Megan Irons ’14 currently lives in Senegal where she works as a member of the Peace Corps.
"Before attending Saint Michael’s, I knew I wanted to explore the world around me. I didn’t know how I was going to make my dream a reality or what tools I needed to succeed however. From my first Anthropology class, I knew the Anthropology/Sociology department would help me to achieve my goals. My professors taught me how to think critically, write and communicate effectively, and understand human behavior through the twin lens of society and culture. They also encouraged me to immerse myself in new cultures, both through study abroad and service learning opportunities in the local refugee community. Based on the tools I gained in my classes, I felt confident that I could succeed in the larger world, and during my senior year I began applying to jobs outside the United States.
Shortly after graduation, I accepted a position with the Peace Corps in Senegal. I packed my life into two suitcases and set off to immerse myself in a new culture and serve the people of Senegal for twenty-seven months. As a Peace Corps volunteer, my work is three-fold: to train motivated men and women in improved agricultural techniques; to share American culture with the Senegalese people; and to share Senegalese culture with friends and family back home. To me, cultural exchange is the most important part of the work I do, and the most rewarding. Most of what both cultures know of each other is gained through the media and not all this information is accurate, particularly communications on the Muslim faith and culture (Senegal is a predominately Islamic country). Using the tools I gained through my Anthropology classes, I answer questions and clear up misconceptions about my home and host cultures and share what I’ve learned with others. Regardless of whether this cultural exchange occurs over a cup of attaaya in Wolof or through my blog and social media, watching my friends and family learn along with me is extremely rewarding.
In sum, my work abroad is both challenging and rewarding. While I have always had the desire and drive to achieve my goals, my coursework in Anthropology provided me with a solid foundation through which I felt confident to pursue work in international development and service."