Class of 2013 graduates Ariel Travis, MiaJenelle Carroll and Brooke Marshall are taking the first steps in their careers by expanding their global work experience in the Peace Corps.
They join more than 260 students and alumni who have spent years in the Peace Corps serving in a variety of assignments around the globe, including health extension in El Salvador, English teaching in South Africa, deaf education in Uganda and science in China.
“I was looking for a challenge,” said Marshall, an anthropology graduate student who will be teaching English in Malawi, Africa. “Moving to a remote village in Africa where I’d have no electricity or running water and where I didn’t know anyone sounded like just the thing.”
Besides making a difference in the lives of others overseas, Peace Corps volunteers have the chance to learn a new language, live in another culture, and develop career and leadership skills. The volunteers make two-year commitments and are paid modest stipends and monthly salaries in line with the residents of their host country.
Georgia State students and alumni have served in the Peace Corps as interns, alumni volunteers and through master program partnerships, but the type of work a volunteer does is determined by the needs of a host country.
Travis, a 21-year-old majoring in applied linguistics, has been looking forward to joining the Peace Corps since she was 14. Travis and Carroll will be working on HIV and AIDS awareness assignments, Travis in Mozambique and Carroll in Quito, Ecuador.
“I was attracted to the Peace Corps because it combines volunteering with traveling, two things that I’m very passionate about,” Travis said.
According to the Peace Corps, Georgia State is ranked No. 4 in Georgia for the number of students and alumni serving in the Peace Corps. There are 18 alumni currently serving overseas.
Christina Belknap, a 2010 Georgia State graduate, is in St. Lucia in the eastern Caribbean. The 26-year-old is working primarily with Junior Achievement, the world’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to educating students about workforce readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy.
“I wanted to see the world, get outside of the perspective I had grown up with and experience life in a different country,” said Belknap, who hopes to work for the United Nations some day. “Most of all I believe in service, giving when you have a lot and serving when you have something to offer.”
Adjusting to life in another country can be challenging for many volunteers — the Peace Corps motto is the “toughest job you’ll ever love.” Patrick Adams, a 2010 Georgia State graduate, has to adapt to the lack of constant running water in Nuevo Cuscatlan, El Salvador.
“We all have to take baths with a bucket of cold water,” Adams said. “It´s a little shocking at first, but you get used to it.”
Adams, who is working on youth development projects, joined the program to open up future job opportunities with international aid organizations. Since he started training in El Salvador in January, his weeks have included three eight-hour days of Spanish training and two eight-hour days of cultural and job preparation.
Adams has learned that El Salvador is home to many active volcanoes. Town festivals include “wars of fireworks and balls of fire” rooted in the pre-colonial tradition of honoring the god of the volcanoes.
“The young men light wadded-up newspaper soaked in kerosene on fire and throw them at each other and towards the crowd while others shoot fireworks into the mayhem,” Adams said.
Along with the hard work and challenges Peace Corps volunteers endure while in developing countries come countless successes. Kristy Joseph, who finished her degree in The Peace Corps Master’s International Program, helped develop a health center database that will help reduce the mortality rates of pregnant women and increase child vaccinations in San Juan Ermita, Guatemala.
Georgia State alumni serving in the Peace Corps advise new volunteers to be resilient and patient.
“Remember that you’re not going overseas to live and work in an environment that’s a carbon copy of the one you come from,” Belknap said. “Remember also that no accomplishment is small and that by influencing just one child you can spark a chain reaction through that child’s family, community and country.”