Alumna Shares Peace Corps Experience

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    Rosie Wong, ’07 Communications Sciences and Disorders, served in the Peace Corps in Somalia.

When Rosie Wong joined the Peace Corps in 2007 right after receiving her degree in Communication and Science Disorders (CSD), she did not know what to expect other than that the work she would do in Samoa would be dedicated to helping others, and more importantly, she said, helping them help themselves.

As it turned out, Dyson College’s CSD program had prepared her in more ways than she realized.

“Being a Communication Sciences and Disorders major helped to foster my desire to help people,” Wong explained. “The program was informative, hands-on, and built up my confidence as a speech language pathologist. I got to work with a variety of clients that would later transfer over to my work in the Peace Corps. I worked with young children and teenagers, as well as adults, which allowed me to develop the skills that I would later use as a volunteer. I was also exposed to different cultures during my time at Pace which helped me be culturally aware, an extremely important component for Peace Corps.”

Wong was placed as a special needs teacher in Samoa, a small island country in the South Pacific. Wong admits she doesn’t know how to swim and hates the heat. During her three months of training during which she lived with a host family and learned about the culture and language, she kept thinking, “they put a girl from New York City on one of the most isolated islands!” But she was determined to go where she was needed and to make a difference.

“It was daunting and exciting,” she said.

In addition to teaching, she held workshops for the staff focusing on building literacy skills, special needs education, and alternative disciplinary methods. There was no library at the school so she turned an empty room into the new library and her own classroom. She had books donated through a sister school in New Zealand and convinced Pace University President Stephen J. Friedman to donate dictionaries as well.

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“He was wonderful and sent boxes and boxes of brand new dictionaries to me,” Wong said. “I shared them with other PC volunteers on the island when they were building up libraries for their schools.” She also organized the donations of computers and developed a computer lab. She held tutoring sessions for the youths in the village and co-organized various health clinics focused on eye health and diabetes/heart health awareness continuing on a project that another volunteer began.

“None of it really felt like ‘work.’ I enjoyed doing everything especially because I was learning so much along the way,” Wong said. “The Samoans were so lovely and accepted me into their lives. I really felt welcomed wherever I went.”

During her time abroad she was afraid that she might change her mind about becoming a speech-language pathologist, but in the end, she said, her experiences further supported her passion for the field. She is going to make a slight detour though. She had planned to go straight into graduate school, but was offered a position in Japan teaching English for a year, so grad school will be postponed until next year.

“Peace Corps was a life-changing experience and opened up a lot of doors for me. Where ever life takes me from here on out, I am pleased in knowing that PC has had a hand in shaping my future.”