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”

When time was right, Peace Corps led to grad school at Mizzou for returned volunteer

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Tracey Goldner (right), shown with her host family in Turkmenistan, served as a Peace Corps Volunteer from 2010 to 2012.

Although many Peace Corps volunteers are recent college graduates or retirees, others find that the right time to serve is somewhere in between. For these mid-career professionals, Peace Corps offers a unique opportunity to reshape a career while helping communities around the world with skills honed at jobs in the U.S.

After nearly five years at a public health nonprofit based in Tigard, Ore., the time was right for Tracey Goldner. She had never forgotten about the returned volunteer she met a decade earlier as a freshman at Pacific Lutheran University. “He had returned recently from Central America and was on fire for the Peace Corps,” she said. “I felt inspired immediately. I had a strong feeling that I would join someday, and I never let go of that dream.” Continue reading “When time was right, Peace Corps led to grad school at Mizzou for returned volunteer”

Video: Returned Peace Corps Volunteers share stories from service

See the experiences of three recently returned volunteers who served in the South Pacific, Central Asia, and Africa, as they describe the anxious feelings leading up to departure through the key moments that helped define their service and make a difference in their lives. The returned volunteers share their personal stories and photos to tell us how the realities of their Peace Corps service compared to their preconceptions about things like the two-year time commitment, health and safety, and being a diverse volunteer.