These are two of my students, Gerson and Ndapanda.

My classroom

My community, from the top of a nearby hill (pile of rocks)

Name: Natalie Wowk
U-M Affiliation: Alumni, Student

Where do you work?

I will be starting a Masters in Urban Planning program in Fall 2010 at Michigan.

When did you serve in the Peace Corps?

January '08 - December '09

Where did you serve (which country/countries)?

Namibia

What were your main responsibilities as a volunteer?

I was a math tutor and a physical science teacher.

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

One of my housemates, a Nigerian man, was one of those most smart, compassionate, and generous people I've ever met in my life. Also, many of my students, for their ambition and integrity.

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

I worked on a life skills conference for girls in my community, and we had some moments of genuine bonding that I will never forget.

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

I have become more flexible and value living in the moment more than I used to.

In what ways did your U-M education, both inside and outside the classroom, prepare you for your Peace Corps experience?

U-M helped me to develop a mental toughness that certainly helped me in rising to meet my challenges.

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

If you seek an adventure and a challenge, go now.

What is the value gained from the Peace Corps experience?

It's difficult to explain in words what value my PC experience has for me; indeed it's different for everyone. There are many things--the satisfaction at having risen to meet one of the greatest challenges of my life; the opportunity for personal reflection, the joy in my personal relationships with Namibians. Most of all, I never have to look back and wonder "what if...?"

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

I carry with me a respect for the difficulty and complexity of grassroots development work, and an understanding of our fundamental dependence on others for survival and happiness.

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