sadly, those are three real replies from three separate people.  I was shocked, but also sad and a little bitter that these statements were not meant as a jokes, but as honest opinions that reflected the way these people seemed to look down on me and my decision to accept a position with the Peace Corps.  

Each time, I took the opportunity to tell these people a little about the incredible work that Peace Corps volunteers across the world have accomplished and are continuing to accomplish.  I told them about the work that I would be doing- which was, in fact, real work- and how I would be bringing the skills I gained in agribusiness development and management back to my future career in the United States.  I told them about how living in a Panamanian community would help me to integrate into their culture and allow me to best "teach them how to fish," so to say.  I also told them that while world peace is great, the volunteers who make up the Peace Corps aren't just a bunch of hippies running around holding little childrens' hands (Although I'm sure there will be some of that too.)  

We are a complex and diverse group of people with training across many disciplines that allows us to serve communities across the world in sectors like business development, health, environmental protection, and even energy conservation.  We are dedicated and passionate about making a difference, and we're doing more than just posting about it on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.  We are going out there and actually doing it.  

Though I'm not yet a Peace Corps volunteer, I am so proud to join the thousands of past and current volunteers this coming summer.  I know that my work will matter, and I hope that slowly but surely we can use our results to show people like the three from my example above that the Peace Corps truly exhibits the American spirit of hard work, ingenuity, and compassion.

To all of you that have supported and continue to support me in this next chapter of my life, thank you.  

Busy Busy

photo-6One of the downsides of Peace Corps service is the overwhelming amount of paperwork and medical tasks.  This week alone I've had six immunizations and a host of medical tests to ensure that there is literally nothing wrong with me. The bad side: I am no short of 100% terrified at the very thought of needles invading my personal space.  The good side: I won't get sick (hopefully), and with every immunization from Tetanus to Yellow Fever,  at least you can't blame the Peace Corps for being not being thorough enough...

I'll now be spending the next few days uploading about fifty pages of paperwork into online databases and saying my prayers that both final medical clearance and nice little reimbursements head my way soon.

#1 Lesson I wish I had known before starting this process: If you're going to be entering Peace Corps service, most medical tests and exams must be no more than 4 to 6 months old, even if you've had the exams done within the past year.  Unfortunately, this can cause some issues with insurance coverage, so do your best to postpone exams, X-rays, etc., until you receive your invitation and know the necessary time frames.  Also, check, double check, and triple check your medical to-do lists.  I nearly had a meltdown today when I thought I had missed something.  The Peace Corps can and will postpone your placement if you don't have the necessary documentation in on time, so be sure to pay close attention to your immunization schedules and other appointments!