After graduating from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2010, Natalie Ziemba joined the Peace Corps and served in a rural village in Samoa, an island in the South Pacific Ocean.
The two-year experience was equal parts challenging and rewarding while she taught English and reading to enthusiastic fourth through eighth-grade students.
As the only Peace Corps volunteer in her village, Ziemba quickly realized she would need to relearn everything about her lifestyle which included speaking a new language, trying exotic foods and mastering the island’s bus schedules. But she wasn’t alone. The A’ufaga village welcomed her, especially her neighbors who introduced her to their culture by warmly opening their homes and sharing their stories with her.
“The Peace Corps was such an amazing opportunity,” Ziemba said. “I got to do something brand new compared to my experience in the U.S.”
The two years went by quickly as Ziemba settled into her routine, connecting with her students through her lessons and by singing songs together. On the weekends, she met with other Peace Corps volunteers on the island, three of whom attended CU.
When Ziemba’s service was completed it was difficult for her to say goodbye to those she had grown to love, but she promised to return someday.
Upon returning to the U.S., Ziemba retained her lifestyle of service and became an intern at the Denver Rescue Mission. She intends to attend graduate school to get her master’s degree in social work and plans to work with women affected by violence in America and possibly overseas. No matter her career path, she knows her Peace Corps experience will remain with her.
“I think everyone needs to go and live overseas,” she said. “It gives you a different perspective to incorporate into your daily life.”
For more information about the Peace Corps at CU-Boulder visit http://www.colorado.edu/peacecorps/.