The Peace Corps is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to benefit other people’s lives in a unique way. The Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (CCESL) sponsored “Pizza with the Peace Corps” so students could learn more about the organization and what it might be like to be a part of it. A panel of former Peace Corps volunteers shared their experiences, including Professor of Mathematics Alan Frishman, Professor of Art Michael Bogin, Doug Reilly from the Center for Global Education, Peace Corps Recruiter Shannon Small, and Geneva community member, Kim Aliperti.
Each panelist talked about what led to the choice of going into the Peace Corps and his or her experiences after joining. Frishman said his time in the Peace Corps inspired him to become a professor, something he never thought he would do.
Bogin, who taught secondary math in a small village in Ghana, shared one particular, vivid memory: The first day he was in Ghana he was in the house of the man in charge, waiting to be told what his job was going to be. The man who lived in this small, cinder-block house had a can of paint and a brush in every room; each can contained a different color. While he was telling Bogin what his responsibilities would be, he went to every room and slowly painted a small patch on the wall, then moved on to the next room to do the same thing. Bogin said he was absolutely baffled by this and could not understand what the man was up to. What he realized after speaking to a villager was that the man was simply painting his house. Bogin didn’t recognize it because he was used to the American way of painting a house. What he said he learned that day was, just because this man was painting his house differently than he was used to didn’t mean it was wrong. It simply meant it was so incredibly different from anything he had ever experienced he didn’t recognize it.
Reilly stressed that the experience he had in Slovakia with the Peace Corps was incredibly different from his semester abroad in college. He says if you want a “real abroad experience” and “total immersion,” go into the Peace Corps. If you are not patient and flexible, the Peace Corps is not for you, he continued. The Peace Corps trusts you to make beautiful things happen, they simply give you the tools.
Other panelists, Small and Aliperti worked on projects that included HIV/AIDS programs in South Africa, and the learning of Arabic and the culture of Islam in Tunisia.