Everything starts with a decision
Two years ago, I decided to go back to school for a master program so I needed to start looking for one. The problem was that I was full of fears due to my process of transition and adaptation from a Peruvian life style to an American one. So many changes and challenges at the same time, plus my sad emotional state for having left my country, my family and my people. Of course, the very first and huge adversity was that my English skills were not strong and I was not confident at all. I was ashamed for having a remarkable strong foreign accent and the many mistakes at the time of speaking in this new language. However, in spite of those and other issues to overcome, my decision to go back to school for a master's degree was and still is stronger than all my fears and limitations. Little by little, I became more aware of the high potential that plays the cyberspace in this country at all aspects, especially for my educative purpose. So I decided to use it in a proactive way; for instance, in order to learn English I started to read online articles and magazines as much as I could along with the free tuturials classes on video sites. Then, I started to visit different university web sites in order to get familiar with the application process, the requirements, the due dates and the general instructions of each institution. Everything was confusing at first. I felt discouraged so many times. The effort of trying to read and understand in a different language produced so many headaches. It felt as if I was not learning anything because the dictionary was next to me all the time. Eventually, my interaction with people from work improved in matters of communication and finally, I decided to speak my new language without paying attention to my many mistakes or my strong latino accent. I just accepted them as part of my own process of transition to a new culture.
Meanwhile, during my search of master programs I discovered a difficulty bigger than the previous one! Day by day I felt overwhelmed by the thousands of master program options! The worst part was that my career interests were beyond one specific academic path. Having a Bachelor in Secondary Education with the specialties of Philosophy, Psychology and Social Science; plus two years of Religion studies (Catholic Doctrine) and two years of Education Research master studies were not making my search easy, especially because I felt like I was lost in a huge store like IKEA, dizzy from the innumerable products around me with the uncertainty of knowing what product fits best to my necessities and interests. The more I was digging in, the more lost I felt. After all, I have so many interests! I love Psychology, Philosophy, Social Science, Theology and Education Research! So, eventually using the Internet the way I was doing it, paid off. I found the master program of my dreams! A master program that reunites all the specialties I am in love with: International Peace Studies!
Immediately after finding my new career path, I decided to go for it no matter what. I prepared myself for the TOEFL and GRE tests by purchasing some books online and using as many free online tools as I could on the web; like GRE, TOEFL tutorials, free online tests and so much more. I took both tests the last year and obtained good scores. I applied to some universities expecting good results but it did not happen. However, I am going to apply again because I am very convinced of what I want. In two weeks from now, I will take the TOEFL test again and I am planning of retaking the GRE on November as well. Despite being rejected so many times, in so many ways, I do not feel discourage. I will try my best and only my best to make possible the impossible.
Well, right now some of you would be thinking: Why does she want to go back to the school? If she wants to work for peace, why does not she just look for a job and help others? Well, the truth is that I do have a fantastic job related to the building of peace and justice (which I will tell you about in my next redaction) and I do not pretend to spend my life studying but my background, my past experience and the life itself has demonstrated to me that education is the most powerful tool to transform the world for the better. My family lived in a very poor condition, not only materially speaking but also spiritually. I am the youngest of four siblings and until the age of ten I was very aware of the significance of family violence and misery. My parents, feeling tired of living in those conditions decided to change the course our lives by giving us the opportunity of a better education. By asking loans to the banks, they enrolled us in the better national-catholic high school of our region and we grew up with the desire of becoming professionals, an unusual ideal for the poor (in my country). My mother –who at that time did not have superior education- encouraged us to study and to work hard to overcome any trouble in life. She did not want us to be dependent from any man at any cost. She used to say: If you are professional and you realized that your man is a bad guy, you can kick his ass out! So, study hard! Then, in order to show us determination and coherence, at the age of forty-two she started to study and pretty soon she became a teacher of kindergarten. Until today I remember those golden days when she and I used to do our homework at the same table. I felt so proud of her!
Along those strong teachings from my mother's part and the support of my father, they decided to give one more opportunity to their relationship by receiving parenting classes in the church and becoming volunteers for the less fortunate. We were poor but there were people who lived in extreme poverty and my parents wanted to make sure that we were aware of that. My siblings and I also started to volunteer, and at the age of twelve I started to work with families, children and communities by doing workshops, gaining pedagogical skills, learning educational methodologies, going to retreats, trainings and seminars; and building a spirituality based in the Christian-catholic values. Time passed and indeed, we became professionals and we built our home little by little, we changed our table set of cardboard for a wood one and our paperboard walls for concrete ones. But above all, we learnt to appreciate each effort and joy of accomplishing something; we learnt the significance of compassion by helping others without any expectations as well as to be thankful for what we already had without putting material belongings as our priority.
Volunteering or working for free is not something that everybody understands. It is a lifestyle of helping others, for the welfare of families, children and the people in general. More than ever, I think it is possible to reach out more voices that claim justice and peace and the Internet is a wonderful tool for that purpose. Just with a single click we can find out different realities around the world. For the very first time, we can witness the dire consequences of war in the Middle East; the abuse of the workforce in the undeveloped countries; the ever widening scandalous gap between rich and poor; the genetic transformation of our food in unimaginable quantities; the horror of human traffic; the lack of education and opportunities for thousands of children; the violence against women; the discrimination against immigrants, gays and transgender; the destruction of our nature and the excessive exploitation of our resources; and so much more. We witness every destructive human act and instead of feeling discouraged and hopeless there still are people who ask themselves: What can we do about it? Well...I am one of those people.