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Rider senior headed to China as Peace Corps volunteer

02/06/2018

In June, Rider University senior Karen Miranda will travel to China as a Peace Corps volunteer. She will teach English in the world's most populous country, where most of the citizens speak Mandarin.

Miranda, who is double majoring in public relations and Spanish, was influenced to volunteer abroad after two study abroad experiences as a junior — one in Spain and the second in South Korea. Having experienced life in other countries, she's aware she'll likely learn as much about herself while serving in the Peace Corps as she will about the people and culture of China.

Miranda recently took the time to discuss her background and expectations as she prepares to depart.

What made you apply for the Peace Corps? And which countries had you selected and why?

The Peace Corps had never really been on my mind until my second year of college when I attended a global conference hosted on campus. At this conference, there were several people who spoke about their experiences teaching abroad. One of them was a Peace Corps volunteer and recruiter.

Hearing him talk about his experience in Albania and the work he did there got me interested in the program. After speaking to him and getting some more information, I began to research the countries where volunteers could serve. From this point on, I began contemplating the idea, and after studying abroad my third year, I came back to the United States knowing I wanted to be a Peace Corps volunteer.

I decided to only apply to serve in one country, the People’s Republic of China. A great part of why I selected China was because of my minors. I thought that because of the interest I already had in the country and its history, people and culture that perhaps the transition and period of time that I would be there for would contribute to a positive and enriching experience.

Where did you study abroad? How do you think your study abroad experience impacted your decision to apply for the Peace Corps?

I studied abroad my third year in two different locations. The first semester I was at the University of Alcalá de Henares, Instituto Franklin in Spain and the second semester I was at Sogang University in South Korea.

My study abroad experience and the process of figuring out where I wanted to study abroad greatly impacted my decision to apply for the Peace Corps. Learning about and having the opportunity to study in two completely different countries broadened my understanding of the world and the role I do and can play as a global citizen. Interacting with different people and adapting to their ways of living really taught me a lot about myself and allowed me to gain skills and learn how to adapt to new and sometimes slightly intimidating environments.

The experiences I had in these two countries, the amazing people I met and the positive changes that were made in me and that I made on others really gave me the final push and the confidence I needed to decide to apply to the Peace Corps.

What are you looking forward to most as you embark on this amazing opportunity?

I’m really looking forward to the experience as a whole. It’s such an amazing opportunity to go to one of the countries that I have studied and learned so much about as a Chinese and Asian area studies minor. I’m happy and excited to be given the opportunity to serve in the People’s Republic of China and to be able to explore, meet and learn just as much about the people and culture there as I am going to be teaching them as an English teacher.

If you could give any advice to students who are seeking to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer in the future, what would it be?

There are two pieces of advice that I can offer students. Perhaps the biggest piece of advice I can give is to read a lot of blogs from people who have applied to the Peace Corps, regardless of whether or not they actually got an invitation to serve. Do this before, during and after the application process, because it really helps if you read and hear about other people’s experiences applying to the program and about what it was like in the countries they served. It can also help you figure out where it is you want to serve and in what capacity, whether it be in education, health or something else. Overall, it’s a great way to learn more about the program, and reading these blogs really ended up helping me out throughout the whole process.

The other piece of advice I can give after going through the whole process is to not worry if there is no immediate news from the Peace Corps after applying and interviewing. In my case, there was a huge gap from when I interviewed to when I was emailed my invitation to serve, which led me to believe that my application had been rejected. However, this was not the case and I learned after the fact that it’s actually quite common for there to be such a gap. No news is exactly that; it doesn’t mean it’s bad news or good news, just that you’ll have to wait a while longer to know whether or not you’ve been invited to serve.