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Student Leadership and Service (SLS)

Lewis & Clark Alum Headed to Peace Corps

June 30, 2014

Lewis & Clark alum Jessica Himelfarb is headed to her Peace Corps assignment in Ethiopia to begin training as a secondary education English teacher. She will live and work at the community level to make a difference by teaching conversational English and developing teaching materials with local teachers. Himelfarb will also become involved in various community and school-based projects. Student Leadership & Service Director Harold McNaron caught up with her prior to departure.

Harold: What most excites you about your upcoming Peace Corps experience?

Jessica: Everything–the adventure of being in the cradle of civilization in a country with such a rich history, helping others to empower themselves, delicious food, learning a new language, the challenge of figuring out how to integrate and exchange ideas, making new friends…everything!  But, I am really looking forward to being part of a large, well-developed organization like Peace Corps. I realize there’s a lot to be said for having the support of an organization that can provide training and guidance.  Through Peace Corps, I hope to see some of the community development projects that have been started in Ethiopia and to better understand what works and doesn’t work.  

Harold: How do you relate these experiences to your time here at Lewis & Clark?

Jessica: Having grown up overseas, I’ve always enjoyed learning about other cultures and people and been curious about why people do and believe what they do.  At L&C, this interest fit naturally with Sociology/Anthropology and gave me a way to pursue my curiosity in these topics.  I always felt that I came out of L&C equipped to perceive the world through a critical, but caring, lens.  I mean that I learned how to constructively question what I saw around me while keeping an open mind.  This way of thinking has carried me through several countries and helped me to try to understand the wonders of the people and places around me.

Harold:  What advice would you give to current students considering international development work?

Jessica: If you think you’re interested in this field, try it out.  It’s such a big field that you’ll probably find your niche but it may take some searching.  In my experience, volunteering at organizations with missions that I believe in made me sure that I want to do this type of work.  But you have to give it some time.  Volunteering for a few weeks out of your summer is not the same as committing to a place, integrating into a community, and making real connections that drive your efforts.  

Harold: How do these experiences relate to your understanding of leadership and/or service?

Jessica: I’m happier the more I give, not the more I have; so service seems like a natural outlet.  Supporting organizations that do good work and helping people empower themselves to better their own lives are my ways giving.  It would be a disservice to those less fortunate than myself if I didn’t utilize my opportunities, my quality education, and my freedom in an effort to make those same things available to others.