Alumni serve in Peace Corps, UVM recognized

  Graduate student Erin Flynn just returned home after spending a “life-defining” two years in Moldova, a former territory of the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe. Flynn volunteered as an English educator with Peace Corps, a national organization that aims to promote world peace through service opportunities. “It has definitely given me the courage to go further in the realm of global services,” she said.              The Peace Corps recently ranked UVM as fifth in the country among medium-size universities in the number of alumni serving overseas. The University has 42 former students currently working with the Peace Corps, an increase from 34 the previous year.             Flynn said she has travelled abroad a lot, but never felt connected with the community the way she did with the Peace Corps.   “You are placed within a family, within an organization, within a community,” she said. “It is almost impossible not to become one of them.” Volunteers work on a number of programs that include education, youth and community development, health and HIV/AIDS, and the environment, the Peace Corps website stated. As an English teacher, Flynn saw improvements in her students’ English abilities and watched her fellow teachers become more excited about different education possibilities.             “I was teaching with four English teachers, and we would team-teach all of our lessons,” said Flynn. “It was really important for us to focus on group work and critical thinking situations.”             Since 1961, UVM has had 801 alumni serve in the Peace Corps, according to University Communications.             “Volunteers spend two years of their life living and working in a community,” said Kelly Dolan, Peace Corps campus representative. “It is an amazing opportunity for cultural exchange — in sharing U.S. culture, but also learning about the culture you are being a part of.”             UVM has been really receptive about having Peace Corps on campus because it reflects Vermont’s strong tradition of service work involvement, said Dolan.                  Flynn said she enjoyed serving in Moldova because she was assisting a community that really wanted her help. When the Moldovan citizens gained independence from the Soviet Union, they wanted their children to learn English in order to become part of the global economy, Flynn said             Most of the books that stocked the children’s library were uninteresting encyclopedias and high school textbooks, she said. Flynn said she was able to get friends, family and charitable organizations from home to donate elementary level English books.              “I was able to get my little cousins to donate books with princesses, and the kids just loved it,” Flynn said. Students interested in learning more about the Peace Corps from recently returned volunteers are welcome to attend an information session 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Feb. 23 at the Fletcher Free Library.                     Flynn is now working toward her master’s in public administration and hopes to work within the U.S. Department of State as a Foreign Services officer or work directly with one of the agencies that distribute and implement aid.             “You’ll never look at the world the same way again after having that perspective,” Flynn said. “I feel like I am from two places and that feeling is never going to go away.”