Regardless of the reason for joining the Peace Corps, all of these returned volunteers found the decision had changed them, and that they took more from their experience than they felt they had actually given. <br/ > <br/ >
“People always say, ‘oh, that must have really changed you.’” Matt Rysavy says. “It’s true that living in a different culture for two years, you can’t ever get away from it. I’m not going to go into international work, but in everything that I approach, I do so differently because of that experience.” While he is keeping his career options open as a graduate student in MU’s Truman School for Public Policy, Rysavy hopes to work with non-profits someday, helping them become more efficient in how they operate and utilize public funding.
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Julie Feeney is currently studying social work: “I went through a lot of transitions when I first came back from Peace Corps, still kind of searching, which I think is pretty common for someone my age. I really enjoyed working with the youth group when I was in Paraguay. I tried teaching, and I like that connection with adolescents, so my goal as a social worker is to work on youth empowerment.” This interest derives from multiple influences, the strongest of which, Feeney finds, is the work she did in Paraguay.
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When he finished his own service in 2001, Craig Hutton took a job working for the Peace Corps in Washington, D.C., at the organization’s headquarters. “My Peace Corps experience really influenced that. I was interested in international development, definitely interested in what was international but also really interested in the agency itself, so I worked there for five years in a couple of different positions,” he explains. “My experience in Peace Corps made me start thinking about graduate school and graduate education.” Hutton sees himself working in the area of international development and community development training.
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“When I graduated from school, frankly I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Nick Spina remembers. “I knew I wanted to do the Peace Corps, but after that it was kind of up in the air.” Serving in the Peace Corps, he said, “solidified my desire to become a teacher, because at the heart of it all every Peace Corps volunteer is a teacher. And I really found that I enjoyed communicating with people and talking about international issues. So when I returned to the United States, I started looking for programs to pursue a graduate degree in political science.”
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Upon her re-entry to the United States, it took Kate Fjell some time to decompress and think about her Peace Corps experiences before determining her next step: “I knew that I was really interested in doing community development work. I really started to understand the power of working with individuals and having those individuals make change for themselves.” Fjell came to this realization upon encountering a surplus of non-governmental organizations in Malawi. “They’re doing some really good work, but the challenge, of course, is that if you give people everything, then they sort of stop trying to figure out how to do it for themselves,” she says. Fjell is now in the Rural Sociology program at MU, where she hopes to continue giving rural communities the means to help themselves.
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