Dr. Phyllis Ngai
Emily Lynch's Peace Corps Experience in China
Working overseas challenges you on many different levels. You can feel completely isolated in the middle of a million other people. You question what you think you know when you see how different “low-income” communities can be from country to country. Language barriers can be infuriating at times. But, through all this, you’re able to gain an understanding of a place and its people. You get the great opportunity to ignore media, put politics on hold, and just experience, first-hand, a community with the people who live and work there.
I joined the Peace Corps because I thought it was a program about helping people. What I came to realize was, it’s a program about understanding people. This turned out to be the greatest opportunityI’ve ever gotten in my life; an opportunity to listen and gain understanding, through service work in China, a country I had previously known very little about. I learned the significance of withholding judgment. I learned the importance of intent. I learned how to get around in a foreign country on my own, as well as how to use a shower that doubles as a toilet and the best way to get rid of cockroaches. I learned how to make dumplings. How to admit the way you’ve learned to do something isn’t always the best way. How to politely say “yes, my hair is curly, please don’t touch it,” in Chinese. How amazing intergenerational living really is. And how many similarities U.S. citizens and Chinese citizens have with one another. When you go abroad, you get the unique opportunity of getting to know a place for yourself. When you’re able to do that, you’re able to see how you can really be of service there, the positives and negatives of a place, share your experience with another community, and bring back with you a whole lot of experiences, stories, knowledge, and skills you can use to face any obstacle in the future.
Above image: Emily sharing a meal with her host family