– By Rachel Deanne Sherman ’18
For the first time, two new Shenandoah alumnae will serve in the Peace Corps at the same time.
Brenda Nieves ’18 and Maddie Albornoz ’18 leave for their programs in September.
Heading to Indonesia
Nieves will teach English in Indonesia and assist with strengthening an English speaking program. She was placed with the country after submitting an open application.
“All of the things that I wanted to do fell into so many categories that the representative said ‘You should do an open application,’” said Nieves, who studied English and sociology at Shenandoah. “They put you where you’re needed the most. Indonesia chose me.”
“I can’t wait to finally be there, helping these children and meeting new people,” she added. “I want to see a different perspective of the world.”
Ready to serve in Africa
Public health program alumna Albornoz, however, picked her program and will work in Cameroon as a community health educator.
“I’ll be working with a clinic in a rural area. I’ll also be doing education with malaria, HIV/AIDS, and fetal and maternal health,” Albornoz said. “Honestly, I won’t really know what all I am doing until I go. But, that’s what is in my job description right now.”
“When I was looking at things to do post-grad, I was thinking ‘I could go to graduate school,’” she said. “Or, I could take a leap and see if my experiences so far have taught me enough to take this opportunity to go and do public health work in a real way.”
A voice of experience at Shenandoah
Both Nieves and Albornoz received support from an experienced Peace Corps volunteer. Shenandoah Director of International Programs Bethany Galipeau-Konate, D.Prof., volunteered for the Peace Corps from 2003 to 2005. She worked in Mali as a small enterprise development advisor.
“I’ve always put myself out there as somebody on campus who has done Peace Corps and is happy to talk to people who are interested or thinking about it,” she added. “I’ve talked to them about it and told them about my experiences and stories. I try to give them guidance, help them figure out if it might be a good fit for them, and encourage them to apply.”
Galipeau-Konate even received her introduction to Shenandoah through the Peace Corps. While Galipeau-Konate worked in Mali in spring 2005, she met a group of Shenandoah administrators, faculty, and students visiting the African nation.
“I went to meet them, and that was the first year for the Global Citizenship Project,” she said. “Dr. [Tracy] Fitzsimmons was one of the people on the trip. We all hit it off really well, and I helped them with some different things. I was just really impressed by the students and by the faculty, the questions that they were asking and their curiosity.” Fitzsimmons, who was vice president for academic affairs at the time of the trip, has been Shenandoah’s president since July 1, 2008.
After the students and faculty returned, Shenandoah leadership offered a scholarship to Galipeau-Konate’s boyfriend (now her husband), bringing both of them to Winchester, Virginia.
“I was able to get a job working in the office of admissions working with international students,” Galipeau-Konate added. “[I came] straight from Peace Corps to here because of GCP, and in 2010, I applied for and took this [her current] position.” She said serving as a Peace Corps volunteer is difficult work, quoting its old slogan that it’s “the toughest job you’ll ever love.”
“You’re going to have hard times,” she said. “Any time you are in another country, speaking another language, there are going to be moments when it is really hard. So you have to have that sense of ‘I can get through something that is hard.’ You’re going to be going into situations that you haven’t experienced before, and you’re going to have to be ready and willing to sort of expect the unexpected and roll with the punches.”
Exploring the world with Shenandoah
In addition to assisting students with applying to the Peace Corps, Shenandoah also offers many opportunities for students to explore the world. The most well known is the Global Citizenship Project, where five groups of students, faculty and staff travel to various locations around the world, all-expenses paid, for 10 days during spring break. In addition, there are many study abroad programs, which range in length from a few weeks to a full academic year.
Interested in joining the Peace Corps or exploring other study abroad programs at Shenandoah University? Contact Galipeau-Konate at email@example.com.