Meet 3 AU Alumni in the Peace Corps

Have you ever considered the Peace Corps? At American University, the student body is known for having an international focus and for studying abroad.  Of course, a semester abroad does not come close to the 27 month committment that Peace Corps volunteers make.

Last week, the U.S. Peace Corps announced in a press release last week that AU had 41 graduates volunteering abroad. Three recent graduates decided to share their stories, and tell us a bit about what it's like from their point of view.


Her Campus American University: Why did you decide to join the Peace Corps?

Rose Fishman: I applied to the Peace Corps because I want an international career. I want to live and work abroad probably for the rest of my life, and what better way to start than with the US Peace Corps.

HCAU: What has been the most fulfilling part of your experience?

RF: The most fulfilling part of my service has been watching the young Ethiopian women I work with open up to new ideas about gender equality, watching their confidence grow as they become leaders in their schools and community, speaking out about changes that they believe need to happen. Female empowerment was not something that was discussed, promoted, or really even heard of here before I came along. Every time a girl comes running to me telling me that their father says they can attend my girls club meeting next week I feel accomplished and like my presence here is really changing the lives of the people around me.

Here is a video collage that Rose put together on life in her part of Ethiopia:

HCAU: What's next for you?

RF: After Peace Corps I plan to travel for a couple of months throughout Africa and Asia. I will go home to be with family for the holidays and then hopefully attend graduate school in the not too distant future. I'd like to study international economic development.

To find out more about Rose's experiences, you can keep up with her blog, Rosieopia.


Her Campus American University: Why did you choose to go to Tonga?

Elizabeth Tomal: I ended up choosing my post based on the descriptions of the programs. A speaker at AU once urged me to make sure that I was able to perform the duties that Peace Corps was asking of me. As an Elementary Education major, I felt that it was a perfect fit. I urge those who are applying to consider applying to peace corps the old fashioned way--I never saw myself in the Pacific, but I'm very happy to be here.

HCAU: What has been the most difficult part being abroad?

ET: Everyday is a bit of a challenge, but I think that's what makes it satisfying. I haven't been in the country for six months yet, and I've already had Dengue Fever and haven't had running water for 2 days. But you learn pretty quickly to go past that and to see the people and the community that you're serving.

HCAU: Can you tell us a bit about what you do there?

ET: There are 3 specific goals of our project: educate the teachers on how to teach using student centered methods, help to increase English literacy in primary schools, and to increase English literacy participation in our communities. As part of my job, I am assigned to a school that applied for my help and housed by them. On a day to day basis, I teach at the primary school, class 3 to class 6.

HCAU: In the short time that you've been there, do you feel welcomed into the community?

ET: People in my community know me and they love that I'm there. Kids stop by to get help with their homework; adult community members are happy and excited when I attend community meetings or stop by their house. People make this a satisfying experience.

HCAU: Do you have any advice for AU students?

ET: You don't have to major in IR to be a volunteer. In fact, I think you're more likely to get hired if you have experience or skills in a concrete area like education, development, or health. I changed my major and I was happy with that. The experience that I got through student teaching and the great SETH professors has proven invaluable.

To find out more about Elizabeth's experiences, you can keep up with her blog, Wanderlust Liz.


Her Campus American University: Why did you choose to join the Peace Corps?

Cody Ragonese: Peace Corps has been something I've always wanted to do. The appeal for me was that it gives you an opportunity to really integrate into a different culture.

HCAU: What made you decide to go to Swaziland specifically?

CR: When I applied, the placement was totally random and the application took a really long time to get through. Despite the random placement, I couldn't be happier where I ended up. In terms of the 27 month commitment, I think it's super deceiving! You're time in the Peace Corps really flies by.

HCAU: Did your classes and/or experience abroad influence your decision?

CR: Yes! Great point. I spent a semester in Nairobi Kenya my junior year. I would say this was one of the major motivators for joining the peace corps. My classes and studies have prepared me immensely for my peace corps experience. It is great to take the theoretical background from my education and apply these lessons to actual community work.

HCAU: What has been the most fulfilling part of your experience?

CR: Being able to learn the language and communicate with community members! Siswati isn't an easy one because it has a click but it's really fun.

HCAU: How have you integrated yourself in the community?

CR: As a community health volunteer, I work with a variety of outlets including schools, a clinic and support groups. This allows me to really integrate into my community and feel like I've found a home here. Overall, it's a very rewarding job that teaches you a lot about yourself and others.

HCAU: Do you have any advice for AU students?

CR: The Peace Corps community at AU is a great resource for someone who may be interested in applying. From teachers, grad students and even recent alumni, you can always find answers and support with your Peace Corps endeavors.


To find out more about Cody's experiences, you can keep up with his blog, Swazi Adventures.

Good luck to all of the AU alumni involved in the Peace Corps!


Photo Credits: 1, 2, 3, 4

Graphics done by author using InDesign