Friday, June 13, 2014

The Waiting Game Part 4 - From CM to TL

This month we're talking to members about their experiences while waiting to begin serving with AmeriCorps NCCC and FEMA Corps. Kristina, a team leader at the North Central Region, shares her waiting story with us today.

Kristina, a team leader at the North Central Region
I began the application process for AmeriCorps NCCC while I was a senior at SUNY Fredonia,  a modest-sized public university in Western New York. In between finals and soaking up every fleeting minute of college life, I made time to complete portions of the application each day. Finally, after multiple revisions and second-guessing whether or not the program was for me, it was ready to be submitted. I don’t know what I expected the moments directly following the submission of my application. I felt as though it deserved a little more of a celebratory conclusion, like a pop-up that said “Congratulations on making the best decision of your life!”, followed by those poorly designed fireworks that litter the screen after finishing a game of virtual solitaire on an old Windows computer.

Months passed without hearing anything about my application (yes, I sent in my application pretty early.) In that time, I had graduated college and moved back home to New York City. I checked my email daily, waiting for the day that I would receive an inkling of information as to what the next few months may have in store.

As the warmer summer months approached, I began my 3rd year as a lifeguard/counselor at a Girl Scout camp along the New York/Pennsylvania  border. After a total of eight summers as either a camp counselor or camp lifeguard, I was mentally preparing myself for this to be the last. Although being in the woods is not conducive to checking my email daily, I kept a positive attitude about my prospective acceptance into the NCCC program.

Combined with the income from my summer counseling, I saved enough money throughout my four years working in college to have the funds necessary to travel and visit friends. I felt it was important to see all the people that I loved, and that helped mold me into the person that I was at that point. If I were to be away from them for an entire service term, I wanted to absorb every moment of free time that they had (they didn't mind, I promise!). Throughout these travels, I would receive emails regarding my application being reviewed, etc. Each email gave me more and more hope that there indeed was an end to this seemingly boundless waiting game.

One morning, I woke up to an email notification on my phone. I shut my door, sat down on my bed, and slowly opened my computer. I knew this was it. I finally received that momentous report that I was accepted to the Atlantic Region as a corps member for the upcoming fall term!   

The first thing I did, which I am sure many do, was look at the campus on Google Maps. I took the time to use street view to essentially “walk” the roads that I would be roaming in just a few short months. This was soon followed by reading tons of blogs from past Atlantic Region members, and going through every picture they had to offer. The blogs I was most interested in usually touched on specifics about projects, as well as what/how to pack. I was also fond of blogs that discussed the training they received, the relationships they built, and what they had learned about themselves in such a short period of time. The descriptions of Physical Training made me slightly nauseous, so I decided to be proactive and begin running. Needless to say, that only lasted a few days, who was I kidding?

About two months before I would leave for the term, I was shopping with my mom at an outlet center in Long Island. It was something we did together a little too often, but like I said before, I was in quality-time absorption mode. Upon browsing, I received an email on my phone from an NCCC domain. The email asked if I was interested in applying to be a team leader for the Vinton, Iowa campus, even though I was already accepted as a corps member for the Atlantic Region. It listed the campus’ perks (yes, Iowa has it’s perks!), as well as a few benefits that go along with being a team leader. The thought of being a TL had never crossed my mind before reading that email, I assumed that previous NCCC experience was necessary. However, after reading it over a few times in the dressing room at the Columbia outlet store, I recognized the overwhelming excitement that came with each perusal. Just from that, I knew I had no doubt that I wanted to apply for the team leader position at the Vinton, Iowa campus. Despite the fact that I would have to leave an entire month earlier than expected, I went home and applied for the opening. After a lot of pacing, a phone interview, and a background check, I was accepted as a team leader!

I only had a few weeks to prepare. As a chronic procrastinator, I knew that this really boiled down to a few days. I spent this time slowly gathering the necessities that would fit strategically into that notorious green duffel. I made time to visit friends after accepting the fact that I would not see the majority of them for the next 11 months. Before I knew it, I was at the airport, through the gate, and waving “See ya later!” to my family.

If I could offer any advice to those in the NCCC “waiting game,” I would start with thinking positively. Why use up neurons focusing on negative things when you can fill all that brain space with the positive? Get excited. You’re about to begin the most fast-paced, unique, and valuable time of your life! Do research. I found that all that stalking I did on members’ blogs really helped answer questions that the website couldn’t, which ultimately eased my mind. Take time to pack, but pack lightly! You really don’t need that extra pair of jeans and sneakers. Next, relax. It is imperative that you take time before leaving for your term to chill out, however you see fit. Not only do I mean to relax physically, but mentally as well. Realize that the majority of the people in your class are first time NCCC members too, so you are all in the same boat. It is likely that you share similar fears and reservations about those first few days on campus as hundreds of others do! Finally, make friends. When (or if) you're at the airport, look around for someone else that looks like they may be in the program (or a familiar face from the Facebook group), chances are that there are multiple NCCC members on the same flight as you. Simply having that acquaintance during the first few hours of check-in day will make it a much more enjoyable experience than if your were flying solo. Good luck!
 
 Are you interested in serving with AmeriCorps NCCC or FEMA Corps? Have questions about the program? Visit www.nationalservice.gov/nccc, or email us at anccc@cns.gov!
      


 
Brought to you by AmeriCorps NCCC, a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service.
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