The future looks bright, we promise!
Here at Pittstop, we understand how frustrating and confusing life out of college can be. When your post-college plans don’t go exactly as you imagined, it can be tempting to give up hope. For that reason, we are reaching out to young professionals who inspire us and asking them to share their stories and advice for all of you out there trying to start your careers.
In a special edition of our Young Professional Spotlight, we’re talking to Erin Salvaggio. A recent Kent State graduate that chose an unlikely profession upon graduation: she joined the U.S. Peace Corps and is spending two years in Cambodia.
University Attended: Kent State University
Degree: Biology, Pre-Med
Graduation Year: 2016
In the professional leap of a lifetime, Erin decided to put her life on hold and join the Peace Corps in Cambodia. Her original plan upon graduation at Kent was to attend medical school, but when she unexpectedly failed the MCAT her future plans came to a halt.
“I had spent the past 4 years preparing for medical school and I had to come to terms with the fact that it wasn’t going to be the next step for me,” said Erin.
“During pre-med meetings, a lot of advisors had brought up the idea of Peace Corps and said how a lot of medical schools look for this on applications, as it gives the person a lot of experience. Once I realized I had to come up with an alternative route, Peace Corps came back to mind and I applied on a whim.”
Erin was accepted into the Peace Corps and was eager to begin this new adventure. The Peace Corps two-year program is often called life-defining by the more than 220,000 Americans who have served it. That’s a statement that should grab our attention.
As many of us do, I needed enlightened on what exactly a member actually does. Erin explained, “We’re a U.S. government organization that works in developing countries at the grassroots level. We integrate into a rural community, become a member of said community, and are therefore better able to discover the issues at hand. There are different sectors a volunteer can work in health, education, youth development, environment and business.”
Erin chose the health sector, based on her passion at school.
Her normal day starts at work in the Health Center from 8am-12pm, Monday-Friday. There, she educates patients on anything from child nutrition, birth control, pregnancy danger signs, breastfeeding and blood pressure. From there, she goes home and eats dinner with her host family, visits with friends or reads. At 5pm her Khmer tutor (Khmer is the native language there) helps her with the language. No one in the village speaks English, which can be a challenge. (If you’re looking to apply, language requirements will be listed in the job description.) Finally at 6pm, Erin closes her day by teaching an English class to high school students, and afterward is in bed as early as 8pm.
Would Erin recommend this career path? Yes and no, and definitely not to everyone.
“I would recommend Peace Corps to someone who wants to be fully immersed into a new culture. Someone who wants to push themselves mentally, emotionally, and physically because Peace Corps is really hard,” she warns. “If you are someone who wants to travel and volunteer, I would recommend doing a different program as there are plenty out there.”
As for her future plans, they’re up in the air. When the two-year commitment is up, Peace Corps gives you non-competitive eligibility for a year after your service. This essentially means that Erin can apply for any entry level government job and is likely be picked no questions asked. They even offer fellow programs for graduate school to help pay your tuition!
When I asked Erin if she’d do things differently she responded, “I think this is where I am meant to be right now. Peace Corps is a great personal achievement and I am proud to say I am here. It is also an experience that will help me achieve future education and career goals. Although I am basically putting my life on hold for 2 years, life isn’t a race and I am in no hurry.”
Erin made a huge decision to separate from her friends, family and home. Although you aren’t required to up and leave and join the Peace Corps after reading, let Erin’s story inspire you to take a leap in your career.
“I am only 7 months into this journey, and I can already see the profound effects it’s had on me. I’ve changed in ways I didn’t know I could. The other Peace Corps volunteers I’m surrounded by are the smartest people I’ve ever met, and I’m very thankful to say that I know them. My host family has accepted me as their fourth child, and now Cambodia will always feel like home to me because of them.”
Erin’s Words of Wisdom:
Do whatever makes you happy and don’t just stick to the plan because you think it’s the right thing to do. There really is no right thing to do, and we can veer off from our original plan to find ourselves back on it a couple years later. Have goals, but allow yourself to change them or change the path to reach them. The journey is the fun of it!
If you’re looking to make a difference and take on a journey like this, click here to apply and get more information on the Peace Corps. Even check out stories just like Erin’s!
Check out photo’s of Erin’s journey so far below:
Do you know someone that took a chance and chose a career path that went against the norm? Comment below or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and they might be featured!