Sara Klos '19
Preparing for the Peace Corps in Colombia
In mid-September I will be leaving for Barranquilla, Colombia, the first stop on my Peace Corps journey! I will be there for three months for intensive language and technical training, and then will be placed in a smaller community where I will live with a host family and start my official two years of service.
There is a part of me that always knew I would do the Peace Corps or something related. The combination of my love for traveling and interacting with new communities and cultures around the world, the classes I took geared towards international development, my time abroad in South America, and the conversations I had with people who had done a year or two of post-grad service pushed me to apply for the Peace Corps in the fall semester of my senior year. Advice from BC alumni in the development sector further solidified my desire to volunteer, as they reiterated how important it was to have on-the-ground experience if you are to be taken seriously in a career of international development. So the decision to apply to the Peace Corps started out largely as a career move, but following my Arrupe experience in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, as well as the reflecting that took place in Professor Steve Pope’s "Faith, Service, and Solidarity" course, I realized that my time as a volunteer would be much more than a step in my career; it would also be a chance to be enveloped in an entirely new way of life and to completely give of myself to others. I feel that this is a chance to be exposed and live out first-hand just a small part of the reality that the global community faces every day, and with this experience I hope to be better equipped to work in the international development sector in the future.
PC Colombia sends community economic volunteers and English teaching volunteers to two regions: along the coast, and in the Andes. I will be serving as an English Teacher Trainer, where I will be working with current English teachers in the local schools, helping build their own understanding and ability to use English while also supporting their capacity to teach the language. I’m really excited about this approach as I believe my work will be more sustainable and long-lasting than had I just been teaching my own classes. During my time, I will also be expected to take on a side project, which will be determined in collaboration with my community. During my time at Boston College, I was involved with Strong Women Strong Girls, a girls and women’s empowerment group that works with 3rd-5th grade girls in the BPS community, and I am incredibly excited to take the skills and experiences from my time with SWSG and apply it to both my role as a teacher trainer as well as various gender empowerment programs in Colombia.
If anyone is interested in Peace Corps after their time at BC, I highly recommend thinking about the kind of role you are looking to pursue. There are multiple and diverse sectors ranging from agriculture to public health, but they all require applicants who are experienced and skilled in the position for which they are applying. Once you have an idea of what sector you are interested in, join a club or take a class relevant to that sector. For example, if you want to work in agriculture, take one of Professor Tara Pisani-Gareau’s classes on sustainable agriculture (fun fact: she served in the Peace Corps!). Or if you’re interested in the economic development sector and ways of monitoring development, take an impact evaluation course with Professor Paul Cichello (another fun fact: he TOO was a Peace Corps volunteer!). Aside from your studies, get involved with a club and STAY involved with a club that will help you develop the skills necessary for your service. These experiences are not just for the resume—the skills you build are what your community will be expecting from you and utilizing during your service, and it is important to your service that you come with a background in what you’re doing, but also ready to learn whatever it takes to best serve your community. And if you DO decide to do PC, I suggest you take Professor Pope’s "Faith, Service, and Solidarity" course, as it provided me with the space to question, reflect, and discuss what service should look like, and how one’s faith is intertwined with this type of work.
I’ve always known that I’ve wanted to pursue a career where the work I am doing directly impacts the world in a positive way, and for me, Peace Corps is just about as direct as that impact can be. I understand that there are SO many ways in which we as individuals can serve our communities and help the world around us, and by no means do we have to leave the country or even our own cities to do so. But through my own discernment, I have found that I have to take this chance to get completely out of my comfort zone in a way that sends me away from everything that I find familiar. I’m so thankful for my friends, professors, and family that have given me unconditional support through this journey, and look forward for all that is to come.