Name: Molly Coeling
U-M Affiliation: Alumni

Where do you work?

Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago

When did you serve in the Peace Corps?


Where did you serve (which country/countries)?

Dominican Republic

Is there a specific person (or persons) who made a strong impression on you during that time?

Yes, a close friend and one of the strongest women I know. She is a Dominican woman who lives in the village where I served, and after 4 years back in the U.S., our relationship continues. My dream is for her to one day be able to visit me and see my world.

What was one of the most memorable moments you had as a volunteer?

I was able to take advantage of the opportunity to help a poor Haitian migrant worker have his cleft lip repaired by American doctors. He lived the first 20 years of his life in shame, and it was truly miraculous to see his transformation into a confident and outgoing young man.

In what ways did your Peace Corps experience affect your life and/or career decisions?

Upon my return to the U.S. in 2005, I was able to immediately use bilingualism and cultural skills to work with the large Dominican population in Boston. My ability to communicate with them and understand where they had come from was such a blessing, as it helped me understand some of their struggles and provide them with some comfort. I could also identify with the experience of living in a country so different from one's own.

What advice would you give to others who are contemplating going into the Peace Corps?

Volunteer with populations different from yourself. Travel. See if it's for you.

What is the value gained from the Peace Corps experience?

For young people, I see it as an opportunity for growth at a rate and scope far beyond what you might experience in two years dong something else. It is an opportunity for you to understand your culture by stepping completely out of it; you learn to take nothing for granted, and not just physical comforts. You learn that people everywhere are basically the same; we all want the same things, and it is our circumstances that vary. You will also gain more tangible things, such as language skills, cultural skills, and international development experience.

What lessons did you learn in the Peace Corps that you carry with you today?

People are the same no matter where you go. The things that you truly love and that truly matter will stay with you no matter where you go.

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