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Public health graduate to apply rich set of college experiences to serving as a public health educator with Peace Corps

April 16, 2018 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu

When Kate Samuel moved to Spain’s Canary Islands for her senior year of high school, she could only speak English. With classes taught exclusively in Spanish, the Rotary Youth Exchange student quickly became fluent. Her school doubled as a museum, and the off-campus activities were just as enriching: attending local festivals with new friends, scuba diving with her Rotary counselor, and exploring the local area, which included Volcano Teide—the highest mountain peak in Spain.

“Rotary Youth Exchange encourages communication and understanding among different cultures to show us—future leaders—that we are more similar than we might think,” says Samuel. “This program changed my life, and since then I have had a strong urge to see the world and make the most of my life.”

It wasn’t her first experience abroad (a mission trip took her to Romania a few years prior), and it certainly wouldn’t be her last. Once at UofSC, the Beaufort, South Carolina, native quickly realized that majoring in public health and minoring in Spanish and psychology would support her interests in global health and working with underserved populations.

“When I first switched my major to public health, I had an amazing experience during my first advisement session with Dr. Kara Montgomery, who knew exactly what I should take and made registration a breeze,” remembers Samuel.

She spent her first spring break volunteering with the Sister Island Project in the Dominican Republic and then decided to study abroad in India. That trip took place during the fall of Samuel’s junior year, when she lived in the city of Bangalore and studied at Christ University.

“I wanted a different experience and truly wanted to challenge myself, which is why I chose India,” says Samuel. She got that and more.

Through one service learning course, Samuel traveled into the slums to volunteer at a local school and daycare. Other course topics included Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, history of India, environmental issues that affect India, and caste, class, and gender.

Upon her return, Samuel jumped right back into her studies. She maintained a 4.0 GPA and served as a University 101 Peer Leader alongside public health instructor Charlotte Galloway during her senior year.

“Dr. Charlotte Galloway has been an amazing mentor,” Samuel says. “As an instructor and a teaching partner, she is an inspiration, and I hope to be as successful as her in my future. I am so thankful for the Arnold School staff—it really is the best school at USC!”

As a May graduate, Samuel is also completing the requirements for Graduation with Leadership Distinction. But she hasn’t only focused on her studies; Samuel has managed to amass a rich set of experiences outside the classroom as well.

The Rotary Scholar has remained committed to the organization that first fueled her passion for intercultural experiences by serving as a mentor to both inbound and outbound youth exchange students and presenting at Rotary Clubs on behalf of Rotary International. As a Rotaract member, Samuel volunteers and participates in local Rotary Club activities. 

During all four years at Carolina, Samuel has mentored international students from South Korea, Taiwan, India and Austria through the Buddies Beyond Borders program. She has also served as an orientation volunteer—both for USC students preparing to study in Asia (Study Abroad Office) and international students who have come to USC to study (USC International Accelerator Program). As the philanthropy chairwoman for the Indian Cultural Exchange, Samuel has planned events and fundraisers for the student organization’s three charities (i.e., Ekal Vidalya, Set Free Alliance, Quench) and helped plan Aag Ki Raat, the annual dance competition fundraiser held by universities across the country.  

Samuel has also prioritized the advancement of her Spanish language and cultural skills by serving as a volunteer and interpreter for Latino clients at multiple health clinics and with the Arnold School’s PASOs program. As an intern at Deverall Immigration Law, she provided translation services and reviewed and prepared documents for immigrants seeking legal assistance. Samuel also participated in the Sigma Delta Pi Spanish Honor Society.

“Volunteering for clinics has truly taught me the importance of preventive care and the importance of healthcare equity including access and elimination of barriers,” she says.

To further her public health knowledge, Samuel held positions as vice president and president for the Public Health Society. For her senior capstone project, she chose to volunteer with Palmetto AIDS Life Support Services, where she learned how to counsel patients with regard to sexual health behaviors, testing recommendations and risk education plans.

“Each of these experiences has had such large effects on me,” Samuel says. “I enjoy meeting new people and helping them receive appropriate care and resources.”

In a few months, Samuel will apply the knowledge and skills she gained at Carolina with a new adventure: a 27-month assignment as a public health educator in Peru with the Peace Corps. My father was a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras, and it made such an impact on his life that I have always wanted to join as well,” says Samuel, who prepped for the experience with the Peace Corps Prep program and will likely work with HIV/AIDS, mothers and children, and/or youth development.

Samuel’s experience at UofSC didn’t disappoint, and neither did her major. “I would recommend public health to anyone and encourage them to pursue it with an open mind,” she says. “Public health is everywhere around us—the seat belts in our cars, the 'Smoking Kills' text on a cigarette box, the sidewalks along neighborhoods. The best advice I’d give is to start early. Start volunteering, start doing research- the earlier you start, the more things you can try.”