A semester studying abroad in Grahamstown, South Africa, inspired Mary Kubinski ’17 to seek career opportunities in the developing world. She will get her wish later this year when she begins serving as a primary education English co-teacher in a village in Thailand, where she will be posted as a Peace Corps Volunteer.
Kubinski, a political science and public policy studies major with a minor in Africana studies, is no stranger to civic engagement. Her years at HWS have been marked by volunteer work with organizations that advocate for women and girls. She was a mentor at Run Like a Girl in Geneva, where she facilitated workshops on sexual health, mental health and nutrition for sixth grade students. She is a trained hotline advocate for Safe Harbors of the Finger Lakes, which serves those who have experienced sexual or interpersonal violence. Kubinski was a member of the Colleges’ Sexual Violence Task Force, Student Team for Education and Prevention, and Title IX Policy Proposal. She also tutored with America Reads and the Boys and Girls Club, served as a civic leader for Geneva 2020, manager of the Geneva 2020 theme house, and volunteered with the LEAP Program for Geneva High School students.
She also served as an intern for the Chemung County district attorney’s office and a global health research intern for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. But it was her experience in Grahamstown, and especially her time spent as a volunteer co-teacher at a local pre-school, that helped Kubinski decide to apply for the Peace Corps.
“As the first English co-teacher at Boy Boy Mginyawa Preschool, I was challenged to grow as a person as I struggled with cultural and linguistic barriers,” she says. “The five months I spent in Grahamstown changed how I saw myself and the world. This desire to learn from different communities—by listening to my peers, children in and outside the classroom, and mentors—is something I hope to continue growing in the Peace Corps.”
In Thailand, her position as a co-teacher will involve working with Thai English teachers, spending about 20 hours a week team-teaching in the classroom, helping to introduce new learning approaches and encouraging integration of content areas.
She is not sure where she is headed after her two-year commitment to the Peace Corps. “I believe that learning a new language, experiencing a new culture, and continuing to work with students is the first step,” she says.