I moved back to the United Stated in January after spending over two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines.
My choice to move to Louisville was one of convenience. The closest thing I had had to a home was rented out when my parents moved to China. While my connection to Louisville is family based (my brothers live here,) moving here made me feel like a stranger in a strange land.
I came to Louisville from a coastal Filipino town where everyone knew me, and I knew everyone. I moved from a slow paced, relaxed culture back into the hustle and bustle of America. Fast cars, fast internet, fast work life, fast. Reverse culture shock had me in its grasp. I was in a position filled with endless opportunities and yet, somehow, also rife with a sense of crushing loneliness.
In order to form a connection to Louisville I needed to get to know the city; I wanted to get to know my new community. Exploring the U.S. was never something I put a lot of thought into. I had wanted to travel the world my whole life and, up until recently, I did not really consider the U.S. to be a part of that world. Because I grew up here, because I am culturally “American,” I managed to lump America into one giant conglomeration that I had no interest in exploring deeper. But moving back, after spending so much time trying to get to know and understand a new culture in the Philippines, I felt that I needed to pay the Louisville the same courtesy.
I chose to apply for AmeriCorps as a way to better understand the different facets of my new found home. I currently work with 12 nonprofits across Louisville that are all fighting poverty in different ways; from offering legal assistance to small businesses to providing after-school programs for kids, or support services for refugee families. After four months of living here, I feel like I am starting to understand Louisville on a deeper level than Bourbon and Derby. There is so much more to Louisville than Bardstown and St. Matthews. Louisville is a complex city full of diversity, with about one in seven Louisvillians being foreign born. Louisville is a city with real problems like poverty, food deserts, and crime. But, at its core, Louisville is a city with a strong sense of identity and pride.
My message for you, whether you are a Louisvillian or not, is to treat your home like a place to be explored. Learn about the good and the bad and what makes your place special. It is easy to divide a city into “good” neighborhoods and “bad” neighborhoods, but I challenge you to go somewhere new, find a cause and volunteer, get out and be active in your community. Don’t neglect your home because it is familiar, and remember, the grass is always greener on the side that gets watered.
Written by Sarah Flarsheim, AmeriCrops VISTA Leader at the Americana Community Center