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Tom Courtright '14

Peace Corps Volunteer

Major in International Relations, Minor in Journalism

Stationed in Fiji, Tom works in a village school on the main island of Viti Levu.

Courtright, a volunteer with the Peace Corps, will be in Sabeto, Fiji, until November 2016.

Why did you want to join Peace Corps?

Honestly, it’s just in my blood. My dad served in South Korea in the early 1980s, my brother is serving in Senegal, my cousin just finished her service in Kyrgyzstan. I have friends from Knox currently serving in Paraguay, the Phillipines and Ethiopia. I was very fortunate in that my parents took me to a lot of places growing up, and dinner conversations were always about development work. So it was always the most natural thing to do after college.

What language(s) do you need to speak for your Peace Corps assignment?

I could easily get by in just English, but I really dig learning languages, and Fijian is beautiful to my ears, so that’s what I’ve been learning. Despite its tiny size, Fiji has an incredible variety of dialects -- for instance, the common saying "I'm hungry" in the standard Bauan dialect would be "au sa via kana," but in my dialect it is "qi mata kania." So I've been recently focusing on my local dialect, TatavaSabeto, which is a little harder to understand but very rewarding.

Do you have some ideas about what you'd like to do once your Peace Corps service ends? 

Right now I'm mostly focusing on environmental work, after reading the gut-puncher of a book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. Climate Change. I'd like to try to work in the environmental sector in sub-Saharan Africa -- I'll look for jobs in the Great Lakes region, hoping to focus on promoting solar and other renewable forms of energy, as well as recycling. Eventually I'll go for a graduate degree, but first I need to ensure that this is something I could spend my life doing.

Tell us about an experience at Knox that is still memorable to you.

I taught my own class with five friends on Politics in West Africa my junior year. I chose all the readings, the essay questions, the meeting place, and led the discussions, while my professor greenlit the class. It was incredible and free, and a true pleasure to explore a topic all on our own that would not have been otherwise available.

Anything else you'd like to add?

Do Peace Corps. Commit to it, commit to spending two years having face-offs with cockroaches in the bathroom and being totally OK with not knowing what's going on, and then apply. There's truly nothing like it.

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Printed on Saturday, June 22, 2024