The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Around the world for 365 days

By Roni Finkelstein

Are you a junior or sophomore who knows that you want to go abroad while staying attached to Grinnell? Or are you a senior who found that last question incredibly irritating because that’s what you want and you wish you had started as a junior or sophomore? Either way, this week and next eight alumni will visit campus to talk about their experiences in the year they spent in GrinnellCorps after their graduation. The following alumni, all from the class of 2010, will share how they spent their early post-graduate years. The speakers include: Nichole Baker, Mairead O’Grady, Caroline Bailey, Nora Colter, Latona Giwa, Kaitlin Alsofrom, Sara Montolla and Nathan Pavlovic.
Run by the office of Social Commitment, Grinnell Corps sends students to places as far as Thailand and as close as within the city limits of Grinnell. Two years ago, an inaugural program began in Thailand with two fellows. O’Grady and Victoria Mercer ’10 spent their year living and teaching at Payap University in Chiang Mai.
“It was definitely a challenge to go from sitting in a seat to standing in the front of the room. I had a little bit of teaching experience because when I went abroad I had a teaching internship [in Senegal],” O’Grady said, “we were just given some books and they said ‘ok, go.’”
Because the program was new for her year, O’Grady not only faced the challenge of finding her place in an abroad program but also being the guinea pig for the putting plans and aims of the program into practice.
“It was cool to get to form my own experience,” O’Grady explained. “It was something I was lucky to be able to do but it was also kind of stressful sometimes because there just wasn’t a lot of work for our first six months.”
Doug Cutchins, director of social commitment, acknowledges the excitement and challenges of being the first to participate in a program.
“There’s something special and interesting and cool about being the first but there are always kinks to work out,” said Cutchins. “We tried some things that didn’t work.”
The fellows return to campus to inform students about their post-baccalaureate year as a way to reflect on their experiences and encourage others to look into the programs.
“It’s not an obligation, but we tell them as a part of the application process that we very much want them to come back,” said Cutchins, “It’s partially for them. They have to sum it up and say, ‘this is how this experience affected me.’”
Cutchins reminds students that this is no better way to get a sense about what GrinnellCorps has to offer, especially with this year’s applications due February 6th.
Despite facing numerous challenges while abroad, O’Grady wouldn’t exchange her experience for anything and recommends this year’s seniors to apply to Grinnell Corps as a way of staying connected to the college for just a little bit longer.
“I would say that GrinnellCorps is a really great program to do because I feel that a lot of people when they graduate aren’t quite ready to say goodbye to Grinnell yet, I certainly wasn’t,” said O’Grady, “I really loved that I had the opportunity to remain a representative of Grinnell in my first year after graduating.”

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