Tag: Panama

Why I Joined the Peace Corps

Why I Joined the Peace Corps

Yes, it’s true! I decided to join the Peace Corps departing to Panama for 27 months in July 2017, and I’m ecstatic I landed the ‘Environmental Engineer & Water Resources Coordinator’ position. To some of  you it may be a surprise, and to others who are just curious, this is the story leading up to why I joined the Peace Corps.

In September 2016 I had a great job in the tech industry – amazing pay and benefits, an awesome team that I loved, able to take vacation pretty much when I wanted – but I wasn’t happy. 

I was sitting on the train during my 3 hour commute home and an older Indian man sits down across from me and we started talking. He asked what I do, and I replied, “I’m a mechanical engineer in the semiconductor industry in San Jose but I live in Sacramento.” His eyes widened, and I told him how I get up at 3:30 AM every morning to catch the 4:30 AM train, get to work at 7:30 AM, work a full 8 hour day without taking a lunch break, then catch the 3:30 PM train to get home at 6:30 in the evening.
 
He asked me, “Do you like what you do?” I shrugged, “Yeah, it’s a great job.” 
“But do you love your job?”
I was silent.
“Do you love where you live?”
I liked Sacramento, but I couldn’t see myself there forever.
He continued, “I have found that if you love what you do and you love where you live, you will be very successful. Don’t worry about the money – if you love what you do and where you live – the money will come.”
 
I had a tendency to go to bed pretty early because of my work schedule, but one night I woke up at 11 PM from a dream I had about a clean drinking water system and it sparked an idea. I grabbed one of my old environmental engineering textbooks and ran across the street to the coffee shop and started drawing and researching. And I realized, this is it. This is what I want to do with my life, but I had no idea how to go about it. 
 
The idea to engineer water resources in developing countries started back when I was 15 years old. My sister and I went to the Philippines with my mother to visit family when she abandoned us. The village my sister and I lived in didn’t have electricity or clean drinking water and the locals had to walk 2 miles with an arrowhead jug to fill up at a well. What stuck with me was how we take having clean drinking water for granted, a basic necessity of life. That was an experience that totally changed me and my outlook on life.
 
When I was in college I took an engineering class on computer aided design and we had to engineer a clean drinking water system for a village in a developing country. Using my past experiences, I decided to design a system based on the village I was in back in the Philippines. I hoped that maybe one day I could implement my designs in places that need it all around the world. 
 
After that night in the coffee shop scribbling down my ideas, I spent hours researching volunteer organizations that would allow me to design and implement water resources in developing countries with little luck. And then I came across the Peace Corps.
 
I looked into doing Peace Corps while I was still in college a few years earlier, but they never had engineering positions available so I gave up on the idea back then. This time around, however, they had the exact position I was looking for: Environmental Engineer & Water Resources Coordinator. I knew this was the experience I needed in order to eventually start my own business but I was a little uneasy about being away from home for almost 2 1/2 years. I applied anyways. 
 
It was a long process going through the application and interviews, but I knew this was a calling I had to pursue. I was so excited when I received my invitation to serve, but then came the next step: I had to quit my job. In my head I went back and forth of when to quit since I hadn’t received medical or legal clearance yet, so it was still up in the air whether or not I would be serving. Ultimately I made the decision to quit because I didn’t want to commute anymore; I was exhausted and it was taking a toll on my health. I then figured out how much I needed to save to be able to live on my own for 3 months unemployed along with extra money for emergencies and travel during my service. 
 
People were very quick to judge when they found out I had quit my job, saying things like, “that’s what’s wrong with kids of this generation” or “eventually you’ll come back and have to face the real world and get a real job,” but they didn’t understand my plan or what I wanted out of life. There are so many people out there who hate their job but don’t do anything about it because they’re afraid of change, don’t want to venture outside their comfort zones, or feel that right now isn’t a good time to pursue something else. But I believe that the best things in life happen to us unexpectedly, and following the unfamiliar leads us to the ultimate success. Because if you think about it, If you stick with the familiar and what you already know, you would already be successful, or at least know you’re on the path to success. And for me, I knew that I wasn’t utilizing my talents in the ways that they were meant to be used.
 
Through my service in the Peace Corps, I hope to gain the experience I need to work at an international level and to one day start my own NGO (a type of non-profit organization) to engineer and implement clean drinking water systems in developing communities around the world. I’m incredibly excited for my future ahead and I’m counting down the days (50 to be exact!) until I leave for Panama in July 2017!