Peace Corps an unforgettable experience

Kaelia Neal, Freelance writer

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Peace Corps veterans say the experience lasts a life time.

A new environment and being exposed to a new culture is what serving in the organization provides.

“I use my Peace Corps experience every day,” Pravin Mallavaram said. “I had the opportunity to travel to a part of the world that I’d never imagined I’d see.”

Mallavaram, a Peace Corps representative, visits Linfield twice a year to advise and inform students on volunteering for the Peace Corps. He was on campus to talk to students March 17.

Mallavaram served in the Republic of Fiji in 2005 until 2008.

He built relationships with the people in Fiji that he still has today.

Mallavaram majored in International Affairs at the University of Colorado-Boulder. He knew the Peace Corps was something he wanted to do after studying abroad.

Mallavaram said the Peace Corps is a “great opportunity to get a global perspective” and gives the chance to students to “make a difference to communities overseas.”

He said part of being in the Peace Corps is “helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served and on the part of Americans.”

Joy Harpham, a junior at Linfield majoring in human performance, wants to serve in the Peace Corps because it is something that fits well with who she sees herself as.

Harpham said she wants to join the Peace Corps to learn about different cultures, different people, and about herself.

“Having an adventure sounds pretty fantastic,” Harpham said. “I couldn’t think of a place I wouldn’t want to go to live and meet new people.”

She said she is “a really giving person” and “adaptable” to unfamiliar places and cultures.

The Peace Corps is a 27-month-long program, but the first three months are training, including learning the culture and some of the language of the country being visited.

Being in another country for 27 months can be a shock for some.

Mallavaram experienced a culture change, including not wearing pants for three years. In Fiji, both men and women typically wear a traditional skirt called a sulu.

He also drank cava regularly, which is a liquid consumed for cultural reasons in Fiji. Cava tastes like “dirt water,” Mallavaram said.

During his Peace Corps experience, Mallavaram’s home was a classroom in an elementary school. He was a business adviser with a local school.

Kate Fassett, a 1999 Linfield alumna living in West Linn, Ore., served in the Peace Corps with her husband in Bulgaria. She has a major in psychology and Spanish.

Fassett and Mallavaram both said the best part about the Peace Corps was the relationships they built with the people. They said it was truly a unique experience.

Michael Hampton, Director for Career Development, said service in the Peace Corps will “make you more marketable” and “more valuable to employers.”

“I think folks who participate in the Peace Corps will gain global awareness and intercultural communication skills,” Hampton said.