Editor’s Note: We’re trying something new this year. We are interviewing various UMD Alumni about how their experiences at UMD have impacted their professional lives. They will also be giving their advice for being successful out there in the real world.
Name: Sarah Novack
Major: Statistics and Actuarial Science
Grad Date: December 2014
Organization, Title, and brief Synopsis
I am a Peace Corps Volunteer. There are five branches of Peace Corps: Education, Health, Agriculture, Business Development, and Youth Development. We train for three months before being placed at a permanent site, where we will serve for two years. My primary assignment is Secondary Education for Math and Science. I am currently serving in Zanzibar, Tanzania. Zanizbar is a gorgeous island full of tropical beaches and spice farms. I teach math at the local secondary school. Along with my primary assignment, I have two secondary projects that occupy my time. I have an After School STEM CLUB (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). We have done many simple science projects to explain centripetal force, air pressure, and chemical reactions. Secondly, I teach a Community English Class. The high tourism rate makes English Speakers in high demand.
Opportunities and classes that led to this role.
Two influences from UMD helped me choose Peace Corps after Graduation. My sophomore year I took a class called Cultural Diversity. This class opened my eyes to different types of diversity not only throughout the United States, but also throughout the world. Our professor was born and raised in Kenya (neighbor to Tanzania). He gave us a unique perspective, which I have carried with me to Tanzania. He taught us that diversity is more than the color of your skin. It is your religion, gender identity, and socioeconomic class. When I wasn’t in studying, I spent a lot of my time volunteering. I was a tutor at the Harbor City International School, a Volunteer Admissions Tour Guide, and a Rockstar! My UMD experience as a whole and my desire to travel the world influenced my decision to join Peace Corps.
What do you wish you would have known before entering your role?
I wish I would have known that, just because there is a Job Title associated with your major, doesn’t mean you have to go into that profession. For many years, I wanted to be an Actuary. I was finishing up my degree in Actuarial Science, when I realized, that was the last thing I wanted to be. There are many things you can do with a college degree; you just have to find what you are passionate about. I started looking into other career options, and with the help of Career & Internship Services and a childhood dream, I decided to join the Peace Corps. People join Peace Corps for many reasons, and for me it has opened the door into international development.
Career Advice for people wishing to enter your field.
Every Peace Corps experience is unique. I would recommend anyone looking into Peace Corps to talk to a wide variety of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. Peace Corps will give you a ground view into a new world. I never would have thought I would wake up everyday and put on a hijab, but Peace Corps has given me this opportunity. Peace Corps Volunteers love talking about their experience. We love talking about cooking over our charcoal stoves, fetching water from a well, stumbling through our new language, and convincing the village you probably won’t be marring a local so you can stay. If you enjoy volunteering and working abroad, there is a place for you in Peace Corps!
Photo Source: Sarah