The Structure that Supports the Essence of You


My best attempts at cultural integration have given me language, foods, sights, sensations, and people that I could have never imagined.

It’s made me grateful and helped me release expectations.

But these are things that, to one extent or another, you can manage to do in the safety of your own culture and environment.

What you cannot do in your own environment is learn who you are. That’s only possible by taking away everything you are not.


“In your own environment, you cannot learn who you are.”

As you learn to thrive in a new culture, everything changes.

The meals you eat, the time you get hungry, the foods you cherish and avoid.

The clothes you put on your body. Which are practical for every day, and the ones you save for special events. Where you sleep, when you sleep, how you exercise, and what dream of, what you miss.

Which behaviors strike you as friendly and rude. What you expect and what takes you by surprise. Which colors represent purity, celebration, royalty, and grief.

The role you play for the people around you—as the talkative one, the independent one, the quiet one, the new one, the seasoned one, the brave one, the smart one, the daughter, the father, the visitor, the host.

Everything changes. Except one common thread that runs through all of it, and that’s you.

And it’s much thinner than you think.

It’s an essence.

That thread is what you need to support and nourish in any situation in order to be happy. The rest will sort itself out. Or you’ll sort it out.

And it will be OK.

That’s adapting—it’s not changing who you are, but rather rebuilding, with new tools and materials, the structure that supports the essence of you.   

“It was so great to talk to a returned volunteer that has COSed and found her way. As a current volunteer I struggle with the ‘whats next’ and it was incredible to talk to Meg and be frank about my feelings knowing that she gets it. She really knew how to give me great relevant advice that is setting me up for success down the road.” -PCV Fiji

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