Returned Peace Corps Volunteers Speak About Their Service

By Purnell T. Cropper | March 6, 2013

Photography PEDRO LEAL ’13

On Feb. 22, former Peace Corps volunteers gathered in Landman Library to discuss their three months of training and two years of service with students interested in learning more about their experiences. Becky Marsden, a local Peace Corps recruiter who served in China from 2009 to 2011, moderated the discussion, posing questions to the seven panelists that would give the audience a sense of what it’s like to volunteer with the organization.

Throughout the discussion, panelists emphasized that, while there’s nothing easy about leaving the comfort and familiarity of home, the difference they made, the sense of fulfillment they felt, the new friendships they developed, and the unexpected moments of cheer they experienced—like when one volunteer woke up to find a wild horse in the kitchen—were well worth any hardship.

“I hope more of our students will begin applying to Peace Corps,” said Dr. Jennifer Riggan, Assistant Professor of International Studies, who served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Eritrea from 1995 to 1997. “The emphasis that Arcadia places on a practical education, international experiences and rigorous classroom learning provides our students with the combination of skills, cross-cultural sensitivity and knowledge that makes for a successful volunteer.”

The panelists also touched on the Peace Corps’ commitment to health and safety. Although each of the volunteers faced difficulties, they never felt unsafe. Whether they lived in a mud hut or a house, the panelists stressed that the results of their work were worth every risk.

Marsden also answered questions from members of the audience about the application and recruiting process, before the panelists spoke more about their personal experiences. Students seemed most interested to hear that, no matter what their major, volunteering for basic community service projects during college is important in developing the skills and mindset necessary for the Peace Corps.

“[The panel] definitely showed me that there’s a lot of difficult work, but [the volunteers’] ability to overcome obstacles made me even more interested,” said Brittany Tedesco ’15, whose interest in joining Peace Corps grew after hearing the honest responses from the panelists.

Dr. Warren Haffar, Dean of International Affairs and Director of the International Peace and Conflict Resolution master’s program, was just as inspired by the event. “I’d say that the evening was an incredible success. We had an amazing turnout—especially for a Friday evening. We had panelists that related both finer details of being a Peace Corps volunteer, as well as the larger value of Peace Corps service in terms of personal and professional growth.”