Meet a Student
Arwa Ahmed, Global Affairs
Arwa is presently teaching English to Grade 9 students in Ethiopia.
Sam Gallerano, BS Environmental Science with a concentration in Conservation
Why the Peace Corps?
For me, the Peace Corps is a culmination of so many different things that excite and interest me. I have always had a strong passion for the environment and, arriving at college, continued to explore my passion through majoring in environmental science. I’ve always had a strong interest in international development and have loved service work, especially physical work in the outdoors. These interests, combined with my love of traveling and exploring different cultures made the Peace Corps a natural fit for me.
How did Mason’s prep program help you obtain your goals?
Mason’s Peace Corps Prep Program was instrumental in allowing me to prepare, and ultimately be accepted into the Peace Corps. It was through their tailored program that I was set up to study French which prepared me not only for the Peace Corps, but for serving in Benin. In addition to this the Peace Corps Prep Program helped me to develop leadership skills and skills within my chosen sector, the environment. The Peace Corps Prep Program made me a far more competitive applicant, and not only added weight to my Peace Corps application, but also helped prepare me to be a more effective volunteer by providing me with the language, leadership, and development skills that will be so crucial to my service in Benin.
How did you get placed in Benin – was this your top choice?
One of the great things about the Peace Corps Prep Program is that it allows you to develop skills specific to a region of the world or a sector of service. When starting the Peace Corps Prep Program I knew that I was most interested in serving in the environmental sector, and in West Africa. Through the Peace Corps Prep Program I took environmental science classes to prepare me for my sector, and took two semesters of French, as the majority of countries in West Africa are Francophone. When applying for the Peace Corps you are allowed to select your top three choices, and one position in particular, as a food security agent in Benin resonated strongly with me as a position I could thrive in and something I was passionate about. I put it down as my first choice and was accepted! I have no doubt this was largely because of the preparation I underwent in the Peace Corps Prep Program.
What do you look most forward to about your new adventure?
Funnily enough, the things I look forward to the most in my Peace Corps service are the unknowns. When going to a foreign country halfway around the world where they speak a different language, eat different food, and have a different culture, I unavoidably have preconceived notions of what my service in Benin will be like. But I know these preconceptions are largely mislead, and that I will experience things and be challenged by experiences that are now unimaginable. It is these unknown challenges and experiences that excite me the most!
Michael A. Mingo-Dabney
Michael, a Finance major and Economics and International Business minor, found himself interested in the Peace Corps at an early age and Mason has helped him on his path. He says, “I’ve always been intrigued by the languages, behavioral and cultural makeups of the world. Once I reached college, I learned about the field of Developmental Economics and decided that it was my calling. The Peace Corps is a way to start that journey while also having a bit of extra time before work life starts.”
Michael also serves formally as a Peace Corps campus ambassador reaching out to students and helping to explain the recruitment process. When asked what it’s like serving in this capacity, Michael finds the experience quite rewarding, remarking, “It is an AMAZING experience! I enjoy educating my peers about the opportunities that the Peace Corps presents and to emphasize the importance of the impacts that we, as students, can have on the rest of the world. My favorite part about being the PC Campus Ambassador is helping people overcome their fears and give the truth to combat the rumors that they have heard. People have heard that you have no choice in where you go, that you are signing your life away like joining the military, that their major would not give them the chance to serve abroad, or that they are too old. All of these things are so incorrect and the looks of pure relief and joy that they have when I tell them that makes it all worth it.”
When asked what benefits there are to the program, Michael explains, “the prep program gave me a structure of how to tailor my actions, courses, and spare time to become a better candidate. I knew before knowing anything about the prep program that I wanted to be a Peace Corps volunteer. I just didn’t know how to go about being a better candidate than the rest. Seeing the requirements to graduate with the certificate put things into perspective for me.”
Michael has been invited by the Peace Corps to serve in Colombia as a Business Adviser starting August 2017!
Zoe Siepert, Global Affairs major with a concentration in Middle East and North Africa, and a minor in International Security
How did you get interested in the Peace Corps?
A lot of my family members are educators, so teaching was always something I was interested in doing post-graduation in some capacity. I also have a passion for travel and cross cultural exchange so the Peace Corps just seemed like a natural next step after graduation. I also studied abroad in Morocco last year to study Intermediate Arabic and discovered that all of my Arabic professors were taking English classes after school. This made me think about the importance of learning English in foreign countries and heavily influenced my interest in applying to the Peace Corps.
How has Mason’s Peace Corps Program helped you?
The Peace Corps Prep Program helped me with gearing me towards what kinds of activities and courses I should take in order to have the strongest application possible. By giving me a step-by-step list of what courses to take and what activities are encouraged, I was able to see how I could make sure my application was full of relevant experiences. I think the biggest thing the Peace Corps cares about is your volunteer experiences, and this is important for the Peace Corps Prep Program as well.
What was the PC application process like?
The application process was not nearly as strenuous as I anticipated it to be. The application itself only takes a few hours. The most time consuming part is the motivational statement which allows you to explain why you are interested in joining the Peace Corps. The whole process from application to invitation was about 2 months, although everyone’s personal timeline varies by country and position. The longest stretch for me was between getting an “under consideration” email and an email requesting an interview. The interviewer gives you a ton of information to help you prepare for your interview and I also met with someone with Mason’s Career Services to practice, as well, which really helped me feel ready for my interview. I got an invitation to service within 5 days of my interview!
What do you look most forward to about Comoros?
I am most looking forward to meeting the people of Comoros and making connections within my community. Teaching Secondary English in Comoros will be my main job, but the Peace Corps really emphasizes integrating into your community, so I am really looking forward to participating in cultural events and really getting involved in my community. My Peace Corps cohort will be the first to implement “Let Girls Learn” in Comoros so I am also looking forward to integrating this into my teaching.