It was a life-changing 2014 internship in Hanoi, Vietnam, that first gave Nikolai Stern ’16 the idea of volunteering for the Peace Corps. “I was interested in studying abroad in Vietnam because I wanted to experience a new, Eastern perspective. The challenges I faced, like learning a new language, working in a new culture, and even bargaining in the markets, were not obstacles but learning experiences.”
That experience inspired Stern to apply for the Peace Corps after earning his B.A. cum laude in economics and history. He was accepted, and assigned to Thailand for a two-year stint, 2017 to 2019.
Stern arrived in Thailand in early January, and completed three months of pre-service training (PST) while living with a Thai host family in Sing Buri province in central Thailand, two hours north of Bangkok. “During PST we took language classes 16 hours a week and technical training (learning how to teach English as a foreign language) the rest of the week,” says Stern. “I also taught in a fourth-grade classroom for two weeks to prepare to teach at my site.”
For the remainder of his two-year stay in Thailand, Stern has been posted to Phetchabun province, in the north/central region of the country, in a remote community in the middle of a national forest. He is now officially a teacher collaborator and community facilitator.
“The main goals of my service are to teach English to primary and secondary students and to train teachers in student-centered teaching, English and sustainable development of teaching resources,” he says. Stern will also be assigned to a secondary project involved in community development at the school where he is teaching.
Stern credits his education with giving him a solid preparation for his Peace Corps work. “Being a student surrounded by a strong sense of community service and global education at HWS led me to apply,” he says. “I believe serving in the Peace Corps is just an extension of my time at HWS.”
During his years at the Colleges, Stern received the John Rothrock Memorial Prize and was a Hobart Heritage Scholar. A member of Omicron Delta Epsilon, the economics honor society, he also participated in the Simon Business School’s Early Leaders Case Competition.
Stern worked as a programming assistant at the HWS Center for Global Education, and as an intern with Guy Carpenter in Morristown, N.J. following graduation. After his service with the Peace Corps, he is considering graduate school for international development. “Ultimately, I will use the knowledge gained from my education at HWS and experience in the Peace Corps to continue to create cultural understanding and to solve issues in the global environment,” he says.
Those wishing to follow Stern’s Peace Corps journey may do so via his blog, Stern in Smileland.