Friday, January 24, 2014

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

It's hard to believe that I'm actually writing this post. That it's 2014. And that I'm scheduled to finish my Peace Corps service in another five months.

I have found myself at a bit of a crossroads this week. My Masters in Public Health (MPH) applications are all in, at Tulane, Boston University, Yale, Emory, and Columbia and I've been accepted to the first three programs. I'm finishing my application to EHESP in Paris soon.

When I applied to my schools back in November, I thought I would be ready to go. 2014 was the year I was waiting for!  Now that it's actually here, I don't feel ready at all. Thinking of June makes me nervous, to say the least.

I am essentially deciding whether to take a third year in Peace Corps Rwanda and work with an amazing organization called the Komera Project. (If you have a few extra dollars/want some good karma for the new year, consider making a donation. I've seen their work in person, and it's truly incredible stuff). From their mission statement: "Komera is a global leadership incubator for young women dedicated to building an international network of community leaders. In collaboration with Partners In Health, we created the Komera Project, in rural Rwanda to assist girls who have the courage and desire to pursue secondary education, but who lack the resources to do so." 

So, in typical Claire fashion, I've written a list of reasons to stay and reasons to help me process this decision as rationally as possible: 

Reasons to Stay in Rwanda
- I don't feel ready to leave Rwanda, at all. I keep imagining stepping on a plane to head back home, and feeling nothing but regret. Taking a Third Year would (hopefully) allow me to feel closure.
- I am in love with the organization I'd be working with, and it would be an amazing opportunity to collaborate on something I'm passionate about (girls education and empowerment). I love the work Peace Corps allows me to do: up close, personal, in-the-field development. I'm not in an office working on Excel sheets. So I'd be doing something I love, in a place I've learned to love.
- I am very, very happy overall in Rwanda, and I just feel like I've hit my stride here in the past few months. Rwanda feels like home to me. By the time I finish my service here, it will be the longest I've spent continuously in one place since I graduated high school.
- I've experienced so much personal growth throughout my service. My experience has been completely worth it, and I wouldn't change it for any sum of money. I know that I would continue to grow by staying another year.
- I would be living on the opposite side of the country (in the East), in a new community, with new challenges, opportunities, and growth.
- If I were to take a third year here, I'd be able to come home for a month in July/August, and then again at Christmas/New Years. So I'd be able to see a lot of family and friends then.
- Leaving D'Assisi so soon. This will need a blog post all its own. Whenever I think about leaving him, I start crying. I love him more than I can put into words.
-Grad school will still be there if I want to stay a third year.
How am I going to say goodbye? No idea. 

Reasons to leave Rwanda 
-Rwanda will still be here when I finish my MPH, and getting my MPH now will enable me to make a much greater impact than having a degree in political science and peace studies. As one of my (very wise) uncles told me, "You want to be hitting home runs, not doubles or singles."
- Another year away from family and friends. I miss you all so much!
-  If I still feel called to work in Rwanda, I can always return. In fact, I'm fairly confident that I'll return to Rwanda after my MPH.
- Taking another year in Peace Corps doesn't guarantee me closure. I may feel that I'm not ever ready to leave.
- I don't know if part of the reason I'm hesitant to return, even subconsciously, is because I'm scared to go back to the US. It sounds ridiculous, but I am very nervous about returning, and especially going to grad school just a month after I return from Peace Corps. I think I'm more scared about returning to the US than I was about coming to Rwanda two years ago, having never been to Africa before in my life. But fear is a terrible reason to make a decision.
- You don't make much money as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Three years is kind of a long time to go without making a salary (although Peace Corps provides me with a stipend/insurance/food/etc).
- I would be living on the opposite side of the country, away from my current Peace Corps site, the nuns, D'Assisi, and essentially my home here in Rwanda. And most of my friends in Peace Corps would return home during my third year.

- Only three of my schools (Tulane, Boston U, and Emory) will let me defer. So if I choose to take a third year, that means re-applying to Yale, Columbia, and Paris, and I may not get accepted a second time if I choose to reject their offer the first time.
- I am excited about getting back to school and studying. I have learned a LOT in Rwanda, but I do miss learning in a formal setting.

I know that I am incredibly blessed to have several amazing choices in front of me, either staying in a country I love with an organization I'm passionate about, or going to an amazing school to gain new skills. I'm grateful that I have, and have had, the opportunity for education. It's essentially a choice between two goods, and it will be an extremely difficult decision to make.

So if you have strong feelings one way or the other, if you work in public health, if you have any advice for me, or just haven't said hello in awhile, feel free to send me an email at clairebrosnihan (at) gmail (dot) com. Thanks to all of you who have been so supportive, it means the world to me.

Much love from Rwanda.


  1. Claire, your blog has been incredibly helpful as I've been researching Peace Corps Rwanda. I'll be arriving as an Education Volunteer in September! Could I contact you directly with more specific questions about your life in Rwanda? I'd really love to hear your advice and get any tips you may have for preparing for service.

    - Anna H.

    1. Sure Anna! I'd be happy to answer any questions you have. My email is listed above.