The South Dakotan
Most of my influence to join the Peace Corps came from friends
and USD community members. Specifically, Dr. Kim Grieve
[VP/dean of student services] was a huge influence. She has
been a role model and friend of mine. I remember when I first
found out about Tanzania she had so much insight to provide
for me! Also, Mary Pat Bierle [political science instructor]
probably doesn’t remember it, but my freshman year she said to
me “DJ, you are going to be a leader on this campus” and that
one statement pushed me to do the best in what I was passionate
about. Public service has always been huge for me. That
statement pushed me, not only at the university level
My first few weeks in Tanzania with my host family I spent a
lot of time studying and trying to grasp the language. I looked at
my two little brothers and said, “Unanifundisha Kiswahili,” or
“You teach me Swahili” after failing several times to remember
a few words. One of my brothers looked at me and said, “Na
unanifundisha kiingariza” or “And you teach me English.” It was
just heartwarming that they would sit by me, for hours, as I tried
to learn this new language. Instead of being frustrated at my
pace, they were ready to learn from me just as much as they had
been teaching me. It was definitely one of my most memorable
moments so far in Tanzania.
The first two months I trained 8 a.m.–5 p.m. six days a week.
This training consisted of four days of language training. I’m
learning Kiswahili slowly, but after two months of training I
feel fairly comfortable. The other two days were technical work
learning about the health care needs of Tanzania and different
projects I could do. During these two months, I lived with my
host family which consisted of my Mama, Baba (father), Bibi
(grandmother), Dada wawili (two sisters), na Kaka watatu (three
brothers). They are incredibly patient and friendly people, and I
look forward to staying in touch with them in the future.
I am still learning how to be on my own in the village and
working with members in my community. After my first three
months at site (in July 2015) I will be able to start writing grants
and creating projects in my community. I am really excited to
start a Zinduka project, which combines sports and education
to teach about HIV/AIDS. The classroom setting in Tanzania
is very formal, and doing something like combining soccer with
education is great for the kids.
I am currently a health volunteer in Tanzania, stationed in
the region of Iringa. My primary work is to focus on HIV/
AIDS, malaria and food and water security. Right now, and for
the next three months, I will be working extensively with my
community to determine the needs and where as a team we can
focus on sustainable development in those areas. Past volunteers
in my village have created water wells or done animal husbandry
projects, such as the last volunteer, who received 17 milk goats
for people in the community with HIV/AIDS.
Tanzania is a beautiful country with the friendliest people.
They are eager to be a part of the Peace Corps program just as
much as volunteers are eager to be a part of the community.
I love that I was invited as a health volunteer. I expected to
be education, as my health background is not as broad as my
English background, but it has been nothing short of fantastic
every step of the way.
After I serve my two years, I am considering extending for a
third year. When done with that I would love to get my Master
of Public Policy or Public Administration (or both) and then do
some government or public service work.
Being far from home is a challenge. My family and friends
have been my biggest supporters for as long as I can remember.
Having to start over and create those ties again is much more
difficult in a new environment. The language is a challenge, but
one I look forward to every day. Cooking for myself after living
on USD’s campus for four years has also been a challenge. Every
challenge is an opportunity that I look forward to. Challenges
help you grow as a person!
“Being a volunteer has solidified
my passion for public service.”
On average, 200 USD students study abroad each year
through the Center for Academic & Global Engagement
(CAGE), including global internships programs, international
AWOL (service learning) and Faculty Led Programs (FLPs).
DJ Smith ’14
Dennis (DJ) Smith graduated from USD
in 2014 with a bachelor of science in
political science and English. The Mitchell, S.D.,
native has called Tanzania home since February 2015.