#BulldogOnTheJob: Sarah

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
Minor: Economics
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!


You can follow along with Sarah’s Peace Corps adventure on her Blog and Facebook Page.

Read other #BulldogOnTheJob stories!

Photo Source: Sarah

Joining the Peace Corps

By: Emily

Has the idea of joining the Peace Corps ever crossed your mind? Although it’s not for everybody, there are certainly many possibilities for those who might enjoy servicing the world in this way. The Peace Corps was established in 1961 by John F. Kennedy as a way to service other countries while representing Americans in positive light and introducing American citizens to other cultures.

Although many people like the idea of making a difference and traveling abroad, joining the Peace Corps is no small commitment. Volunteers agree to 24 months of service, including 3 months of in-country training in 139 countries across the globe. Once trained, a volunteer will be involved in one of six program areas: Education, Youth and Community Development, Health, Business and Information & Communication Technology, Agriculture, or the Environment.

Peace Corps logo

Although the idea of being a part of this may sound intimidating, there are some substantial benefits in doing this kind of work. Some organizations charge participants money to volunteer, but this opportunity is free of charge. Living expenses, transportation and in-country support are all paid for and a regular stipend is provided. In fact, volunteers with student loans can have Stafford, Perkins, direct and consolidated loans deferred or partially cancelled. Volunteers get two vacation days per month, a total of 48 days for the two years of service. If there is a family emergency, volunteers have access to free transportation back home. Once a volunteer is done serving, they are provided with adjustment funds and have employment advantages in many different kinds of federal positions.

If you are planning on joining after graduation, here’s what you should know:

You have to be a U.S. citizen and at least 18 years old to apply, but you don’t have to have any particular major or certification (although 90 percent of volunteers have undergraduate degrees). The process of joining Peace Corps includes an application, interview, nomination, medical and legal review, placement suitability and skill review, then an invitation and departure to your location. It is recommended that you apply 9 months to a year in advance of when you’d like to participate.

Keep in mind these highly sought after skill combinations:

  • Agriculture economics with or without a foreign language
  • Forestry with French
  • Environment with Spanish
  • Agriculture with Spanish or French
  • TEFL or TESL certification with classroom teaching (Teaching English as a Foreign Language)
  • Teaching credential (BA/BS)

If you do not possess these specific skill combinations you can make yourself a more competitive applicant by teaching English abroad, gaining experience in agriculture or educating yourself on health related issues through volunteer work. For more information check out the Peace Corps website at http://www.peacecorps.gov/.

If the idea of Peace Corps sounds a little overwhelming, but you are interested in volunteering, here are some alternatives to the Peace Corps:

Read Emily’s other posts