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Question
Hello! I am soon to be college grad submitting my application for the Peace Corps. To do so I must write 2 essays. Unfortunately, writing is not my forte. I was hoping that you could help me by proofreading them because I am not incredibly confident about my sentence structures, topic flow and word choices etc. If you think you have time (I understand if not) here are the first topic guidelines:

Peace Corps Volunteers must be open to ideas and cultures different from their own and may need to modify their appearance or behavior appropriately. Give an example (between 250-500 words) of a significant experience that illustrates your ability to adapt in an unfamiliar environment. Please highlight the skills you used and the perspectives you gained. You may draw from experiences in your work, school, or community in the U.S. or abroad. Please list the date(s) of your experience.

and here is the essay:

My appreciation and respect for diversity began to spring up when I was younger because of my family’s nurturing of my love for nature. Growing up, we took trips every summer once or twice for a few weeks to different places around the United States. Some of my strongest and fondest memories I have come from experiences such as peering out onto the horizon from my grandparent’s overhead bed in their camper onto the dark, storming mountains of Colorado, seeing the daunting twin peaks of Mount McKinley, or later, the delicate microenvironments of the Gulf coral reefs.  Whenever I began my freshman year of college I was surprised to see how many students were originally from another country. My chemistry lab partner called home Sri Lanka and Oman while a girl two doors down had spent the first half of her life living in Vietnam. I also befriended a student living in an adjacent dorm who had moved from Nigeria over the last summer to go to school.  Over the next few years they became three of my closest friends and three of the people who I spent most of my time with.  I was able to spend a lot of time at one of my friend’s houses over the four years I was in college with her. There, I was lucky enough to try a variety of Vietnamese dishes and see bits and pieces of their culture.  Most of the food I had never even heard of before, such as the Durian fruit (it is such a pungent fruit that some cities in Asia have signs forbidding them).  As soon as I heard about the Durian I decided that I had to try it.  Whenever I was able to get my hands on one, I soon learned I was not much of a fan either. Despite that, I now enjoy Vietnamese cuisine so much that we often drive down to our state capital with friends who have never tried any before so we can all go to the multiple Vietnamese restaurants and markets there. My friends opened my eyes even further to how diverse and beautiful the world really is and gave me even more of “an adventurer’s spirit” than my family had.  Now, I cannot imagine being the same person I am today without having met them.

here is the second essay topic:

Peace Corps service presents major physical, emotional, and intellectual challenges. You have provided information on how you qualify for Peace Corps service elsewhere in the application. In the space below, please provide a statement (between 250-500 words) that includes:

1) Your reasons for wanting to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer; and
2) How these reasons are related to your past experiences and life goals.

and the second essay:

I could never imagine myself sitting in an office cubicle running through the same routine daily, filing papers. I have always been passionate about spending my life by helping others better their own; whether, it is through teaching a skill to aiding them in their day to day activities or by just being a friend.  By joining the Peace Corps I hope to not only benefit the community I would be living in, but to also to see another area of the world and learn another language.  In high school I was able to study Spanish for two years.  I really enjoy being able to speak what little of it I can and am excited at the possibility of fluently speaking a language besides English.  Most of my best friends are from other countries and meeting them has helped expand my understanding of other areas of the globe.  Still, I have always been a wanderlust and I enjoy meeting people while traveling because having the opportunity to understand and to be able to relate to other cultures is more rewarding as a first hand experience.  Helen Keller once stated, "Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” I know that joining the Peace Corps and fulfilling the duties I will have, while integrating into the society, will be difficult but I am looking forward to it because it will be an experience that will help me grow as a person.  By living in another country, I hope, through friendship, to change any preconceptions or bias. Serving in the Peace Corps will help me hone my skills and focus on an area I could study further or work in after I return, such as in going to graduate school or teaching.

Thank you SO much! I really appreciate your time.
-Jessica K

Answer
Dear Jessica,

Thank you for writing. I'll be happy to edit this for you, but truthfully, there isn't much to change -- you're a very expressive writer.

