Why serving in the Peace Corps isn’t putting your career on hold

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Heather Mangan, center, served in Peace Corps Lesotho, from 2011-13.

I couldn’t do Peace Corps because I had student loans. I couldn’t do Peace Corps because it would break my mother’s heart to leave for two years. I couldn’t do Peace Corps because I was on a career path and volunteering would certainly disrupt my professional climb.

These are all reasons I justified not applying to the Peace Corps when I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from South Dakota State University in 2007. Instead, I took a reporting job at a small daily newspaper and began living the typical American life with bills, a time card, and not enough vacation time.

The whim to join the Peace Corps, which came to me one night while procrastinating on my French homework, didn’t perish after I entered the work force. Rather, it bloomed into a full life goal. All those reasons I had used to convince myself that Peace Corps wasn’t for me could no longer overcome this picture I had in my head of being at the end of my life and not having experienced the Peace Corps. That imagined regret motivated me to apply. Continue reading “Why serving in the Peace Corps isn’t putting your career on hold”

Across oceans, cultures, and time, friendship formed during Peace Corps service endures

Like most Peace Corps volunteers, Kera Halvorson knew little about the local culture and couldn’t speak the language when she began her service as a maternal and family health volunteer in Turkmenistan in 2010. Soon, though, she was immersed in a new culture and formed close bonds with people in her community. Gujemal Mammentmyradova was a friend to Kera who eventually became like family. During Kera’s two years in Turkmenistan, the two watched movies and ate sunflower seeds. Kera helped Gujemal translate English songs, and Gujemal invited Kera to weddings and updated her wardrobe to include local attire.

After Kera completed her service and returned home, the two kept in touch, and Gujemal told Kera about her lifelong dream of studying in the U.S. With Kera’s guidance, Gujemal earned a scholarship and in the fall of 2015 began studying elementary education at South Dakota State University.

Before starting school she stopped in Chicago to see Kera, her first trip ever to the U.S. In April, Kera visited Gujemal on the campus of SDSU. She was able to meet Gujemal’s host family and see where she lives. Gujemal will soon begin her sophomore year at SDSU and hopes to stay in the U.S. to receive a master’s degree and potentially a doctorate before returning to Turkmenistan to work in education. Throughout their friendship, Kera and Gujemal have had to navigate cultural differences and help each other in very dedicated ways. However, it’s only brought them closer. In the video above, the two talk about how they met, their reunion, and why their friendship is so important to each of them. Continue reading “Across oceans, cultures, and time, friendship formed during Peace Corps service endures”

Meet your Peace Corps Central Recruiter: Brian Green

CR Santa Marta kids

Name: Brian Green
Country of Service: Costa Rica, 2003-05
Assignment: Rural Community Development
Recruitment Territory: Minnesota, South Dakota

Why were you interested in serving?
I’ve always had a volunteering spirit. After studying abroad in Mexico, I developed a love for international travel as well. Once I learned that Peace Corps combined these two passions I was hooked.

What did you enjoy most about your country of service?
I was very close with my host family during the three months of training; they treated me like one of their own. It was a house filled with lots of love, food and jokes. Even after I moved away to officially start my two years of service, I often returned to visit them. My American family came to visit during my service, and I took them to meet my Costa Rican family. While my American family spoke no Spanish, it was obvious to them that I was in good hands.

Continue reading “Meet your Peace Corps Central Recruiter: Brian Green”

Wakonda, S.D., resident begins Peace Corps service in Kosovo

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Anna Lena Wonnenberg of Wakonda, S.D., has been accepted into the Peace Corps and will depart for Kosovo June 6 to begin training as an English education volunteer. Wonnenberg will be among the first group of Peace Corps volunteers to serve in Kosovo, and she will live and work at the community level to make a difference by teaching English as a second language to secondary school students.

“I care about people, and I desire to make the most of my life,” Wonnenberg, 25, said. “The Peace Corps offers the opportunity to be completely immersed in another culture and to serve poorer communities around the world and your own country in an amazing way.” Continue reading “Wakonda, S.D., resident begins Peace Corps service in Kosovo”