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I served in Tanzania in 1995-1998. I taught Math & Physics in Zanzibar.
I say I got more out of it than I gave. I got to experience and undestand such a different culture. Zanzibar is 99% Muslim. The main town is fairly developed and the rural towns range from well water and no electricity to intermittent electricity and intermittent running water. I witnessed so much kindness and interwoven support. Family is so important and for the most part ownership was different. It was more collective (however changing). One student would buy a book for class but it would change hands through out the year as people borrowed it and studied it.
The students did perform better on the national exams while I was there. I won't claim it was a functioning of my teaching skills, I hope it was, but it could have simply been the students I had. I also like to think that I did open up their minds to different ways to approach problems and solve challenges.
I think the measure of personal success a Peace Corp Volunteer experiences during their time is dependent on how far they progress through what I call the 5 stages of understanding.
5 Stages of Understanding
Will I get sick? What will I eat? How rustic will the conditions be?
I can't believe they do this. Don't they know it's better if they do this? ...
Why do they do things this way? How did they develop this?
The Locals do it, I'll give it a try.
This is when you blend your knowledge of the culture and the people with your own comfort zones. Respecting what is theirs, but also knowing the line where you are comfortable.
After Peace Corps, I too had problems conveying the skills I learned and how it translated in to the "real world". An example: as I was being interviewed by the president of a company, he said, "It is nice for you that you were in Africa helping people, but you are competing against people who worked for Ford and GM for this job."
Peace Corps experience translates very well to corporate America. It's a global economy now, I came in with understanding and curiousity of other cultures with which I worked. I understood what it is like to work in an environment in a second language, and was able to communicate more effectively with my foreign co-workers. Peace Corps taught me the value of humility & teamwork, and this translates well into getting things done (even when it is beneath you). This is just a couple of ways I see Peace Corps coming into play in my professional life.
posted 2 years, 2 months ago
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