When Jared Collier ’17 told his parents that following graduation this May he would be heading to China as a Peace Corps volunteer, his father asked why he didn’t want to work someplace like South America.
“‘Because, Dad,’” Collier recalls himself saying, “‘that’s too close.’”
Collier, a linguistics major from Salt Lake City, views his upcoming 27-month stint teaching English in the Peace Corps as a “synthesis” of the many insights and experiences he has accumulated during his undergraduate years at Boston College – and an opportunity to serve the Peace Corps “mission of peace,” he adds.
In doing so, Collier will be helping further Boston College’s legacy one of the country’s top producers of Peace Corps volunteers. With 19 alumni volunteering worldwide, BC ranked 13th among medium-size schools (between 5,000 and 15,000 undergraduates) on the Peace Corp’s 2017 Top Volunteer-Producing Colleges and Universities list, which the organization compiles annually.
BC has appeared on the top volunteer list each year for the past decade. Since the organization’s founding in 1961, 786 alumni from BC have traveled abroad to serve as volunteers.
Collier finds it unsurprising that so many BC graduates have found serving in the Peace Corps an inviting prospect. When you’re in an environment like the Heights, opportunities are rife to learn about and discuss social justice issues on a global scale, he says – and to challenge your perceptions and beliefs.
The liberal arts perspective that BC inculcates in its students, says Collier, can “inspire an ambition toward multilateral reflection upon our experiences, thereby insinuating critical judgment into our daily actions.”
During his undergraduate years at BC, Collier has sought out many experiences to help him expand his worldview: the Jemez Pueblo and Arrupe service trips in, respectively, New Mexico and Mexico; the “Writing Out of Place” workshop in India; a summer program in Ecuador through the McNair Scholars Program.
Collier had considered going to graduate school, but found himself wanting to build on the service and international aspects of his BC education. As he considered the idea, the Peace Corps emerged as a particularly attractive possibility: a long-term immersion in a different culture, and a means to develop self-reliance and teaching skills.
The application process for the Peace Corps, which includes a 500-word essay and an interview, offers prospective volunteers three choices for a posting. Collier put China as his number one preference. The fact that he had little familiarity with the country made it all the more appealing, he says.
“I have a lot of friends from China here at BC, and through them I’ve been able to learn something about the country and its people. The thought of being there, embedding myself in the culture, just intrigues me: I’ll still be an outsider in many ways – it would take a lifetime to become an ‘insider’ – but I feel I’ll learn so much.”
Collier will work as an English teacher at a high school or two-year college or technical school. He’ll also be developing a community project – his idea is to organize sessions for reading literature (such as Harry Potter books). He is uncertain exactly what his accommodations will be like, but it might involve living with a family that has an extra room.
“Whatever the arrangement is, you live in solidarity with the community,” he says. “The whole idea – as has always been the case with the Peace Corps – is to be a cultural ambassador who represents the goodwill of the United States. So while I look on this as a chance for personal growth, I know that there is a larger imperative to which I’m committed.”
-Sean Smith / University Communications