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Spring/Summer 2015

7

I have to give a lot of credit to Dr. Larry Bradley and Dr.

Dona Davis in the anthropology department at USD. They

inspired my love of world cultures and planted the seeds that

would lead me to find a way to combine wanderlust with service.

But it wasn’t until after graduate school and working for a bit

that I finally decided to try. I knew if ever there was a time to

go, that was it. If ever I was going to give something of myself,

serve my country, make a difference, that was the time and Peace

Corps was the way.

I departed for Mongolia in June 2011. I started my Peace

Corps journey as an English education volunteer. After three

months of intensive language, culture and technical training

while living with a host family in a small, rural village, I

was assigned to a large complex school in the fourth largest

city, Choibalsan, for my two years of service. There I worked

with grades 5–11, team teaching English to students with a

Mongolian counterpart. Peace Corps’ first goal is to build

capacity, so building the skills of my counterparts was central to

the sustainability goals of the program. We also participated in

culture exchange, meeting Peace Corps’ second and third goals.

I integrated into Mongolian culture, learned about its rich

history, and participated in ceremonies, holidays, and built a

strong network of friends.

My secondary work in Choibalsan focused on community

health needs. As I built my network, members of the community

would ask for assistance on various projects ranging from grant

writing for a disabled children’s organization to working with a

women’s organization on a women’s empowerment seminar.

I also played and coached volleyball.

As I neared the end of my two years of amazing experiences

in Choibalsan, I wasn’t ready to leave. I had more of myself to

give, more skills to share. I extended for a third year, moved

to the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, and took on two new roles:

health volunteer and Peace Corps volunteer leader. As a health

volunteer, I worked with the United Nations Population Fund

on youth development initiatives aimed at promoting positive

youth development and expanding comprehensive sexual and

reproductive health education. I also worked on projects that

led me to a remote northern part of Mongolia, accessible only

by a five-hour horseback ride, to teach kids about hand-washing

and tooth-brushing. As a Peace Corps volunteer leader, I worked

closely with staff and volunteers providing peer support.

My third summer in Mongolia, I was offered the unique

opportunity to work as the deputy training manager for the

incoming cohort of volunteers.

I made lasting friendships and built such strong bonds

with the wonderfully kind and generous people of Mongolia.

Everywhere I went, I was welcomed with tea and snacks, or even

a full hot meal. The overwhelming hospitality of Mongolians

made me feel at ease right from the start. I was, and continue

to be, profoundly impacted by my personal experiences and

relationships with my Mongolian friends.

One of my proudest achievements was founding the

Peace Corps Mongolia LGBT task force, together with two

other volunteers. We worked with the LGBT Centre, a

Mongolian NGO, to develop trainings and resources that

could be incorporated into volunteers’ work on diversity in

their local communities.

I am currently a recruiter for the Peace Corps and am looking

forward to continuing this exciting work, sharing my stories

of service and inspiring others to apply. In the fall, I will attend

the University of Minnesota to pursue a Master of Public

Health degree.

Peace Corps service is the experience of a lifetime. Sharing

your skills to develop the capacity of others is highly rewarding

work. And the skills you gain will launch your career, whether

you choose to take advantage of the exclusive graduate school

fellowships or federal hiring benefits after completing service, or

enter the private sector.

“Serving in the Peace Corps was not only highly rewarding, but gave

me global job skills and experiences I never dreamed I would have.”

Krista Mastel ’05

MONGOLIA

Forest Lake, Minn. native

Krista Mastel earned a B.S. in

anthropology in December 2005.