Nicole Meinzer, Malawi (2000-02)
After graduating from Western Washington University, uncertain of what future lie ahead and seeking adventure, I volunteered for Peace Corps. I was assigned to teach two years as an English Literature Instructor in Malawi, Africa, a job description my fellow volunteers referred to as "Shakespeare in the Bush". Teaching was a novice venture, but my students were patient and readily amused by my antics in the classroom.
I adored my students especially the ones who remained determined to learn despite few resources, cramped classrooms and uncertain futures. I wanted to reward my students for their efforts and knew they desperately needed a quiet place to study. Working closely with community leaders, we devised a plan for our project and wrote a grant and successfully secured funds for a library from the US Ambassador's Fund. Using the knowledge gained from living abroad and my college education, paired with the collected wisdom of my adopted community, I successfully built a library, supplied the library with books and hired a librarian to care for the facility.
I felt my education had finally paid off; my Peace Corps experience lent practical application to my college degree. This was a fantastic occasion to gain experience outside the traditional school framework and to collaborate with local officials to develop a plan for their community. I learned to work efficiently, maximizing limited resources within a foreign country. My students had their library and I had an insider's perspective as an international volunteer and language learner. I wanted to share my experience with others.
After several unusual turns in my career path, I returned to my alma mater to work as a recruiter for Peace Corps. I currently serve as a resource of information for those interested in serving overseas. My stories, like the one above, are meant to instill young people with courage, hope and inspiration to pursue Peace Corps/their dreams. Students are the most precious resource at our university. The students whom I have the pleasure of interacting with serve as a reminder to remain young, their energy and vitality are a constant source of renewal. My desire is to serve them better and I believe that my role as Peace Corps recruiter will give me the tools to accomplish this goal.