Stephanie is an education volunteer with Peace Corps. She lives and serves in Benin, a country in West Africa.
WHAT YOU DO • • • Well, first and foremost I am an English teacher to students that would probably be considered in the United States as middle school/high school students. This past year I had four classes with a total of about 280 students, about 70 per class. I write all the English exams and type them up for every grade level at school, not just the classes I teach. I have given presentations on studying strategies, HIV/AIDS, STDs, Malaria, diversity, and gender equality. I am also the coach of a girls’ softball team (the volunteer before me started the team and I am continuing it). I have started Girls’ Clubs to encourage gender equality here in Benin and am an instructor at the upcoming girls camps and boys camps that were created by Peace Corps to inform the youth of health issues, equality, the importance of education, and possible career paths. Everything I do here is in French. It was mandatory to become fluent in a different language because English is not the language spoken here in Benin. I have an ongoing responsibility to continue learning the official language of French as well as local languages in my area to better communicate my reason for being here and wanting to help. It is also an ongoing process to become well integrated into the community. I am the only white person, let alone a blonde-haired and blue-eyed female, in 30 square miles. It is a goal of Peace Corps and one of my personal goals to help the villagers of Benin to understand American culture and me as an American to understand the life of someone in Benin, West Africa.
HOW BETHANY HAS PREPARED YOU • • • Bethany prepared me in many ways for my life in the Peace Corps. I learned leadership skills from the Bethany Activities Committee and the Multi-Ethnic Resource Center. My education in history, art history, and cultural anthropology class (where I fell in love with the idea of living in a different culture and studying it) and my membership in the Intercultural Center have been and are still hugely beneficial to me.
THE BEST THING ABOUT BEING A BETHANY STUDENT • • • Traveling. I looked forward to it every year. It was the one thing that always kept me going when things were hard, but I loved everything about being a Bethany student. The religious atmosphere was always extremely important to me, but also the academic environment was fascinating and challenging. Professors and students at Bethany were and are still my best friends, and the extracurricular activities were fun and exciting.