Today, I have a special treat– a break from the posts about being a procrastinating senior. Instead, I will take on the role of interviewer to present the post-graduation plans of one of my dear friends, Emma Prasher. Without further ado, here is the story of a St. Mary’s senior that is (literally) going somewhere with their life!!! Emma will be abbreviated as “EP”, I will be “AC”… for Anderson Cooper, the inspiration for my interview. And life.
AC: Alright Emma, let’s start with a little background about yourself. Where are you from? How did you end up at St. Mary’s? What did you study during your years at St. Mary’s?
EP: I actually grew up in several states on the East Coast. I spent my childhood on the Cape in Massachusetts, but now my parents reside in Alabama- they keep moving south on me. However, I went to most of high school in Maryland and heard about St. Mary’s through the grapevine. I initially didn’t even want to apply to St. Mary’s, but my mother made me- I thought it was just another state school. I didn’t even visit St. Mary’s until April of my senior year (at that oh so fun huge open house) and basically fell in love with it as we rounded the bend and the river opened up on the right and the school was on the left. I knew then that I could live here for the next four years of my life. Plus, they had a good biology department, which is what I’m majoring in.
AC: Based on your studies, what kinds of jobs did you consider for post-graduation? Were your professors/advisers helpful in that regard?
EP: Beginning college, I wanted to go to veterinary school, but after learning more about the profession (and how hard it was to get in to vet school), I decided that it was not for me. I haven’t really considered that many other jobs post-graduation because I’ve known for more than a year that I wanted to do some sort of volunteer work after graduation. I’ve also learned that I do really enjoy biology, but do not want a laboratory job- I need more interaction with people on a daily basis. I also didn’t really talk to my professors that much about future jobs because as I’ve said, I’ve known for awhile that I wanted to do volunteer work- it was only a matter of finding the right program for me. After I come back though, I’m sure I’ll be going to previous professors and advisers for letters of recommendation and advice about jobs, but I’m not thinking that far ahead yet. haha.
AC: How did you find out about the Peace Corps?
EP: I’ve known about the Peace Corps for awhile- I can’t remember exactly how long. But after sophmore year of college I began investigating volunteer programs on the internet. I knew I wanted to travel, so I focused on international programs. After researching, the Peace Corps seemed like a good fit- so I applied and got invited to join.
AC: Would you mind explaining a little about the Peace Corps in general?
EP: The Peace Corps was first established in the early 1960s with the idea to have an army of young people go throughout the world to promote peace and friendship. Since then, I believe almost 200,000 people have served in 139 countries worldwide working in fields from healthcare to agriculture to education. The PC has changed and diversified from its beginning, just like everything else from 1960, but it still has the goal in mind, to (according to the PC website) “help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women, to help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served, and to help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.”
AC: So now that you found out that you’re in, would you mind explaining what you will be doing specifically? Where are you going, and what is your position?
EP: I will be going to Burkina Faso, a country in West Africa, to work as a secondary education teacher and will be teaching science and/or math (I don’t know which one yet).
AC: What do you know about the country? Do you speak the language at all?
EP: Honestly, I do not know half as much as I should know about the country. I wish I had a little bit more time after graduation before I leave (June 8th!) to learn more about Burkina. However, I do know that Burkina Faso gained its independence from France in 1960 and in 1991 established a parliamentary republic (kind of like a semi-presidential government with a parliament). Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in the world (according to the CIA World Factbook), mainly due to its large population (15 million- a little more than NYC) and limited natural resources; about 90% of the population survives on subsistence agriculture which is subject to severe drought. In terms of education, schooling is not free and costs familes about $100US to send one child to school for a year. This is a considerable amount of money, when the average family income is $1200US per year. Therefore, only about 20% of the population is literate and boys receive preferential schooling, but there is a big government movement to decrease the cost of schooling for girls. The official language is French, which I will be teaching in. I do speak French, though not fluently. However, 90% of the population also speaks native African languages, which I hope to learn once I’m there.
And fun fact (or not so fun): I’m considered middle age in Burkina, as the average life expectancy is about 50 years.
AC: What are you looking forward to most?
EP: I’m a real homebody and enjoy talking to my family a lot. So it’s going to be very difficult for me to not be able to contact them as frequently as I am used to. I’m also a little nervous about the actual teaching aspect. I’ve never spoken in front of a large crowd (except for my SMP presentation in 2 weeks. woot woot. haha) and could have to teach a class of up to 100 students, so that’s a little daunting.
AC: How long will you be involved in the program?
EP: The program is a two year commitment. I leave in June 2009 for a three month in-country training period and will begin work in late August. I finish in late August of 2011 (right after my 24th bday…so old! haha)
AC: Do you have any idea about what you want to do after your time in the Peace Corps? Does this fit into other career plans?
EP: I really don’t know what I’m going to do after the PC. I’ve toyed with multiple ideas. At the moment, I’m planning on coming back, taking a lonnggggg shower and sleeping for 3 weeks. haha. Then I’ll try to find a job and maybe apply to graduate school for the spring or following fall semester. Or maybe I’ll want to stay another 2 years. Or maybe I will have fallen in love with an African drug lord and will be living on some exotic Caribbean island. haha. No, but seriously, I don’t really know. But I do know that later in life, I do want to be involved with other volunteer programs, such as Doctors without Borders. There are just so many things I want to do with my life at the moment, so I’m just taking it some step at a time.
AC: Alright Emma, thanks for talking to me! I wish you the best of luck!!
And this is Anderson, erm, I mean Katie, signing off.