Rather than searching for a job after graduation this spring, one University of Rhode Island senior will head to Cameroon to begin her service in the Peace Corps.
Having earned her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and Management at URI, Providence native Frances Vasquez will put her knowledge to the test working inside a high school classroom as a volunteer science teacher.
“I chose to take this route because I’ve always been into humanitarian aspect of the world and how people give back,” Vasquez said. “I wanted to know how I could make a difference in the world while helping myself professionally for my future.”
Before officially becoming a member of the Peace Corps and starting her two-year journey, Vasquez will live with a host family for three months. Vasquez said she is most excited about the food “and trying new things.”
While staying with the host family, the soon-to-be URI graduate will learn more about the culture and language of Cameroon.
“I’m really looking forward to being exposed and a part of a new culture,” Vasquez said.
Vasquez will become the 417th undergraduate alumni from URI to serve in the Peace Corps, with 13 currently overseas. When applying to the program, Vasquez said her only preference was to be placed in a French-speaking environment, and added she was “really willing to do anything.” She said that the application process is very lengthy and tedious, but it is important to stay organized.
“People have misconceptions about what you are doing (in the Peace Corps), and you are going to get a lot of information, opinions and emotions from the people around you,” Vasquez said.
Though excited, Vasquez said she gets nervous at times about her future expedition. She is anxious, however, to find beauty in a different kind of lifestyle once in Cameroon.
“It’s important to remember you are going there to grow and challenge yourself,” Vasquez said. “It’s going to be a wonderful experience.”
The Peace Corps highlights the significance of developing leadership, as well as the technical and cross cultural communication skills needed for the experience. Vasquez will participate in local projects to enhance the way of life in her Cameroon community.
Vasquez is no stranger to being involved, however. Here on campus, she is president of the National Society of Black Engineers club, a part of Pink Women, works at the help desk of the URI library, has participated in several research studies for fellowship groups, is a teaching assistant in biology classrooms and was an orientation leader.
Beginning last February, URI became the first school in Rhode Island to offer the Peace Corps Prep Program. The program is designed to prepare undergraduate students for international service work with Peace Corps recognition. Student choose from one of six sectors: Education, Health, Environment, Agriculture, Youth in Development or Community Economic Development. Within those sectors, students must then complete at least three courses and 50 hours of community service or work experience that the related field. PC Prep offers students an opportunity to see if they really do want to further pursue international development fieldwork.
Vasquez encourages those who are interested in the Peace Corps to begin looking at the process as soon as possible. “I was very much independent doing this,” she said.
Being a newer program, Vasquez did not learn about PC Prep until her senior year started. If you think you are interested in learning more about the program, you can contact Dr. Michael Rice from the College of Environmental and Life Science.
“There are so many options [in the Peace Corps], you can definitely find one that pertains to you,” Vasquez said.