As summer deepens, recent graduates find themselves looking for jobs, starting work or internships, or preparing for graduate school. But for some, a desire for international service has flung them a little farther off the beaten path. Jamie Derose, who graduated last May, has been in Peru where she is training to be a United States Peace Corps volunteer.
Peace Corps is an organization through the United States government that sends volunteers from all walks of life and experiential backgrounds to developing countries to integrate into a community and serve as a volunteer for two years. Historically, 501 NC Students have served in the Peace Corps since it was founded in 1961.
Right now, Derose is in the initial part of her service, Pre-Service Training, or PST, where she and 63 other volunteers train “from 8-5, Monday-Friday for 11 weeks” in language, culture, and how to stay healthy and safe during their service. During PST, volunteers live with a host family, which often exposes them to aspects of a country and culture that most outsiders never see. This occasionally leads to surprising revelations and situations–and Derose’s experience is no exception: “I think the most surprising cultural change has been the complete disappearance of privacy. Peruvians like to gossip – a lot. Sometimes something will happen with another trainee or a trainee’s family, and often my host family will know about it even before I do.”
But while the cultural changes are great, so is the speed with which volunteers like Derose are able to overcome the cultural challenges: “I’m… really surprised at how quickly I’ve been able to adapt to the new style of life here. If you’re willing to embrace change, it is pretty easy to live in a completely unfamiliar place.”
While Pre-Service Training–and Peace Corps service in general–presents many challenges, Derose says there are two aspects of her time at NC State that have helped her: “study abroad experience and the College of Natural Resource’s (CNR) love of diversity.” During her study abroad to Spain, Derose had the opportunity to live with a host family, and learned how to adapt to a different culture. CNR’s small yet diverse student body, and the conversations and trainings on the value of diversity, have “definitely helped me embrace the cultural difference of being in the Peace Corps,” says Derose.
So what’s next for Derose? In a few weeks, she’ll swear in as a Peace Corps Volunteer and begin her two years of service in her assigned community.
“I am being sent to a region called Cajamarca. It is a Sierra site in central Peru, and it is supposed to be very lush and green. I’ll be about 2000 meters high, and my community has around 2200 people total in it. I will spend my next 2 years there living with a different host family, working to improve my community’s water and health, and trying my best to integrate into the community. I don’t have a site mate, so I will be completely alone in my community, which is exciting and scary at the same time!”