As early as his freshman year, Bryn Hagley ’15 considered the Peace Corps as an option upon graduation, but he went back and forth on whether he would apply throughout his undergraduate years. During the spring semester of his junior year, Professor Steve Hess mentioned to him that UB’s Peace Corps Prep Program (UBPCP) was in the works, and over the summer Hagley considered all his options. What did he really want to do after graduation? He was sure he wanted to get his masters, but was afraid he’d experience burn out going straight to grad school. He thought about working in development, but a 9-5 job didn’t appeal to him. Then he reconsidered the Peace Corps – it would give him the life experience and a new perspective of the world he longed for. The timing of UBPCP’s first cohort was perfect. Hagley was in.
My Peace Corps Story
When UBPCP was finalized in the fall of my senior year, I reviewed the curriculum requirements and thought it was a no-brainer. I had everything covered except the capstone experience and community service. Knowing I had most of the requirements done from the get-go, I felt it would be a shame not to finish my UB experience strong and get the certificate I was so close to having.
The capstone was very helpful in prepping me for how to assimilate to a foreign country both professionally and socially. The community service I performed assisting at UB’s ELI strengthened my ability to communicate with limited language. Ultimately, I felt inspired by the UBPCP course to improve my chances of being accepted and to just be a better community citizen both in America and abroad.
I applied to the Peace Corps in January of my senior year, and almost immediately was put under consideration for Jordan, where I had studied abroad through UB. However, in early March the Jordan program was put on hold due to security issues in the region. A week later I was put under consideration for Thailand, and then it became a waiting game.
In July, I was contacted to schedule a time for an interview, but not for Thailand, for Senegal! While I was a bit confused, I was also ecstatic about moving to the next step in the process. I had the interview in the following days and by the end of the week, the email came. I was going to Senegal! I was beyond excited. The next six months were filled with anxiety waiting, going on doctor appointments, and getting the final clearance.
In late February of 2016 I was off. And to be honest the whole thing didn’t really hit me until the plane from D.C. to Dakar was wheels up. I just thought to myself how crazy the whole thing was. Here I am joining the Peace Corps and moving to Africa for two years! And then the flight became a six-hour pendulum of excitement and petrified anxiety.
Training was a difficult 10 weeks but I got through it. After swear-in, I was taken 120 miles inland and dropped off in my new home. Just like the plane situation, seeing the Peace Corps car drive into the sunset leaving me “alone” in this strange place, with myself being the only American for miles, was a very strange feeling. But I soon was reminded how kind and welcoming the people of Senegal truly are.
The communities of Senegal are very tight knit. If you walk into a compound around meal time, no matter who you are there is always room for you. Wherever you go in the streets, people stop you and ask how is your day, how is your family. These “pleasantries” as some Americans might call it are not just about being polite, but a way of life here. And understanding the importance of greetings is very important to getting work done in Senegal. If I go into something with the American now-now-now mentality, I’m not going to get any work done that day. But if I sit and talk with someone, and maybe even have tea with them, they are much more likely to be a good partner in the work planned for us.
Additional Thoughts For Like-Minded UB Students
Do what you love and do it honestly.