Returnees provide send-off, advice for new UW Peace Corps invitees

The latest UW group entering the Peace Corps gather for a send-off brunch.

Like many graduating seniors at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Rebecca Morgan grapples with a feeling of not knowing what to expect this summer. Morgan wakes up every morning feeling either overwhelmed with excitement or overcome with nerves, as she looks ahead to a two-year stint as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Recently, Morgan and other invitees – including some preparing to leave the country for the first time – had an opportunity to meet with returned volunteers, at a Peace Corps Send-off Brunch at the University Club, which brought together people of various backgrounds and involvement with the Peace Corps.

Invitees looked to those with experience to answer burning questions and ease anxieties about their imminent 27-month terms in such countries as Kosovo and Nicaragua.

Morgan, who leaves June 1 to teach in Uganda, sought advice from Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Mary Ann Feutz, who served 2002-04 in Lesotho.

“It’s hard to know what to pack because you don’t know what you’ll miss until you’re gone,” Feutz tells Morgan. “It’s different for everyone, which is why care packages from home will be so important.”

The send-off event also was important for parents and guests of invitees, who learned about other countries through presentations by RPCVs.

Through Skype sessions, volunteers currently serving in Grenada and Mozambique talked about how to deal with the unexpected once in-country and told invitees to prepare for all of their expectations to be proven wrong.

Dean Jefferson spoke about his Peace Corps experience as a “gringo” in Costa Rica in 1974-77 with Judy Allen, who served in Morocco around the same time. They looked back on the risks they were able to take when they were “young and foolish” and the similarities of their experiences in diverse countries.

“It’s something you just can’t understand unless you’ve been a volunteer,” Allen said.

— by Brianna Maas

UW Peace Corps recruiter Eric Luckey talks at a send-off brunch for new Peace Corps invitees.