50th Edition, Global Education

Former student inspired to join Peace Corps

By Denebola
Published: February 2011

By Jane Hogan,
Volume 50
February 15, 2011

By high school I had only traveled as far a Quebec City, but I loved reading books set in foreign countries. At Meadowbrook Junior High I was in the International Relations Club, and at Newton High, I joined a Senior Girl Scout troop with an international focus. My plan was to be selected for a foreign travel/study program.
Instead, a high school senior was sent to Switzerland.  She went off to college and I was asked to show her slides to younger troops all over Newton.
I vowed I would someday have the opportunity to live in a foreign country. At Newton South I was a member of the AFS (American Field Service) Support Club, and my family served as a short term respite home.
I was friends with our AFS students and loved learning about life in their countries, but I never was able to have an overseas experience. On November 9, 1960, I was in my Goodwin House homeroom debating the impact of the Kennedy presidency. March 1961 the executive order which founded the Peace Corps was announced. I dreamed of joining.
I used what I thought would make me appealing to the Peace Corps to guide my selection of college majors. At that time, most volunteers were liberal arts majors. Most programs were either teaching or community development. I majored in Sociology/Anthropology, which enabled me to study other cultures. I minored in Education and English. I was trying to cover all the bases.
Learning a foreign language was a worry. Unfortunately, I had not done well in Foreign Language at South.
When I had the choice of French IV or Journalism elective, I took Journalism.  The time I should have been studying French was devoted to Denebola. I had to explain this in my application letter. I wish I had put more emphasis on good grades in all subjects, not just those I liked!
I was accepted to be a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Turkey. I was assigned to be a Community Developer working with home canning. I lived in the village with no running water, no electricity, and no indoor plumbing. It was bitter cold! I spoke Turkish exclusively. I loved the people in my village and realized basic human values trump differences. The Turks loved Kennedy and valued the Peace Corps as his dream.
I volunteered for a second program. I was assigned to teach English and History in Sabah, North Borneo. Now I was on the Equator. I learned Malay but taught in English. I was able to draw on the way I had been taught in Newton.
In the Peace Corps I was able to make decisions, write teaching materials, and have experiences a beginning teacher would not have. I had to learn to think on my feet, take risks, amuse myself and make friends with people whose culture and religion was different from mine.
My Peace Corps experiences far exceeded my hopes. I believe I gained more I gave. Throughout my career I’ve continued to teach about and work with diverse cultures. The plan I formed in Goodwin House came to fruition.

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