On Oct. 13 at 2:45 a.m., Shanelle France ’11 will officially start her Peace Corps journey when she departs for Lesotho, a landlocked country in southern Africa, where she will not only affect change but will, herself, be changed.
“In the next two years, I hope to gain a new family, a deeper understanding of who I am, a renewed empathy and an ignited fervor for changing the world,” explains France.
When France arrives in Lesotho, she will not only face a new country, culture and language, but she will also be challenged by living in a rondavel, a round mud hut with a thatched roof, with the expectation of having neither running water nor electricity. Nonetheless, while many might be intimidated by the lack of modern conveniences, France sees it as an opportunity for new experiences.
“This is my time to be challenged and truly live minimally,” says France. “I am looking forward to this drastic change in lifestyle. A professor of mine in Cape Town always said, ‘How can we live simply so that others can simply live?’ I am about to live this out.”
During her time in Lesotho, France will work as a Resource Teacher, traveling between two different elementary schools and observing teachers in their classrooms. She will also create workshops that teach the teachers different intervention methods or ways in which they can better reach their students.
“Hopefully, I will also have an opportunity to start an after school program and that will allow me to work with the children on a more individual level,” she says.
With less than two weeks to go until her departure, France is busy getting ready. “When I got my official invitation to the Peace Corps in June it was of course exhilarating, but October seemed so far off, so the reality of my leaving hadn’t really set in. Now that I am less than two weeks away from leaving and am in the midst of packing my life away…it is becoming more real every day!” explains France.
In preparing for her trip, France has had to fit her life for the next two years into a medium-sized suitcase and a carry-on backpack. Despite the challenges of packing, she has pared down her belongings to the essentials: sriracha (a Thai hot sauce), her laptop, a few books and an “ubuntu” quilt that her mom made for her as a graduation gift.
“I feel extremely prepared to leave mentally, emotionally and spiritually…but in terms of logistics, I have certainly been procrastinating the packing process,” says France. “I’ve been gathering bit by bit every day for the past few weeks, but I figure my last weekend home is when I’m going to have to get down to business.”
If you want to follow France on her Peace Corps journey, she plans to post about her experience on her blog: http://seekpeacelovelife.wordpress.com.
An African studies major, France was a member of the Laurel Society and helped to plan Hobart and William Smith’s One Day without Shoes, a nationwide event sponsored by TOMS Shoes that aims to increase awareness of the millions of people around the world who do not have shoes.