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Peace Corps and CSU: Profile on Jen Johnson

April 4, 2011
by Jen Johnson

2011 marks the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps, and there is certainly plenty to celebrate. More than 200,000 Americans have served overseas with the Peace Corps since 1961.

Jen Johnson and the Sanno family in The Gambia, West Africa. For me, as a returned Peace Corps Volunteer, the 50th anniversary is a good reminder of the many ways in which my Peace Corps experience continues to impact my daily life.

Anniversary celebration

Here are five ways that I’ll be celebrating the anniversary in honor of my service as a Math/Science Educator in The Gambia from 1999-2001.

  1. Set my thermostat for 130 degrees. “Hot” in the U.S. is nothing compared to hot in The Gambia. One volunteer in my group used a candy thermometer to take the daily temperature!
  2. Gorge myself on Gambian benachin! Nothing beats a healthy portion of rice, palm oil, and fried veggies!
  3. Wear my flip flops to work. Enough said.
  4. Exchange the lifestyle of DOING for the lifestyle of BEING. Nothing beats an afternoon of attaya (Gambian tea) with friends and family in The Gambia. This is a good reminder for me, and lots of other Americans, who base their personal worth off of how many items on their daily “to do” list are accomplished.
  5. Call my host mom, Nanding, and say thank you. The myth of Peace Corps is that the volunteers give and that host country nationals receive. The truth is, identities of “helper” and “recipient” are often blurry at best. I taught 7th graders about gravity. My host mom kept me alive with her delicious cooking, made sure that I integrated well into the community, helped me with my Mandinka language, and showed me that deep and meaningful friendships can bridge incredible personal differences.

The beauty of the Peace Corps is that it brings people from around the world together.Thank you, Peace Corps, for the opportunity of a lifetime!

Happy 50th anniversary!

Jen Johnson is the assistant director for the Office for Student Leadership, Involvement, and Community Engagement (SLiCE) at CSU. She served in The Gambia in West Africa from 1999 to 2001.


Contact: Emily Wilmsen
E-mail: Emily.Wilmsen@colostate.edu
Phone: (970) 491-2336