Alumnus Adam Samowitz Joins the Peace Corps

JCU alumnus Adam Samowitz recently began an assignment as a volunteer for the Peace Corps as a Health, Hygiene, and Water Sanitation Specialist in Vanuatu, an island nation located in the South Pacific. Adam was inspired to join by Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet, who visited John Cabot University in October 2016. A native of Long Island, New York, Adam graduated with a major in International Affairs in December 2016.

Adam Samowitz

Adam Samowitz playing for the JCU Gladiators soccer team

Tell us about the program you are participating in.
As Health, Hygiene, and Water Sanitation Specialist in Vanuatu for 27 months, my job will entail living in a village on one of Vanuatu’s many islands, teaching people about healthy lifestyle choices and proper hygiene, as well as possibly creating and/or maintaining a safe and reliable water source for the community. I just received my exact location placement within the Peace Corps “Generations” system.

The “Generations” system divides work at a site into three separate generations. It is known as the “3-6” system, which means 3 volunteers in 6 years. Each volunteer is responsible for different jobs at the site, depending on the generation. I have been selected to serve in a Category 2 Generation 1 site. Category 2 is defined as “Isolation, no electricity, limited water in dry season, potentially large communities, and gender defined roles,” and Generation 1 means that I will be the first person serving at my site (Uripiv Medical Dispensary).

Why did you chose to participate in the health sector?
When I applied for the Peace Corps I did not specifically choose the health sector. I was able to choose three countries in which I had a desire to serve. I selected Thailand, Vanuatu, and Moldova, and several weeks later based on my background and experience, I was chosen to serve in the health sector in Vanuatu.

I chose these 3 countries for many different reasons. Firstly, I chose Thailand because I had previously done service work there, so I was familiar with the culture. I chose Vanuatu because I had studied the country since I was about 10 years old. I first discovered it in the 2006 FIFA world cup video game, in which they had the worst team in the game. I have also always been interested in small countries, so I began to study it. Lastly, I chose Moldova to have an option in Europe.

How did you decide to apply for the Peace Corps?
I decided to go into the Peace Corps because I always had an interest in helping people. During my last two years of high school I traveled to New Orleans as part of a relief program for Hurricane Katrina. I also worked in 3 separate villages in northern Thailand and Laos in the span of a month, helping to build a clean water facility, public bathrooms, a village meeting hall, and rebuilding a school. Joining the Peace Corps was the next step for me.

My past volunteering experiences have definitely molded my career path and the way I see the world. As someone who grew up on Long Island, New York, I was used to a comfortable life. While some of my surrounding areas are not wealthy, nothing prepares you for service in a developing nation, besides actually doing it. My expectations for my Peace Corps service is that I will be able to improve the quality of life of the people whose community I am entering as well as expand my skill set.

How do you think that JCU has prepared you for this experience?
I feel that JCU has prepared me for the Peace Corps by giving me the opportunity to live in a different country, with a different culture, and a different language. To me this was vitally important because picking up and moving to a different country without knowing what it will be like is certainly a daunting challenge, but after spending 2 1/2 years in Rome, it is not so scary.

Are you planning on learning Bislama language as it is the main spoken language in Vanuatu?
I am planning on learning Bislama and have already started studying it. The Peace Corps sent me a PDF with language lessons, and upon my arrival I will be put in a 10 week training course where I will not only learn my trade, but also follow an immersive Bislama course.

What are your plans for the future after the Peace Corps? Where would you like your career to take you?
After the Peace Corps I plan on returning to Europe, specifically Italy for a period of time. However, when I finish my service I will have a non-competitive job opportunity with the US government for a year. From there I hope to secure a job with the state department in the form of working in an embassy, preferably in Europe.