Life is about to change for two seniors who were recently accepted into the Peace Corps. In May, Caleb Barefield and Heaven Woods will walk across the graduation stage and onto their next destination: Africa.
For 27 months, Woods will be located in Cameroon while Barefield will be in Swaziland. Although it isn’t the first voyage away from the States for either of them, both seniors are anticipating that their involvement with the Peace Corps will make for a very different experience abroad.
Barefield, who will be placed in the Youth Development sector in Swaziland, will help promote HIV awareness. Barefield has been a part of two Mercer on Mission trips to Greece, but said that his involvement with the Peace Corps will go deeper.
“[Visiting Greece] was more of a surface level kind of thing. I got to see the culture and interact with it, but with the Peace Corps, you integrate fully into the community,” Barefield said. “That’s what I’m most excited about. ”
Barefield said he is looking forward to experiencing life through a different lens while in Africa.
“As a middle class white male growing up in America, I have never been a minority,” said Barefield. “Moving to Africa for two years will be my first time experiencing what it’s like to be a minority and experiencing a different culture.”
Woods said she feels similarly. During her time in Cameroon, Woods will have a position teaching in the area of science. She said that she has been reading a blog from a Cameroon volunteer in order to gauge what life might be like during her stay.
“People say that you change so much as a person and gain such a cultural understanding and that’s what I want to get out of it — a new understanding of myself and where I’m going,” Woods said. “Hopefully, I will contribute something along the way as well.”
Woods also expressed that she isn’t sure how she will cope when it comes to being away from her family and friends.
“I feel like I’ll like it over there. It will just be different not to have this constant contact. I was thinking about it the other day, and I got really emotional,” Woods said. “My best friend, we always talk . . . it’s going to be really difficult not to have contact all of the time. That’s what I’m more worried about than being over there.”
Though both Barefield and Woods said the application process was lengthy and stressful, neither of them think that should deter students who are looking to apply.
“Don’t be afraid to take that leap of faith,” Barefield said. “I think being able to experience cultures outside of the U.S. and outside of your comfort zone is how you figure out who you are as a human being and who you are as a person and what you want to be for society.”
Editor’s Note: Since the completion of this article, senior Taylor Jolly has also received word of her acceptance into the Peace Corps and will be going to Cambodia.