Two Years in Namibia
Scotch Plains Resident Julie Hyman discusses her time with the Peace Corps.
For most college graduates, commencement marks the start of jobs, job-hunting, internships, or graduate programs. But after graduating George Washington University with a degree journalism and mass communication, Scotch Plains resident Julie Hyman, 22, enrolled in the Peace Corps. Now, she's working with education and business programs in Namibia. Last week, the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Patch interviewed Hyman to learn more about her time in southern Africa.
Can you tell us a little bit about your program?
"I am a Peace Corps Volunteer in Namibia. I am part of an education and business group (SUPEP – the Senior and Upper Primary Education Project – and Small Enterprise and Entrepreneurial Development volunteers) that will be placed as teachers all throughout the country after training is over (Oct. 16). SEED is a new program that will be teaching part time in schools but will also be working with community businesses at their sites. That program started because the unemployment rate is 52% or something close to that. There are 44 (originally 45) of us and we are the 32nd group of volunteers to come to Namibia, which only became an independent country in 1990. They switch off with the type of volunteers for each training (i.e. group 31 were health volunteers and group 34 will be education volunteers again). I am a bit of a special case because although technically I am lumped in with the education volunteers, I actually will not be a teacher at a school. I am an ICT Volunteer (Information and Communications Technology) and will be working at a community library at my site. Of our group, there are four ICT Volunteers and only two of us won't be at school."
How long is the program? Can you leave the country? Are you allowed visitors?
The program commitment is 26 months (2 months of training and 2 years of service). I can leave the country if I am on vacation but I do need to tell my supervisors (as in any job if you're taking days off). I accrue two vacation days per month once service begins after swearing in. I am allowed visitors. My parents and [brother] Scott are planning to come, but probably won't until I'm into my second year."
What will you be doing on a day-to-day basis?
"This is a little tricky to answer just because things are still pretty vague and unlike the education volunteers, I won't be going into a classroom everyday or have a set schedule."
What do you think will be the most rewarding part of the trip?
"I really hope that with my two years of service I can make a tangible difference in at least one person's life. I'm also looking forward to a sense of personal accomplishment and am anticipating learning a lot about myself from the challenges that I'll face here."
When did you decide to do this? What are your plans after?
"I've been interested in doing the Peace Corps since high school when I found out about it. The combination of doing service for others and living abroad really appealed to me.
When I was thinking about what I wanted to do after graduation, I did a lot of research on opportunities to live and work abroad, and the Peace Corps was still the most appealing. I had some back up plans in case I didn't get into Peace Corps, but it was always my first choice. I started applying last August - the whole process took a full year. It's hard to say what I'll want to do after Peace Corps since I anticipate that a lot of things about myself and my views of the world will change during the experience."
What has been your best and worst experience so far?
"Hm...That's tough. After only a month and a half, there have already been so many highs and so many lows.
"I'd say the low was when my friend decided that he wanted to ET (early terminate) and go home. It was kind of a blow that he left a month into service. All 45 of us have been together and experienced everything together so there's definitely a sense of group unity and support amongst us. We have no contract and are free to go home at any time during service.
"My best experience here so far? I guess it would be when I first stepped foot on my homestead and saw where I would be living for the next two years. The place itself is pretty magical – huts, chickens, cows, goats, donkeys, and people working and running around everywhere, wooden fences lining the whole place. You've seen pictures of it. I feel like I'm not describing it very well right now. But it was just amazing to finally be there when it had taken me so long to get to that point – the application process was nearly a year! I was in awe."