What I Took With Me; What I Brought Back

Students will compare items you brought to your host country when you initially packed your bags, to the items you brought back from your host country when you returned and discuss the idea of change.

The items a Peace Corps Volunteer packs to bring with them for their service in a foreign country are typically not the same items that the Volunteer decides to bring back when they leave their host country. The items change. However, the changes in material objects is nothing compared to the changes undergone by the Volunteer. Living through countless new experiences brings about both subtle and drastic changes in an individual.

This lesson plan for 6th-8th grade students starts off by examining the basic change between the items packed by a Volunteer both before and at the completion of their service, which leads to the discussion of change as a more complex idea.


After completing this activity, students should be able to:

  • Provide examples of how experiencing new places, situations, or cultures can change an individual.
  • Explain how challenges can impact people in positive ways.


  1. Prepare two backpacks, each containing 5-6 objects. The first backpack (What I Took) could contain objects representing your preparations for living in your host country (language dictionary, map, pictures of family/home). The second should contain objects representing what you brought back or learned from your experience (cultural expressions/artwork; a picture of a project site; a book you read in a new language; etc.)
  2. Discuss how life in Peace Corps changed your perspective. What were some unexpected challenges you faced? How did your expectations differ from reality upon arriving in your host country? How can challenges impact people in positive ways?


  • Relate to students’ lives by asking them to consider times when they have been in new places, situations, or cultures.