Be sure to read my Peace Corps story in today’s issue of the Arizona Daily Wildcat. Unfortunately, it was sort of a rushed piece, so some of my best sources could not comment on time for my deadline.
Regardless, I’d like to expand upon the article in this blog. Arizona Student Media director Mark Woodhams said that he would have liked to know more about the story behind the UA Peace Corps alumni rather than just the Peace Corps Fellows program at this university. A personal anecdote is much more riveting than a program blurb, so I’ll focus on the people rather than the program in this post.
Rachel Gotschall, a Peace Corps volunteer in Moldova, shared this interesting information with me,
“The Peace Corps is not for everyone. The amazing thing about volunteerism is that you don’t have to travel to another country to help spread peace and friendship (which is the main goal of Peace Corps). Important volunteer work can be found in every community and in every town. The Peace Corps however is a unique program for those individuals who have a specific interest in volunteering overseas and learning and integrating into a different culture. My suggestion is that if you are interested in the Peace Corps, definitely take a look and get all the information you can. However, by no means should you feel that you are a selfish, unadventurous or uncaring person if you know that it is not the program for you. Like I said, the beauty of volunteerism is that there is no lack of need anywhere. But the experience I am having now has been amazing and eye opening.”
“My experience so far teaching English here in Eastern Europe has been far from what I expected. Part of the reason is that when one thinks of Peace Corps, visions of living in a mud hut in the middle of a remote African village probably come to mind…I know for me that’s what I imagined my service would be like. But here I am in Europe of all places, with running water (not heated but water non-the-less) electricity, a cell phone, and even Internet! However, I quickly found that although on the surface Moldova doesn’t feel that much different from America or extremely exotic, the school system and way of life here is far from what I grew up with in sunny Arizona. I live in a village of about 5,000 people and I teach English classes ranging from second grade to eleventh grade. The main goal of my project as an English teacher in Moldova is to work side-by-side with my fellow Moldovan English Teachers and help them to develop more creative and student-centered lessons. I also have an opportunity to work outside of the school and develop secondary activities/clubs in any area that is needed or wanted by my community. To sum up all that I have learned and am learning here in Moldova; humility, patience, open-mindedness, and flexibility are all traits that are indispensable to a Peace Corps volunteer and I believe are traits that will enrich my life once I get back to America.”
I also interview Nickolaus Eichmann, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Peru, and I wish I’d included more of his personal experience stories in my news article. Some of the memorable comments he made were,
“You get back way more than you give in the Peace Corps. Once you live in a foreign country for an extended period of time, you really see that the only barrier between people is language and that’s it. I would recommend the Peace Corps to anyone and everyone.”
Eichmann also noted that the Peace Corps will give the volunteers the same living conditions that the locals in the area live in. His friend, who lived in Mongolia, lived in a tent just like the people from the area.
Eichmann was able to use the internet in the community he was in, and he also had a satellite phone connection not too far away.
Both of these individuals have positive Peace Corps stories to share with the UA community, and it’s only fair to explain these experiences a little further in the context of my news article.