Many students at Western Michigan University are a semester or less away from graduation. Following graduation there are two obvious options: get a job, or further education.What many students do not know is that there is another more selfless option with just as many, if not more benefits.
Volunteering for the Peace Corps has taught one Western Michigan University graduate the patience needed to endure the bureaucratic process, but also let him see places of the world he would not otherwise have been able to.
Andy Powrie graduated from WMU in December of 2006 with a double-major in Environmental Studies and Public History. The idea of volunteering for the Peace Corps first entered Powrie’s mind when he took an Intro to Environmental Studies class early on in his career at Western. He didn’t think about it again for a few years until he worked with some former Peace Corps volunteers at Tillers International, an organization that Powrie said works to preserve rural farming techniques.
By the time he graduated, Powrie said he had made up his mind and soon thereafter found himself in what he said was the “mountainous rainforest” of northwest Cameroon.
Powrie said he had never left the country before his Peace Corps experience and is glad to have received a broader view of the world.
“You wake up every day going like, I’m in Africa! It really takes a few months,” said Powrie.
Although the initial shock of being in an unfamiliar country eventually diminished, Powrie said that what took him some time to get use to was the slow pace at which things often get done within the Peace Corps.
“It’s a bureaucracy. You have to know how to play the system,” said Powrie.
Despite what he thinks is the cumbersome nature of the Peace Corps, Powrie found that the work he did partnering with an organization called Green Care made his experience a worthwhile one.
“The work I did specifically with Green Care, I felt was probably the most successful,” said Powrie. “We became pretty good friends and I really understood how those guys worked so I could make small changes. The projects that I did randomly, where I didn’t have that connection, those projects were probably not as successful.”
Green Care is an organization that Powrie said works to promote sustainable agriculture and eco-tourism within that region of Cameroon.
Powrie said that anyone interested in joining the Peace Corps after graduation should find a former volunteer and listen to the stories they have to tell about their experience. He said that Michigan ranks among the top ten states in the country for number of college graduates entering the Peace Corps.
This is a statistic Powrie is proud of.