Preparing for the Peace Corps

University of South Carolina graduate Dominic McNear moved to Morocco as a Peace Corps volunteer for what he thought would be a couple years of teaching English. It turned into a life-changing experience that provided lasting relationships.

“I realized that building those long-lasting relationships mattered a lot more than what I was actually teaching,” McNear said. “That for me was more life-lasting than anything I taught.”

Starting this fall, Carolina students interested in Peace Corps service will be able to participate in a program that will help prepare them for similar experiences.

Housed in the Study Abroad Office, the Peace Corps Prep program will prepare students for international fieldwork. The program is meant to coincide with students’ studies, while enhancing their foreign language skills, giving them hands-on experience and providing them with an idea of possibilities for post-graduation.

Regardless of a student’s major, advisers will work to make sure the program is incorporated into their course requirements and prepares students for a possible volunteer position in the Peace Corps or another international position.

Carolina is the first school in South Carolina to participate in the Peace Corps Prep program, started by the Peace Corps to foster a stronger partnership with undergraduate institutions and develop a pipeline of diverse, highly qualified applicants. The program will be officially announced Sept. 6, with USC Upstate announcing its program Sept. 7.

“The Peace Corps is becoming more competitive with the new application process,” said Chrissie Faupel, assistant director of undergraduate advising in the Study Abroad Office. “This program will get students thinking where they need to be competitively.”

Participating in the university’s Peace Corps Prep program doesn’t guarantee a student will be accepted to the Peace Corps, nor does it mean a student is required to join the program.

Faupel was a Peace Corps volunteer for two years in Senegal in West Africa. As a health care volunteer, she would assist in administering vaccinations, distributing medications and even host trainings on cervical cancer with the village women. As one of the advisers for Peace Corps Prep, Faupel will be able to use her volunteer experience to help guide the students through the necessary steps to complete the program.

“It’s an institutionalized way of preparing students for international affairs. It gets students to start thinking about what they need to do while they are in school,” Faupel said. “Learning about other cultures, regardless of whether they join the Peace Corps, will benefit them in the long run.”

McNear, who graduated from Carolina in 2012, focused primarily on teaching English and cultural diversity during his time in Morocco. He worked with students of all ages to try to break down cultural stereotypes, discussing traits they shared with people all over the world.

“We all share commonality as human beings,” McNear said. “My main goal was to try to boost their morale by showing them very successful Moroccans in America and how they made it out of their situation and learn that you are only limited by your mind and you can break through those barriers.”

After two years in Morocco, McNear was able to build relationships with the other volunteers, bonding over their experiences and occasional homesickness. He also made friends with a lot of the village residents and his students, some of whom even called him after they were accepted into college, thanking him for his lessons.

Peace Corps volunteers work  with governments, schools, nonprofit organizations, nongovernment organizations and entrepreneurs in education, business, information technology, agriculture and the environment. To learn more, visit the Peace Corps website.

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