Many International Studies Alumni have chosen to serve in the Peace Corps after graduating from the University of Idaho. We love seeing our students apply what they have learned in a way that is making a difference in the world.
“The Peace Corps is a service opportunity for motivated changemakers to immerse themselves in a community abroad, working side by side with local leaders to tackle the most pressing challenges of our generation.” – Peace Corps
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Ali Jo Nuckles – Senegal (2015-2017)
As part of the Community Economic Development Program in Peace Corps Senegal, I worked primarily with women’s groups and youth to promote income generation and self-employment.
Partnering with the mayor’s office, I started a Young Entrepreneur’s Club for middle school age students to increase general business knowledge, set goals, plan for the future, and, of course, have fun!
I was also a founding member of the Saloum Business Development Camp that taught people everything related to business, from creating a business idea to writing a business plan.
Senegal is known as “Le Pays de Terranga,” the country of hospitality, which is exactly what I found during my time there. My Peace Corps memories will stay with me forever.
Kim Castelin – Madagascar (2013-2015)
As a Rural Food Security and Agriculture volunteer, I was supposed to contribute to food security by providing technical assistance in agricultural production. Upon arriving in Ampondralava, Madagascar, however, I realized that there was nothing I could tell a Magalasy person about growing rice that they didn’t already know.
Upon my community’s request, I taught English lessons, created workshops on using mosquito netting to reduce malaria, built latrines and hand-washing stations, and tutored math, among many other things.
I spent the majority of my time in the Peace Corps learning and giving back when and where I could. There will always be a piece of me left in Ampondralava and I am grateful that I was given the chance to live such a remarkable experience with such dynamic humans.
Brady Fuller – Cambodia (2016-2018)
I am an English teacher and Teacher Trainer working in rural high schools in northern Cambodia.
While two years may sound like a long time, the Peace Corps has given me the unique opportunity to really become a member of my community. By building lasting relationships with my host family, my students, the village leaders, even the fruit sellers I pass, I was able to make a more sustainable impact on the community I came to serve.
Like all things in life, it has been an experience filled with moments of triumph and moments of frustration. Nevertheless, it was through highs and lows that I was shaped into a better, more active global citizen.
Kelsey Neal - Kyrgyzstan
I served in a small village called Berbulak, Kyrgyzstan. Berbulak means "giving stream" in Kyrgyz. The village was situated in the foothills of Ala Archa national park. I was a TEFL volunteer (teaching English as a foreign language), so my main job was to teach English at the local school and to conduct teacher training for regional teachers.
I also worked in health education and started a network of girls clubs. The girls could explore sports, career opportunities, how to live healthily, and whatever else they were interested in! Many of these clubs are ongoing and have morphed based on the leaders' strengths or interests. One of the clubs focused on journalism, and these girls were able to secure a grant to start a blog and podcast about being a girl in Kyrgyzstan. Another group of girls loved soccer, so they started a girls soccer league.
I would say the greatest thing about serving in the Peace Corps is that you can experience a culture firsthand and really immerse yourself in it. I learned Kyrgyz while I was there, lived with a host family and by the end I really felt like I was a member of the community. It is also a cool feeling to be the only American many of these people will meet. At first, I was trying to fit in so that people wouldn't notice that I was American. But I soon realized that I would never really be Kyrgyz, and the people in my village loved meeting an American! It is good to respect local customs and culture, but also remember that you can share your culture and personality with the locals as well.
Steffan Perez – Indonesia (2013-2015)
My assignment, to teach English to high school students, was never something I planned on doing in my life. I was placed in a vocational high school and had little support from staff or students.
After weeks of feeling relatively useless, I came up with an idea to start a conversational English club. Only a handful of students joined at first, but word spread, and the club quickly grew. The discussion topics ranged from music and movies to current events. Allowing the students to pick the topics empowered their desire to learn.
I started off feeling not so confident, but I left feeling like I was the lucky one in this whole adventure. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Erin McGown – Georgia (2017-2019)
As an Individual and Organizational Development volunteer, my primary project is to help build the capacity of the Local Democracy Agency Georgia.
With the Local Democracy Agency, I implement projects like One Billion Rising, a campaign to raise awareness about gender-based violence in Georgia.
I am also involved in several Peace Corps committees, including the Small Project Assistance (SPA) grant committee and the Model United Nations, among others.
I currently live with a host family, am learning Georgian and hope to know at least one Georgian dance by the time I leave!
Mariela Vázquez – Dominican Republic
During my service in the Dominican Republic, I focused on a sustainable library project, implementing the Ministry of Education’s reformed programs by providing primary literacy tutoring to first, second and third grade students as well as tutoring for fourth, fifth and sixth graders.
I also coordinated a capacity building teacher conference for the 23 educational centers in my municipality.
In my spare time, I partnered with the Foundation for International Medical Relief for Children to bring mobile clinics to rural communities.
After this experience, I can say that I have never cried harder, loved more purely, been more enraged, laughed longer… I have never lived a better life filled solely with the simplest of joys.
Zach Nostdal – Guatemala (2008-2010)
As a volunteer in the Rural Home Preventative Health Program in Santa Barbara, Guatemala, I worked with the Guatemalan Ministry of Health to train community health workers.
A normal day for me consisted of hiking with staff from the local clinic to nearby rural communities to give a presentation and stopping by houses on the way to talk to people.
I really treasure the time I spent in the Peace Corps and know that I made a difference.
Kevin Gunter – Vanuatu (2006-2008)
I began my service as a Community Health Facilitator on the island of Epi where I worked alongside village health workers to strengthen and improve community support, facility and supply chain management, and infrastructure development.
I worked with communities to rebuild health centers, water supply systems and a primary school destroyed by a hurricane.
Additionally, I learned an immense amount of personal and social skills that I carry with me in both my personal and work life. Peace Corps was a life-changing event and propelled me to continue my education and career in International Relations and Global Health.
Michelle Polansky – Peru
As a Community Health Educator, my service had two main focuses: healthy homes and families; and sexual education for teenagers, including pregnancy and disease prevention.
I worked closely with the district’s health center and high school to reach the community and execute my projects. I also got to do a few passion projects, including a library project.
Illiteracy in rural Peru is quite high, but with some help, I was able to put a variety of books in each classroom and get teachers to design a reading program to promote not only pleasure reading, but comprehension.
I had countless incredible moments, but by no means was my service a do-gooder’s fairy tale full of satisfaction and successes. There were many times of frustration, sadness and even defeat – but I would never change any of it.