Program Coordinator and Advisor
My two year Peace Corps service in Togo, West Africa wrote my playbook.
“Peace Corps” is a tidy little name for a big experience that is different for everyone. Imagine me trying to say “National Guinea Worm Eradication Program in collaboration with the Togolese Ministry of Health.” That is just too clunky, right? (Don’t even ask the title of my undergraduate degree.*)
Terrifying sweaty lectures from nurse Sheila, and a sweaty square of cardstock with emergency numbers (in a country with few working phones, and certainly none near my house) set my playbook for safety and security awareness and planning.
Peace Corps set my playbook for scaling things up. I started out toddling around to classrooms by myself with my boite d’image, and an excruciating inability to communicate, appear, or even walk right. By the end, I had put on a series of seminars training hundreds of Togolese people, who do know how to do all of those things all right, and more importantly were going to stay there, long after my two years of service was up. I am still scaling things up in my volunteer work organizing activities for a local international festival, and fundraising for Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF, and coordinating school shows at Davis Musical Theater Company.
My collaboration with M. Agbemavi , my host country counterpart, was one of my life’s most enriching experiences. It set my playbook for collaboration and taught me that I could organize and build things, coming straight from college with a BA in liberal arts, who knew?!
Peace Corps tore down and rebuilt my understanding of human motivation, most notably in my friendship with Lilly. She was the nurse in my village, and is the angriest person I have ever met. She was angry over being assigned to this Podunk village with an enviable education, and no prospects of a good match. I spent seven years formally thinking about her, and forming an intellectual framework that can hold her, in my graduate work in Biological Anthropology at UC Davis.
If I believe your dreams, and trust you to know what is right for you, you can thank Lilly.
The Agbeponu family and many others opened themselves to me in a way that I did not know people did. On the flip side of the travel coin, I currently host international students studying at UC Davis. We have hosted students from Indonesia, Iran, Japan, China, Korea, Switzerland, Serbia, and Tunisia.
I believe that Study Abroad can be this kind of experience for you too. I hope that you come back knowing your personal potential, intellectually challenged, and with a whole new set of practical skills.
* I have a Bachelor of Arts in the Interdisciplinary Study of Intercultural Healing based in Anthropology, Public Health, and Folklore from the University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill. I told you it was a mouthful.
Boite d’image = picture flip book