Interview with a LACS Major: Kathryn Smith
Kathryn Smith graduated from UGA in December 2012 with a double major in Latin American and Caribbean Studies and International Affairs. She has been invited to join the Peace Corp in January and will be serving in Quito, Ecuador. Prior to graduation, Kat took time to share some insights with her LACS advisor about her undergraduate tenure at UGA.
Have you participated in study abroad or student exchange during your undergrad years? If so, can you tell me which programs and give me an idea of what you thought of the programs? I participated in the UGA Buenos Aires summer study abroad program. I thought the program was excellent. It was academically intense but still gave the students time to be involved culturally. This program is different than many other UGA study abroad programs because the students live with host families in Buenos Aires, which was a really great experience. I highly recommend the program and had a great time in Argentina!
What inspired you to apply for Peace Corps? The idea of becoming a Peace Corps volunteer first got into my head when traveling to Guatemala for three months before starting at UGA. During that experience, I saw first-hand how many people are living in conditions I could hardly fathom. I also witnessed how thankful these people were for the small amount of aid I was able to provide. After doing service work abroad and in the United States, I realized how passionate I am for helping others and decided to pursue that by applying for the Peace Corps. Also, Paul Duncan, the Assistant Director of LACSI, continued to push for me to apply for the Peace Corps since my freshman year. From listening to him tell about his experience from when he was a volunteer, I knew the Peace Corps was the right job for me.
What was it like to go through the process of applying for the Peace Corps? The process of applying to the Peace Corps was not an easy one. It has taken a year since the time I applied to my departure date for Ecuador. From interviews, questionnaires, and paperwork, they make sure you are committed to being a volunteer before even getting the job. Although the process was time consuming and at most times difficult, it gave me plenty of time to make sure this is what I really wanted. It may have been frustrating at times but it has absolutely been worth it from where I stand now.
What will you do in Ecuador when you are placed there after graduation? What would you say are your biggest hopes and fears for the experience? In Ecuador I will be co-teaching and co-planning English classes with English teachers in public high schools. I will also work to develop English teaching materials and community outreach programs. I hope to develop materials that will last as a resource for teachers and students long after I have finished my service. I also hope to develop a relationship with the Ecuadorian people that I can treasure forever that will help me to understand and embrace their culture. My biggest fear is that I will not be able to succeed in creating materials or a program that will last after I leave. I plan to work as hard as I possibly can to create something that the people I live and work with need and want, but it is hard to prepare for something that is, for now, unknown.
What will be your best memory of undergraduate school at UGA? I have enjoyed every minute of my undergrad at UGA. As cliché as it may be, my favorite memories from UGA are Saturdays in Athens. I have had some great times with my friends and UGA family on Saturdays watching the Bulldogs play. I will miss those games while in Ecuador but will forever be a Dog fan, no matter where in the world I may be.
Tell us anything else you think would be interesting to students following behind you. If you plan to apply for the Peace Corps, my advice to you would be to go after it with all of your heart. Shortly after applying I realized just how badly I wanted to become a Peace Corps volunteer and I began volunteering more, responding to all emails from the Peace Corps quickly, and mentally preparing myself and my friends and family if I did receive that invitation. My motivation helped me get through the long process to where I am now- waiting to leave on January 15th!