Peace Corps Panel Shares Experience Serving Abroad

By Caitlin Burns | February 27, 2017

By Jess Derr ’20

On Feb. 15, five former Peace Corps volunteers visited Arcadia to share with students their experiences serving abroad and answer questions from students interesting in participating with the Corps.

Panelists included Angela Ayukachale, who served in Cameroon from 1995 to 1997; Lew Hemmer (Macedonia, 2011 to 2013, St. Lucia, 2014 to 2015, and Dominica, 2016); Graham Salinger ’17M, (Ukraine, 2012 to 2014); Jennelle Seiden, (Burkina Faso, 2013 to 2016); and Rachel Wilson ’17M, (Kenya, 2012 to 2014). Their experiences ranged from teaching English to children through theater, to working in the public health sector in the AIDS/HIV riddled parts of Africa, to helping individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Each panelist emphasized that volunteers never know where they will be sent, where you may live in conditions without basic amenities like electricity or stable housing. Other challenges panelists had to overcome included educating 100 students or more in a single classroom, evacuating host countries when they fell into political unrest, and contracting malaria while serving in Cameroon.

“My philosophy, what I had to learn the hard way, was that what doesn’t bend, breaks,” said Ayukachale. “If you’re not flexible, you’re going to come home. You are going to meet lots of challenges along the way. How do you handle that? How do you master that?”

While some of the challenges may seem daunting, the panelists noted that overcoming them and being accepted into these cultures was one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives, as the meaningful work they accomplished led to lifelong relationships in communities they have assisted.

After their work with the Peace Corps, both Salinger and Wilson enrolled in Arcadia’s International Peace and Conflict Resolution Master’s program.

“It seemed like a natural progression,” said Wilson about enrolling in the IPCR program.

Arcadia offers the Peace Corp Prep Program for students interesting in gaining cultural awareness and developing practical skills sought by nonprofit organizations. Those interested should contact Kate Hanley at the Office of International Affairs.