By Emilee Eustis Staff Reporter
The Peace Corps is something everyone knows and hears about, but how many people get to say they did it? Elizabeth Ferry, a UMF graduate, embarked on a journey that not many will experience in their lifetime and is excited to be bringing the adventure home with her.
Ferry graduated from UMF in the year 2016 with a degree in Secondary Education and a concentration in English. “I expected to immediately jump into teaching at a local Maine high school, coach sports, and live a happy, contented life,” said Ferry. “The incredible UMF faculty and my student teaching mentor encouraged me to take a risk and apply for Peace Corps.”
That risk landed her in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania where she taught English to 9th through 12th graders. Ferry also implemented health education projects, cultural exchange activities and leadership development.
“Teaching in Tanzania was supremely different than teaching in the U.S.,” said Ferry. “However, the goal of being a confident, caring, competent educator while putting my students’ needs above all, is an international best practice.”
Beyond teaching, Ferry was entrenched in a world that not many American citizens understand. Living without indoor plumbing, electricity and varieties of foods could be horrendous to some, but enlightening and enriching to those experiencing it firsthand, and since returning home, Ferry has been sorting between the life she lived in the rolling hills to the life she is living now.
“I’ve been balancing guilt and gratitude,” said Ferry. “I am trying to acknowledge and appreciate the things I lived without, while also adjusting my priority list to things I need versus things I want.”
Since returning to the US, Ferry hopes to spread the word about the incredible opportunity that the Peace Corps gave her and encourage students to take the leap that she once took. “My favorite part about being back in the States is sharing my experience with American students,” said Ferry. “Their curiosity and eagerness to learn about a new place has given me goosebumps.”
Ferry’s teaching degree is being put to good use as she was lucky enough to land a part-time teaching job at Mt. Blue High School upon her arrival in Maine, and besides teaching three English classes a day, Ferry does Peace Corps school visits as much as she possibly can.
“It’s said that Peace Corps is ‘the hardest job you’ll ever love,’ and I think that is quite accurate,” said Ferry, thoughtfully. “Having the opportunity to organically live in another culture, work alongside its people, and learn what qualities make us all human, is invaluable.”
Ferry will be presenting on her time in the Peace Corps in the Fusion Space on December 4th at 6 p.m. and encourages all who can to come hear the retelling of her once in a lifetime experience. During the presentation students can expect to learn some Swahili – the language Ferry is now fluent in, try on some traditional Tanzanian clothing and look at breathtaking photos of the colorful landscape and wildlife that occupies the country.
As for those considering such an experience as hers, Ferry encourages students to just go for it. “Do it. Peace Corps has the best method and philosophy for foreign aid and I could not recommend it more,” she said. “I’ll never forget what I learned in Tanzania and I hope to continue to tell the stories for the rest of my life.”