A lot can happen in two years.
Knowing your efforts could help struggling nations abroad, would you agree to spend those two years volunteering internationally?
Two former Peace Corps volunteers led an information session on Tuesday night in Hodges Library, recounting their individual experiences living in Africa.
The Peace Corps, an independent U.S. government agency, sends volunteers to work in more than 70 countries around the world that have requested assistance.
Amanda McRoy, who led the session, is a Peace Corps veteran of Cameroon and UT recruiter. Since coming to the U.S., she has become a graduate student studying speech language pathology.
"Our main goal is world peace and friendship," McRoy said. "We're an organization that promotes and works in sustainable development."
Before venturing to a foreign country to teach others, Peace Corps volunteers must complete three months of training in education, health and HIV/AIDS, business and information communication, environment, youth and community development or agriculture. Counting the training, volunteers serve for a total of 27 months.
Madison Langseth, a UT graduate student who served in Sierra Leone, said she advises volunteers to shape their work around their own interests.
"The really cool thing about Peace Corps is that you can tailor your experience however you want," Langseth said.
The safety of volunteers is among the top priorities of the Peace Corps. Volunteers receive training in behavioral customs, judgment and cultural differences to reduce risks. A security officer and guidance counselors also reside in each country, all of which have passed safety screenings. McRoy said she recalls a loving and supportive community watching over her while abroad.
Langseth recounted the cultural shock upon arriving in Sierra Leone. The use of corporal punishment in school children was difficult for Langseth to witness.
"My hardest part of the experience was probably dealing with corporal punishment," Langseth said. "So there they still flog in the schools. They beat them [kids]."
While the Peace Corps provides housing, electricity and running water may not be available in all locations.
There are no fees for volunteers to participate. At the end of the two year term, $7,425 – before taxes – is given to each volunteer for their transition back to normalcy.
McRoy incurred a difficult readjustment to life in America.
"It was really hard to come back after 2.5 years of feeling like what I was doing mattered and was fulfilling," McRoy said.
Her experience, she explained, continued to shape her even after leaving Cameroon.
"You learn things about yourself and about our culture and other cultures but you never stop looking back and reflecting and growing," McRoy said.
Brittany Bonner, a junior in communications studies, felt the session provided important details which only a veteran volunteer could offer.
"They answered a lot of questions that weren't available on the website as far as their personal experience," Bonner said.
Encouraged, Bonner now plans to apply.
"I didn't know if I was qualified enough to help," she said, "but I feel more reassured that they will give me the proper training and put me where I will work the best."