Peace Corps Makes Life-changing and Life-long Impact
By Lindsay Plodwick
Being in the Peace Corps shapes who you are personally and professionally according to a four-member panel of Peace Corps members who recently came to South Mountain to share their experiences with the Lehigh community.
Neil McGurty, director of the Office of International Affairs and a Peace Corps alum himself, hosted the International Week event and introduced the members of the panel. McGurty, who served in Latvia from 1993-1995, said of the Peace Corps: “It set the trajectory for my life.”
The panel included Doug Garantina, Rebecca Sarivan, Richard Dalrymple, and Lehigh’s own Associate Chair of Computer Science and Engineering, Edwin Kay.
Garantina, who served in Ghana from 1971-1973, said that it helped him find out who he was as a person.
“Totally immersing yourself in anything helps you find who you are,” he said of the experience.
Garantina said that as a product of the ‘60s, he wanted to save the world, but what he realized after going out into the world is that you might not necessarily change the world, but the world will change you.
Similarly, Dalrymple who served in the ‘70s, joined because of an urge to make a difference in the world. He was on the draft list in 1974, but was never called, so he wanted to join the Peace Corps to “do something.”
Dalrymple’s work in Mali prepared him for his later life, working for 32 years at the United Nations. His work in the Peace Corps made him qualified for the job because “we bring the world with us.”
Sarivan, the youngest and most recent Peace Corps alum, served in Moldova from 2007-2009. She appealed to many of the students in the room when she told the story of how she ended up applying to the Peace Corps. She was a Political Science major, and planned to go to graduate school. When she didn’t do as well as she had planned on the GRE, she applied to the Peace Corps the next day.
She was given three months of lessons in Romanian, and then was sent to a small village and was basically told, “Go out and help people.” She taught the people of the village she was in fund-raising techniques and helped them start a parent-teacher organization. Sarivan said that a lot of what she did came instinctively.
Now, Sarivan is a master’s student at Columbia University. She credits her much of her success to her membership in the Peace Corps, which made her learn about herself and become a more confident person.
Every member of the panel was extremely optimistic about the life-changing experiences and opportunities that are afforded to those who have been in the Peace Corps. When someone joins the Peace Corps, they become part of a network, connecting them forever – a message that resonated with the Lehigh students in attendance.
“I’ve always had the Peace Corps on my radar,” said, Hayley Rambo ’13, “but it was really helpful to hear people say how rewarding the experience really is.”