Why did you choose your career?

I chose to join the Peace Corps because I was attracted to the idea of a thorough cultural exchange between myself and a community of people who maintain a different lifestyle than I do. I hope said community will benefit from a sharing of skills and attitudes as well.

What did you study at Southwestern University?

I majored in Spanish and minored in Chinese and Dance.

How did Southwestern University courses and professors inform your decisions?

Southwestern University courses helped give me a higher sensitivity to and knowledge of cultural differences. My Spanish and Chinese professors’ enthusiasm for other cultures and languages, including anecdotes of living abroad, encouraged me to live abroad.

How did Southwestern provide opportunities?

Through Southwestern I participated in an internship with the Snead Institute and Dr. Schiaffini/Pang Laoshi. I taught Spanish and Chinese at a nearby elementary school. The experience of being trained to teach for the Snead Institute may be the most relevant and valuable experience I have had as it relates to my Peace Corps work. I serve in the Teaching English project of Peace Corps Panama. The teacher training I received from the Snead Institute and Pang Laoshi was very thorough and helpful: I don’t think I would be able to be as effective of a Peace Corps volunteer in education without it (even though Peace Corps gives you extensive training in country). Not only are the techniques for teaching a foreign/second language helpful, the teacher training that Pang Laoshi created will serve as my model when I conduct teacher trainings and seminars here in Panama.

What did you appreciate about your experience as a Chinese minor?

I appreciated the breadth of knowledge that was provided to me, not only about Chinese language, but also about culture, history and current events. I feel this well-rounded approach has positively influenced my language learning and is especially helpful before you visit a new country. I also appreciated an entire class dedicated to calligraphy and an entire class on modern Tibet. These helped me deepen my understanding of the People’s Republic of China (as well as Tibet) in a context outside of the language itself.

Did Southwestern’s academics strengthen your skills?      

Yes, especially time management skills and stamina for doing things you’d rather not (I have acted with HONESTY and integrity in producing this statement).  

What do your current activities involve?

I am currently finishing the training portion of the Peace Corps (10 weeks) in Panama. I have four hours of Spanish language and cultural training in the morning and four hours of TEFL, classroom management, Peace Corps policy and Panamanian school system training in the afternoon. I live with a host family in a community with other Teaching English project trainees. Starting next week (after I am sworn in as a Peace Corps volunteer), I will move to my “site” or my permanent community for the next two years and live with a new host family. I will be the only Peace Corps volunteer in that community. I will co-facilitate, co-plan and co-teach with six Panamanian English teachers at an elementary school. I will serve as a consultant for English lesson planning. I will also work in conjunction with other volunteers to conduct small scale teacher trainings and larger scale teacher seminars (at the provincial/state level). If any of you have questions about Peace Corps application process or my experience, mine is an open door! (Feel free to contact Shaylee through the Modern Languages and Literatures Department.)