These past few months have been nuts as I try to juggle my work life, personal life, freelance life, Peace Corps life, and so many other additional things that make it full.
But while I’m learning to manage my time in the states (and I really am still learning), I have been adamantly fulfilling the third goal of the Peace Corps Mission by talking about my experience. I have taken the initiative to talk about “It Depends: A Guide to Peace Corps” and my Peace Corps China experience by getting involved with my High School in Florence, Colorado.
I reached out to the now principal of Florence High School and asked him if he was interested in having a guest speaker talk to the seniors about Peace Corps. The principal was very interested and invited me to come speak at the high school this past October.
Visiting My High School After 10 Years
I wanted to do this because I know Florence and I knew most of these kids would never leave and see anything outside of Colorado. I wanted to empower kids in this little town to travel and see new things, because the world really is so much bigger than Florence, Colorado – something I never fully understood until I had been all the way around the world. I wished we had more powerful speakers in high school that were real with us and encouraged us to do something greater after our HS and College experiences.
So, maybe these kids don’t know what they want to do, but I wanted to at least get them thinking about it, and at least cause for that awareness.
I spent a few weeks preparing for the Peace Corps talk, making a video (see below) and power points I hoped would keep the students engaged. I kept in mind the attention span my own high school kids had while I served in China and immediately panicked about whether or not they would even care about what I was saying. Regardless, I kept on creating a speech that would interest them until the time came to tell my story.
When I arrived at my school, which I haven’t been to in 10 years, I met with the principal who led me to the auditorium to set up everything for the talk. Not long after I arrived, my proud mother strolled in to spectate.
When the students filed into the auditorium, they showed the exact behaviors I thought they would, sitting in the back of the auditorium and making jokes about being away from class. I brought snacks for them as a bribe to listen because duh, and suddenly, I was on stage in front of a giant projector screen telling my story.
The first 20 minutes were rather rough as I tried to get through a video that was supposed to have sound, while duly struggling to keep their interest. But as I started showing pictures and talking about my life there, they started asking questions about my service and what I had seen and done in China. They reached a level of calm and focus I had rarely seen in my students in China, taking in everything I had to say.
When I was finally done talking, the students kept me an extra 45 minutes just asking me additional questions about how to become a part of Peace Corps, if it can be related to their career goals, where they could serve, and if they could travel with significant others. I was shocked that most of them were that interested.
When I finally stepped off stage, I met with a line of students who wanted to speak with me independently about all of this. I offered up my book for sale or for free, depending on what they could afford. I went through seven books and added a dozen new friends to Snapchat.
I went home, my heart feeling full, thinking about how I wished Florence something like this when I was going to Florence High School. Then again, maybe I forgot we did have speakers like this and I wasn’t paying attention.
Afterthoughts Of The Talk
It’s been almost a year and a half since I have returned home from Peace Corps, and I still want so much to live in the experience and tell my story. So much so, that I am writing another novel about my entire 2-year experience in China.
I am not just writing a hand guide this time. I am telling the whole story, the raw, nitty gritty of my very real life as a Peace Corps Volunteer in China. And friends, it will not always be the most pleasant of stories, but I promise it will be honest, true, and inspiring. It is probably the most honest I will have ever been with anyone, and I am going to be sharing it with, you, the world.
I will be writing this novel during the entire month of November for NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo is setting aside 2-hour blocks of time at Colorado Springs Library 21c where people can come and write their novels in the month of November.
Kelly Branyik is a writer, blogger, and author based out of Colorado. She is the founder of Travel Branyik and manages her adventures online full-time. She is the author of Peace Corps book, "It Depends: A Guide to Peace Corps," which was created after her two-year tour with Peace Corps China. Learn more about Kelly in her about section of her website!