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
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
Forest Lake, Minn. native
Krista Mastel earned a B.S. in
anthropology in December 2005.