Disclaimer: I am running on almost 30 hours of no sleep, I apologize in advance for typos, word usuage/content… I’m so delirious!

I arrived in Philadelphia on Monday the 15th exhausted. My jitters kept me awake the night before.

After receiving my luggage and taking a shuttle, I settled into my hotel and I met up with a couple of other volunteers at a German restaurant. Although I ordered food I couldn’t bear to eat. I was relatively anxious and couldn’t control it. After dinner wrapped up we walked back to the hotel and I had thee best sleep! My roommate Rachael got to the hotel around 12 and I talked to her for a bit before I dozed off again. 

Early the next morning I met up with Allsion and we took a tour around downtown Philly. Our first stop was checking out Liberty Bell. 

We then headed over to Penns Landing, the waterfront overlooks the Delaware River. The view was spectacular! There’s something about water that makes me feel so at peace and tranquil, it was definitely what I needed!!

Our next stop included Christ Church and we were able to view Benjamin Franklins gravesight. Before heading back to the hotel for orientation we decided to grab some food at the Reading Terminal Market. The options were plentiful and boy was I hungry! I tried Amish food for the first time and will mos def try it again!


This was it!! The moment I’ve been waiting for since Oct 2nd the first event – Staging. Staging is pre orientation before the 3 month pre service training. All the Peace Corps Traniees in your group gather and get introduced to the logistics of the Peace Corps. There was paperwork to fill out, upon checking in we were also given a workbook that included an ice breaker activity, some history about the PC, PC mission, we broke into groups and shared our fears and anxieties, discussed safety and security, PC core expectations, performed skits, got cool t -shirts… although it was long (5 hours) it surprisingly went smoothly! 

There are 38 volunteers that will be departing with me to Swaziland! Two sectors: Youth in Development and Community Health – I’d say it’s split 50/50. The trainees come from all over the US varying in different ages, colors, sizes, and backgrounds! (I started to communicate with some of the folks in my group in November), it was so cool to finally meet them!

Meet my new family for the next 27 months! 

Well I have to wrap up, my flight is about to board (for a 14 & 1/2 hour flight). I’ll be sure to update this as soon as I can. Love you! Please write me!!! โค

Snail Mail

New address:
Nicole Hughes, PCV
PO Box 2797
Mbabane H100,

(Make sure you put Africa, or stuff will get sent to Switzerland — so serious).

I need pen pals so please write me letters!



That’s a wrap!

What. A. Week.!

My life through photos:

My family threw me a surprise party and sent me home with notes to read on the plane! I will miss them SO much. ๐Ÿ™‚

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” -James 5:16b The elders of my home church (South Sound Church of Christ) prayed for me. My heart overflows with love!

My former roommate Nailah came to visit me!

 Phuong has such a giving heart, she helped me pack!

I’m not too much into parties but my lovely friends celebrated with me at BJs! Thank you Kyra and Emily for planning. ๐Ÿ™‚

This lovely lady (Lynda) adopted me into her home for 2 weeks!


I want to thank my village for your love, support, and prayers along the way as I start my new journey abroad! I am so thankful to have family & friends that push me to go beyond my comfort zone and encourage me to follow my dreams. I had to make some heart-felt and teary goodbyes. I hope you continue to support me as I lament, cry, want to vent, and share endless stories with all of you. I will miss you all something fierce! ๐Ÿ™‚

I can’t believe the time has come. Tomorrow I’ll be on a plane to Philadelphia for Staging (Peace Corps Orientation).

How am I feeling you might ask?









Taking one deep breathe in (inhale), one deep breathe out (exhale). Talk to you all soon. Muah! โค



In the beginning of 2015 as I was nearing the end of graduate school, I thought BIG picture and asked myself, “What type of life do I want to live 5 years from now?” “10 years from now?” These questions prompted me to think critically and wrestle in deep, emotional, and vulnerable prayers to God. 

Life as we know it is scripted – you are born, go to school, graduate, find a job, get married, have children, and blah blah blah blah you know the rest. I didn’t want this to be me, life is supposed to be an adventure lived to the FULL!

Working international has always been a desire of mine and knew the possibilities were endless if I dedicated the time to do some research. So that’s what I did, I researched different programs – teaching abroad, fellowships, and possible PHD programs.

I first heard about the Peace Corps sometime in grade school. I think I saw a commercial on television advertising it and assumed it was specifically for old people and thought maybe I could do that when I got older, not sure how I conceptualized โ€˜oldโ€™ back then, haha!

Sometime in the winter of ’14 my friend Syreeta told me that her supervisor at her internship served in the PC and went to the Philippines! I was caught off guard because I didn’t know there were opportunities for social workers in the PC (*cough cough side note: Syreetaโ€™s a punk and was supposed to apply with me*). Around the same time, my other friend Faye was preparing her life to serve summer 2015 in Fiji through the PC. After graduating from PLU in 2011 I desperately wanted to apply but knew the timing wasn’t right, maybe now was my chance.

As I scooped out the Peace Corps website I was immediately drawn to their values – recognizing the individual differences of others, embracing cultural diversity, confronting social injustice, and empowering others these are values I cherish and hold dear to my heart. Immediately I knew this would be the perfect program for me and knew I couldn’t pass this opportunity up!

As I sought out advice about โ€˜plans after grad schoolโ€™ I quickly realized I was being influenced by too many voices. So I decided to ask God for direction – I prayed specifically in my conversations with people if someone brought up their experiences serving abroad (without my prompting of course) I would go ahead and apply to the Peace Corps. And here we are today. This is a dream come true and I couldn’t do it without God and His incredible blessings. 


April 2015 – Started the Peace Corps Application

End of May 2015 – Completed Application. Placed under consideration for Mongolia departing May 2016.

June 25, 2015 – Interview

August 2015 – Received an email from the Placement Specialist letting me know that Mongolia decided to cancel their Youth Development request.

August 2015 – Placed under consideration for Swaziland, Africa.

October 2, 2015 – Invited to serve as a Youth Development Volunteer in Swaziland!


November 2015 – Mailed in my legal kit and passport photos/application.

November 2015 – Reached out to other PCV’s (Peace Corps Volunteers) through social media.

November 27, 2015 – Medical and dental tasks uploaded to the Portal.

February 2016 – Medical tasks completed.

February 11, 2016 – Medically cleared!


February 2016 โ€“ Wrote myself a letter to help me in my moments of despair, isolation, and the times when Iโ€™m homesick while Iโ€™m abroad.

April 21, 2016 – Conference Call

May 18, 2016 – Booked travel to Philadelphia for Staging

June 13, 2016 – Depart to Philadelphia

June 14, 2016 – Peace Corps Staging/Orientation

June 15, 2016 – Shuttle to NYC for a nonstop flight to Johannesburg. Then drive to Swaziland and start Pre Service Training.