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Profile: Mike Tubianosa

Ghana

Medical school is in my future. Before getting to that stage, the Peace Corps has helped me see the world and help people at the same time.

It took about a year for me to really get used to Ghana, to learn the customs and traditions. But now I see just how many ways there are to help people. I am definitely getting what I wanted out of this experience, so I decided to extend for a year longer than the standard two years of service.

My assignment here is to teach chemistry to high school students. In order to get our students into a university, they have to be strong in science, especially chemistry. So I also started a chemistry society for my students. We go on excursions to educational sites, like a nearby national park, and we’ve printed T-shirts to raise money to buy more science equipment. With the help of another Peace Corps Volunteer, I started a tree nursery right next to our school.

Before starting my Peace Corps service, I taught in a lab as a teacher’s assistant, but I had no experience in the classroom. The Peace Corps gave me the training I needed to manage classrooms, to give lectures to the students, and to speak Ghanaian English. We even practiced in a model school for a month. After training, I was confident about working in the classroom.

If it had been left up to my family, I probably never would have come to Ghana. My parents are immigrants from the Philippines, so when I told my mom about the Peace Corps, she said: “We worked hard to get to the U.S., and now you’re trying to go to Africa?” They were worried about my safety because of hearing negative things about African countries in the news. Now, however, I’ve sent pictures to them and been home to talk to them about things here in Ghana, and I’m able to call them frequently. So they’re pretty comfortable. I feel safe here.

I am from Farmington, Connecticut, and I went to Trinity College in Hartford. I did not grow up with many Asian Americans around, or any people of color. As an Asian American, I’ve always been different. I’ve always stuck out. That hasn’t changed in Ghana.

But ironically, where I am living, people who are not black are considered white. It’s the first time in my life I’ve been called a “white” guy! I explain that I am Filipino, that my parents immigrated to the United States from the Philippines, and I usually tell them about the parallels I see between how my parents think and how people here think. Ghanaians have taught me a lot about their culture, and I’ve also learned a lot about life, and about myself. Before I came here, I saw myself as timid. Personally, I think I have developed a can-do attitude. After being here, I think I could try most anything.

Mike Tubianosa (Ghana)

Mike, who is Filipino American, was interviewed for "Diversity in the Peace Corps" in 1999.

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