It was recently reported that the University of Virginia has sent the 3rd largest amount of volunteers (as a medium sized school) to the Peace Corps. Interested, I began compiling a series of interviews with UVA Peace Corps volunteers and employees to celebrate our school’s commitment to bettering the lives of others.
-Currently a Literacy Promoter in the Peace Corps
-Serving in the Dominican Republic
Do you think joining the Peace Corps was personally rewarding for you?
Absolutely. Professionally and personally Peace Corps has been and continues to be an extremely enriching experience.
Personally, I have grown so much. I found myself without all of the most basic support structures in my life – no internet, sparse electricity, no one around who speaks my first language or is from my culture, and no one with a similar education either. This step so far away from anything familiar forced me to rethink the ways I related to others and the ways I defined myself.
Professionally I have developed in every possible fashion. A large part of my experience has been community organizing, and I learning to become a leader in the context of another culture has been a hugely challenging – and rewarding. I manage multiple programs, write manuals, constantly work in 3 different language, lecture, give speeches, do trainings, etc.
It has also shown me where I want to go from here – professionally. I came in thinking I wanted to work in Global Development to some capacity, but after working in all the many contexts Peace Corps puts you in, I have discovered my passion for human rights and I am now (hopefully) heading to Law School 2016!
Share a good moment during your service
Too many to pick from!
One of my favorite things to do is to go out dancing with my neighbors. I live by the beach, and every weekend my friends and I all walk together to the street at the beachfront and dance bachata all night long.
What could be better than good friends, a sky full of stars, and dancing on sandy shores?
Share a terrible moment during your service. For example, was there a cultural barrier you had particular difficulty crossing?
Oh no! Well, there are too many to pick from here too. It’s really tough being a female in a hyper-macho society. I literally cannot step outside of my house without men shouting things at me. I can’t even buy eggs at 7am without a 60 year old man telling me how pretty I am and asking if I have a boyfriend. It is like that constantly for all females in this country. But they don’t even know they’re bothering me, they don’t know how much I loathe it. In their culture what they are doing is complimenting me, they are just being friendly. I explained how much I hated it to a friend last night, and his response was “But, Sophia, how else is a man supposed to tell you that he’s in love with you?”
…This is a barrier I have not crossed.
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