Mercyhurst Magazine Spring 2021

‘18 ELEANOR HEIN Ele Hein majored in hospitality management and minored in anthropology/archaeology at Mercyhurst but chose to gain global experience through service before beginning a career in either feld. She joined the Peace Corps just months after graduation. She was assigned as an English Literacy Facilitator in Tonga, a tiny island nation southeast of Fiji in the South Pacifc. Her job was to teach English as a Second Language in a primary school, while also developing sustainable activities and materials that the school could use after she left. Ele was also active with the Peer Support and Diversity Network, organizing events to improve peer support among Peace Corps volunteers and advocating for marginalized volunteers. Like volunteers around the world, she had her service cut short by COVID-19. With just a day or two to pack up and say goodbye to her Tongan friends and coworkers, she headed ‘19 NATALIA JOSEPH A Peace Corps posting to Ukraine was a perfect ft for Natalia Joseph, who had focused on the region as an undergraduate at Mercyhurst and completed a senior thesis project with Ukrainian immigrants to Erie. She joined the Peace Corps immediately following graduation. “I wanted to experience frsthand what can come from living, learning, and assisting those in places so drastically diferent from where I live,” she said. “I am also passionate about grassroots organizations that provide more immediate and crucial help that local citizens want, which can provide culturally conscious assistance instead of generalized aid.” For about seven months, Natalia taught English to children in grades 3-10 and ran English-language clubs for young children, high school students, and the community. Her home base was Mohyliv-Podilskyi, a town on Ukraine’s border with Moldova.

’ to the capital city of Nuku alofa and boarded the last fight out to Fiji before Tonga closed its borders. Within a week she was back home in the United States. (Ironically, Tonga is one of just a few nations in the world that had not recorded a single case of COVID-19 through Nov. 12, 2020.) The core values of Mercyhurst seem to be a recurring theme in all that I do, Ele refected. She particularly credited an ethics class with Dr. Richard McCarty that she said helped her to be refectively aware of everything she did during her Peace Corps assignment and the impacts of her actions. “ ” “I have done a lot of work both while in Tonga and since coming back to hold Peace Corps ” accountable to living up to its mission of creating sustainable locally led solutions to problems in the countries where it sends its volunteers, she added. “I hope that, ultimately, because of these combined experiences, I have come to be a better advocate and ally – in thoughts and in actions – than I was before, and that I can truly When COVID-19 began exploding across Europe, her Peace Corps assignment came to a premature end. Natalia was a 14-hour train ride away from home when she learned Peace Corps stafers and volunteers might be evacuated. She had traveled to Kyiv to help write a national English exam for a foreign language competition, then on to Kharkiv to visit Mikhail (Misha) Buryak. Misha spent a semester at Mercyhurst in 2017 as a UGRAD exchange student and helped Natalia, a Russian major and president of the Russian Club, practice the language. “I had 24 hours to get a train back to Mohyliv-Podilskyi, gather my things, say a rushed goodbye to my amazing host family and colleagues, and get back to Kyiv ready to fy back to America,” Natalia said. She made it there in time, but then faced at least seven fight cancellations over the next four days as Ukraine began shutting down international travel. Eventually, they were able to fy home – and head immediately into quarantine.

” In February, she started a new position as a landscape preservation fellow at the Museum at Bethel Woods, a museum on the historic grounds of the original Woodstock Festival. “I am excited to pursue my dream of working in museum administration in a position that will combine my felds of study (hospitality and archaeology), she said. live up to the values set by the Sisters of Mercy, Ele said.

- Natalia applied to graduate programs during her two week quarantine at a Cleveland hotel and earned an acceptance to the University of Chicago’s Committee on International Relations. She plans to study international development and, though she won’t return to the Peace Corps, hopes to continue working on issues surrounding Russia and Ukraine in her future career. “I am thankful to the Peace Corps, as well as the World Languages and Anthropology Departments at Mercyhurst, for preparing me to succeed in another country and culture. ... Living in another culture for an extended time was difcult yet extremely rewarding. I wouldn’t change my experience, even knowing how it ended.”


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