What I’ve Lost and Gained in Life After Peace Corps

I was in the Peace Corps, and if you read my blog you already know that. Like many other Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs), we experience that of something life-changing. I can’t speak for others, I can only speak for myself, but I know it was a catalyst to my personal growth and development out of certain flaws within me.

While I was living abroad as a PCV in China, I picked up multiple things I thought I would never lose after I left. I picked up a better attitude, a healthy lifestyle, a new language, and a new understanding of the world around me.

When I came back home, I thought all of those things would stay with me. I thought I would continue my healthy lifestyle, expand my learning, and have a better attitude (for the most part). But When I came home, back to America from China, I had trouble readjusting.

Again, I say this is just my experience and I can’t speak for how other volunteers have handled their integration back into their native culture, but for me, I felt like I didn’t do the very best job of staying in the secure place I felt I was in when I lived in China. So below are some things that I felt I lost after I returned home from Peace Corps WITH my kind of resolutions and philosophy on handling those problems.

I hope this gives all volunteers in the same boat an understanding. Just know you are not alone and it is completely normal to feel how you’re feeling. The things below are all just opportunities that all for your to grow even more.

Bye Bye Healthy Lifestyle

I was originally supposed to move back to China to teach English for a school there. So, when I came home, I didn’t hesitate to eat all my favorite foods I had missed out on for two years. I had every intention of having my American food binge and then returning back to China, going to my gym, and eating healthy like I was. I had a low carb, no sugar, protein-rich diet back in China, and it helped me lose 50 pounds during my service.

My contract with the school in China fell through (which I’m not super sad about), and I ended up working in Colorado Springs for an ad agency, which was a very high-stress environment. I went back to normal life. An apartment I paid for, a car loan, and… you know the drill. Needless to say, the stress of readjusting to this life caused me to gain weight. I gained back 46 of the 50 pounds I worked so hard to lose just four years ago. All that hard work was gone in two years.

Finding the motivation to get back to that girl I was in China who cared about her body has been a struggle, but I’m working on it, and happy to say I have started the keto diet in hopes that I restore who I once was again.

I Sort of Know Mandarin?

There was no doubt, another one of my largest accomplishments in China as a PCV was my language development. I learned super fast because I was in a situation where I had no choice but to learn Chinese if I wanted to make friends. And while I was met with great language development, I didn’t exactly return to a place where the Chinese community was very large. Thankfully for WeChat, I am still able to call and message my friends and family members back in China, which gives me somewhat of a use of the language

I feel like I haven’t lost that much of the language, but I definitely have used it less than I would’ve liked after returning home from Peace Corps China.

Loss and Gain of Relationships

If you’re anything like me and hate when relationships fade away, then you know what it feels like to lose people. Naturally, far distances have a tendency to separate you from friends. It’s normal to feel like you’re missing out on a part of life because you’re not back in your host country. It’s similar to when you left for Peace Corps as well is it not?

I always figure, if they are really good friends, then you will be able to stay in good touch and maintain the friendship. But it’s also very normal for friends to drift away so you can make room for new relationships when you move back home.

It may feel like you’re losing out on something, but you’ll be gaining many more wonderful things as well.

Change of Heart in Your Career Path

Some PCVs come home with completely different motivations and goals then they set before them prior to leaving for Peace Corps. You’re potential to grow in Peace Corps is so incredibly high, that it’s not unlikely that you’ll return home with a new passion for something. You may possibly throughout your old ones!

All of this is normal because as PCVs, many of us experience a change in perspectives that are catalysts for big changes within ourselves. Roll with it and do what you feel like you should be doing and what is your true passion. Often times life-changing experiences bring to light our true passions and intentions in life.

Everything Feels More Expensive

I was not expecting to acquire so much debt when I came home, but that was pretty much my fault. It’s easy to fall into the path of debt when you come home. Maybe you have to purchase a new car to get around, you’ll also have to purchase many other things like rent, insurance, phone bill, utilities… ahhh! It’s overwhelming when you just come from a lifestyle where that was all taken care of.

I struggled, have been struggling, with it since I got home. It’s almost like I am learning a lesson I already learned four years ago before I came to Peace Corps. I promise you are not alone and you are not the only one overwhelmed by the expensive American lifestyle.

My advice to you there is to try and refrain from acquiring too much debt, don’t buy what you don’t need and know that eventually, everything will even out and it will be ok.

You’ll Feel Like It’s Peace Corps All Over Again

You know how you jumped head first into another culture only to find out you lost your bathing suit and everyone is laughing at you while you’re trying to swim and keep your head above water? That’s what Peace Corps is like. But I felt the same feeling upon returning home from China.

I had missed so much and been kept so out of the loop on everything. Some pop cultures references passed over me, people thought the way I did or said things was weird, and some people were even very uncomfortable with the kind of person I turned into. And I know many can speak to this, you’re also coming back into a culture as a completely different person and some of you may still be holding the image of the ‘old you’ in their brain.

It May Take Some Time, A Long Time, To Readjust

It has taken me quite some time to readjust, and sometimes I don’t know if I ever fully will adjust. But I always go with the philosophy of, you’re doing the best you can, and there is no need to be hard on yourself because you aren’t in the place you’d like to be or you’re not doing the things you think you should. Give it some time. In good time, the things you need or desire most will be made available to you and things will definitely start to feel like they are balancing out.

Peace Corps will always be a part of who you are and it’s a very special part that not just anyone can take away from you.  

Trying to verbalize who you are now, isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but I promise the ones that love you will be there and understanding.

Life after Peace Corps is not the easiest to adjust to for some, and for those who have it easy in adjusting, I envy you. You are not alone and have many in the Peace Corps community and your own family who will love and care for you during your adjustment period.

For more resources on Peace Corps, check out my many other blogs on Peace Corps here. If you have advice to drop for other volunteers, leave a comment below!