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William J.

“A warm smile and being open to talking to everyone who wants to chat have gone a long way in helping me integrate into the community.”

headshot_William J

1. What got you interested in the Peace Corps?

Growing up in a small town near the Mexican border, I always dreamed about other places and wondered how people lived. In university I studied international politics to satisfy this curiosity. In a course on international political economy and development, my professor introduced us to post-graduate options, including the Peace Corps. To me, joining meant I could grow and learn from other cultures by living and working together on locally prioritized projects. It was everything I wanted for so many years.

2. What projects are you working on?

I am working on two projects. The first is the development of an English club at my high school. I hope to procure projectors for the school to show movies and other English materials during the club, as well as train teachers to use them to increase teaching capacity. The second project is to utilize my school’s large roofs to harvest rainwater to help the community during the long dry season. I hope to introduce ferro-cement tank construction, a method that is far cheaper and more durable than existing plastic water tanks widely used in the country.

3. What strategies have you used to integrate into your community?

A warm smile and being open to talking to everyone who wants to chat have gone a long way in helping me integrate into the community.

Volunteer William's host mother and two daughters, in Timor-Leste.
Volunteer William's host mother and three daughters, in Timor-Leste.

4. What is a highlight of your time in service so far?

The highlight so far is seeing the development of my host sibling’s English after only one year. We now speak mostly English in the house and my siblings ask to watch American movies every night. My younger sister knows the words to every song in Coco, Encanto, Moana, and Frozen. Their dedication to learn—and not just English—every day motivates me. I see the fruits of my labor every morning when I wake up and am greeted to a chorus of “Goooood mooorning, brooooother!”

5. What have you enjoyed most about the community where you are serving?

Long walks through the mountains and playing with the local kids. I teach them new games and we play for hours. Favorites so far have been kickball, capture the flag, and hot potato/keep away with an American football. We get creative and have fun. Sometimes it’s difficult to get work done when they always want to play.

6. What are some of the most important things you’ve learned from your community?

Patience, and that nothing matters that much. This is best exemplified by a favorite saying that pairs seemingly contradictory statements, “Arraska ... maibe la buat ida,” or “It’s difficult … but not a problem.”

Two of Volunteer William's best students live next door.
William teaches three high-achieving students who live next door.

7. How do you spend time when you are not working on a project?

In the past few months, I have been studying the national language, Portuguese, although it is rarely spoken in my community. I like it because it’s a popular language I can use in many places post-service, but also because textbooks and many other books here are written in Portuguese, so I can learn more about the country through reading.

8. What are you looking forward to in your remaining time as a Volunteer?

I am beyond stoked for the start of both the calendar and school years. In my first year, I learned an unimaginable amount about my job, my community, and myself. My second and final full year will be about applying everything I’ve learned and accomplishing everything I’ve wanted to do.

9. Once you finish your service, what will you do differently when you return to the U.S.?

I will install a bum gun (bidet) wherever my next home is. I will also not be able to spend $8 on a single beer ever again.