Janet Berman shared a personal account of her two-year stint in Antigua

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Janet Berman shared a personal account of her two-year stint in Antigua

Janet Berman shared a personal account of her two-year stint in Antigua

Janet Berman shared a personal account of her two-year stint in Antigua

By Maggie O'Callaghan

Maroon-News Staff

Last Tuesday, two representatives from the Peace Corps Recruiting Office held an informational session for a room full of Colgate students. The purpose of the session was to give students interested in volunteering for the program an idea of what to expect. The recruiters said they were hoping to dispel many of students preconceived notions about the corps.

Sixty-two students attended the presentation in Persson Hall that included talks by B.J. Ritchie, who went on a Peace Corps program to Panama and now works as a Peace Corps campus representative and Janet Berman, who works as a public affairs specialist.

Ritchie explained the role of the Peace Corps, which is an independent federal agency, is to provide technical assistance to countries who ask for it. The central goal is to promote cultural exchange in the country to which you are assigned and also to bring lessons learned overseas to the United States.

"You're there to learn as much as you can about their culture as well as share aspects of your culture with them. It's a real cross-cultural experience," Ritchie said.

Berman shared a personal account of her two-year stint in Antigua with the aid of amusing anecdotes and a slide show. She described how she went through intensive three-month language, cross-cultural, health and technological training with the other 60 members of her group before beginning the program. The group worked on a myriad of projects, including building a live barrier fence out of living trees to try to prevent people from cutting down trees to build fences and going on "vaccination trips" in remote villages to show people how to vaccinate their livestock. They helped to create fish ponds as a secondary source of protein, since vitamin A deficiency is a problem throughout Latin America, and also formed animal husbandry and co-op programs to improve the health of the livestock in the area.

After the slide show presentation, Berman and Ritchie detailed the benefits of participating in the Peace Corps, including a monthly allowance to cover food, rent and other services, full medical and dental coverage, transportation to and from the assigned country and loan deferment. A volunteer can also earn nine hours of graduate credit or receive a Peace Corps fellowship.

The Peace Corps also practices non-competitive job eligibility, which allows them to hire qualified candidates without looking at other applicants.

Both Berman and Ritchie stressed that one of the most valuable perks of working in the Peace Corps is the job opportunities that come after serving overseas. "You become part of a network of 140,000 people who have done this," Ritchie said. "That's a pretty expansive job-networking field to work with."

Director of Career Services Lee Svete, who was responsible for getting Peace Corps representatives to come to Colgate, said the Peace Corps is an excellent avenue to other job opportunities. "The Peace Corps is one of the best international opportunities out there for providing employment and networking opportunities for students," he said. They will even pay for your masters degree as long as you do some recruiting for them when you get back."

Student reaction to the session proved to be just as favorable and positive as Svete's. "It was a really interesting presentation," senior Emmy Williams said. "It portrayed different aspects of the program and showed that there was room for just about every different type of person. Not just one mold of person was right for the job."

Her enthusiasm was echoed by some of her classmates. "I was really impressed with the experiences that the speakers had to share," senior Annie Smith said. "It was better information than could be found in a pamphlet," senior Amie Smith said.

Senior Teresa Devore added, "I was really pleased with the number of people who showed up, even given that this is the time of year when schedules get very busy." That sort of enthusiastic response from students is one of the reasons that the Peace Corps representatives make a point of visiting Colgate on their rounds. "There is something about Colgate," Ritchie said. "The people are very involved in their local community here in Hamilton. That makes it that much more likely that they will want to become involved in the broader, global community as well."

Statistics have proven him right. "The Peace Corps was the number-one recruiter last year at Colgate, beating out all the banks," Svete said. With twenty-one nominations for the Peace Corps last year, Colgate is in the top ten small liberal arts colleges in the United States for having graduates go on to work in the Peace Corps.

Svete attributed these numbers to the University's strong study abroad, community service and biology and natural science programs. "We compete very well in the market for positions. It says a lot for what our school has to offer," he said.

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Story Source: Maroon-News Staff

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