In any case, here is your text, with my changes: First, Jessica, you may want to include more specific dates, per your guidelines -- I don't know how strict they may be regarding this, but it never hurts to be more thorough than not!



My appreciation and respect for diversity began early in my life, when my family noticed my keen love for nature. They were instrumental in nurturing my inborn "wanderlust" and related interests while I was growing up.

Each summer, we took trips for a few weeks to different places around the United States. Some of my strongest and fondest memories are from these times -- such as peeking out of my grandparents' camper to catch a view of the beautiful horizon just before the sun set; waking up to see the white, stormy, yet majestic mountains of Colorado; seeing the daunting twin peaks of Mount McKinley for the first time; and later, closely observing the delicate microenvironments of the Gulf Coast's coral reefs.

When I began my freshman year of college, I was surprised and pleased to learn how many of my classmates and other students were originally from another countries. My chemistry lab partner called home Sri Lanka and Oman, while a girl two doors down from me in the dorm had spent the first half of her life living in Vietnam. I also befriended a student living in an adjacent dorm who had moved from Nigeria just the summer before arriving at college.

Over the next few years, these people became three of my closest friends, and we shared many valuable experiences. I even had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time at my friends' houses over the four years we were in college together. In fact, I was lucky enough to try a variety of homemade Vietnamese dishes and experience this culture first-hand. Most of the food I had never even heard of before, such as Durian fruit. (I still enjoy sharing an amusing anecdote about this fruit, which is so pungent that some cities in Asia have posted signs, forbidding them!) As soon as I heard about the Durian, however, I knew I had to try it. However, I soon learned I was not much of a fan, either, and would have done well to pay attention to those signs!

Yet despite that somewhat "shocking" experience, I now enjoy Vietnamese cuisine so much that I often drive to our state capital with friends who have never been exposed to Vietnamese food before, and we all enjoy visiting Vietnamese restaurants and markets there.

These friends opened my eyes even further to help me realize how truly diverse and beautiful the world really is -- and they each gave me even more of an "adventurer’s spirit" than my own family. I cannot imagine being the same person I am today without having met these people and to have invested so much time with them, rich with culture and friendship alike.

here is the second essay topic:


For as long as I can remember, I could never imagine myself sitting in an office cubicle, running through the same routine every day. I have always been passionate about dedicating my life to helping others who have not had the advantages in life that I have had.

Whether this assistance comes through teaching a particular skill, aiding people in their everyday activities, or by simply being there for them as a friend, I know that I can accomplish this and meet these needs through the fine efforts of the Peace Corps.

By joining the Peace Corps, I hope to not only benefit the community in which I would be living, but to also see and experience life in other areas of the world.

I also look forward to learning new languages; I studied Spanish in high school for two years, and I really enjoy being able to speak what little of it I still can, so I am naturally excited about learning and fluently speaking yet another language. Because we live in such a global community today, advancing my linguistic skills will increase my ability to understand and communicate with those in need in many areas of the world.

Also, because most of my best friends are from other countries, spending time with them has already helped expand my understanding of other parts of the world. Having the opportunity to understand and be able to relate to other cultures is much more rewarding to me when I am able to experience it myself, rather than merely learning through books.

Helen Keller once stated, "Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” Therefore, though I certainly realize that by joining the Peace Corps and fulfilling my duties while simultaneously integrating into the new societal and cultural mores will be difficult, I am certain that I am up to the task. I look forward to joining the Peace Corps because it will provide me with a constant learning experience that will help me grow as a person.

In addition, by living in another country, I hope, through friendship and hard work, to change any preconceptions or biases I may still harbor, but of which I may be unaware. Serving in the Peace Corps will help me hone my inherent skills and interests and enable me to focus on areas in which I can pursue further study, leading to graduate studies or teaching.

Ultimately, I see this as an opportunity for learning -- both for those I will be able to instruct along the way, and for myself, thereby enabling me to continue to help others as long as I can.






I hope this helps -- I broke up the paragraphs a bit and changed the wording here and there, but it's still in your "voice." Good luck with this new venture in your life, and thank you again for writing.


All Best,
Catherine Van Herrin

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