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Interview with a Peace Corps Invitee

A Peace Corps Invitee shares her experience as an NPCA intern, why she wanted to join Peace Corps, and advice she would give to future NPCA interns.

 

Interview conducted by Tiffany James

 

Meet Megan Dial, a senior at the University of Arkansas and one of our former interns from this past summer. Dial’s eight-week journey with National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) has been nothing short of inspiring, and we’re excited to share that her next endeavor will involve serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 2024. We couldn’t be happier for her, and we’re confident she will quickly become an invaluable partner for her host country.

Tiffany James: Tell me about your experience as an NPCA intern.

Megan Dial: I was a communications intern for eight weeks over this past summer. While my internship was primarily online, NPCA worked with me to offer opportunities to collaborate with other NPCA staff and interns in person. My responsibilities included researching, writing, and editing NPCA’s community achievement blurbs; conducting an interview with Alana DeJospeh, filmmaker of A Towering Task, and writing an article about her journey getting the documentary on PBS; assisting in a career fair at Peace Corps headquarters; and lobbying for the Peace Corps Reauthorization Bill on Capitol Hill. Perhaps one of my favorite experiences was getting to write my first ever op-ed over why there ought to be a Peace Corps Barbie. It was very easy to write this piece because it combined two of the things I’m most fixated on: Barbie and Peace Corps. It was also extremely fun because I was given almost complete creative freedom and the topic was so niche. I wasn’t finding myself repeating what other people had already written about, and I felt like I had something truly unique to offer NPCA.

James: What was your most memorable experience during your internship with NPCA?

Dial: My most memorable experience during my internship at NPCA was getting to advocate for the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act on Capitol Hill. For one, simply being on Capitol Hill was an entirely new experience for me, a place I never imagined I would go at age twenty. But beyond that, I also learned a lot about Peace Corps and NPCA that day because I had to know enough to be able to advocate for it. It was so empowering to see NPCA live at work. I had a lot of fun hustling from one side of Capitol Hill to the next with NPCA’s Advocacy Director Jonathan Pearson and the other interns as we quickly refreshed ourselves on Peace Corps facts.

James: Why do you want to join Peace Corps?

Dial: My main motivation to serve with Peace Corps is that it is such an amazing learning opportunity. Through studying abroad, I’ve realized I have a passion for engaging with different cultures. I am incredibly eager to learn everything I can about [my host country] and the people in my village. Aside from learning, I also love to serve others. It gives me great satisfaction in life to know what I’ve done has honestly helped other people. What I like about Peace Corps is it is a collaboration with other countries. That way, I know that what I have to offer is what the people of [my host country] actually want. After Peace Corps, I plan to continue working in International Relations. My goal is that I can take what I’ve learned from my time in Peace Corps to be better equipped to work alongside other nations to promote change that will positively impact all parties.

James: When did you first learn about the Peace Corps? NPCA?

Dial: I can’t say exactly when the first time I heard about Peace Corps was. It was always one of those things I had heard of but really couldn’t tell you much about until my junior year of college. I took a course on U.S. Diplomacy History, where the Peace Corps was briefly explained. Then, I had another class called Evolution of Philanthropy, during this same semester, which required me to write a Capstone paper over any philanthropy of my choosing. Not fully understanding what a philanthropic organization meant, nor what Peace Corps was, I decided to write my paper over Peace Corps. Thankfully, despite Peace Corps technically not being a philanthropy, my professor allowed me to go ahead. In spending hours researching the history of this organization, I soon realized how much my personal beliefs lined up with the values of Peace Corps.

During this same semester, I also discovered I accidentally took enough credits to graduate a full year early. Realizing I needed to get more internship experience, I soon signed up for The Fund for American Studies (TFAS), an organization which takes students to D.C. and helps couple them with internship opportunities while taking classes through George Mason University. I had a zoom meeting with the TFAS International Affairs advisor where I expressed my interest in Global Development and Peace Corps and he introduced me to NPCA.

James: What did your NPCA internship teach you about the Peace Corps that you didn’t know beforehand?

Dial: I learned just how much the RPCV community looks out for one another. Through career fairs and professional services provided by NPCA and other Peace Corps affiliated groups, RPCVs continue to support each other long after their time volunteering. Also, I learned a lot about the technical, behind the curtain, details about how Peace Corps operates and its struggles to maintain funding and relevancy in our current political climate. However, what stuck with me the most was all the first hand experiences I listened to RPCVs tell me. Their advice on how to get recruited, how to have a good and meaningful time once you’re in your host country, and how being a member of the RPCV community has impacted their life made me feel a lot closer to Peace Corps.

James: What does it mean to you to be among the growing numbers of Peace Corps Volunteers returning to service, after more than 7,000 Volunteers were evacuated due to the pandemic in 2020?

Dial: For me, the pandemic was a wake up call. I realized a lot of things I cherished, such as travel and interpersonal connection, I took for granted. Gen-Z is generally associated with feelings of pessimism and not without reason, but I hope we can also be the generation to use our dissatisfaction with the status quo to take action. Joining Peace Corps has given me a feeling of being part of something bigger. I hope these new Volunteers will not only do good in our host countries, but to learn from our experiences to build a better future for the entire globe.

James: Tell me about your Peace Corps Prep experience. When did you get involved and why?

Dial: I got involved in the University of Arkansas’ Peace Corps Prep program in the spring semester of my junior year. Oftentimes I’ll go on my university’s website just to explore all the opportunities the UofA has to offer for its students. I found the Peace Corps Prep program at Arkansas after I had decided I wanted to join Peace Corps. I was immediately eager to join because it offered opportunities to connect with recruiters and get crucial advice in perfecting my resume and interview skills.

James: What advice would you give a future NPCA Communications intern?

Dial: My biggest advice would be not to be afraid to share your ideas. It can be pretty intimidating being a student intern in a group meeting. While all the NPCA staff I encountered were inviting, it was still difficult to find my voice when I didn’t feel qualified to be there. Know that they want you to share your opinion! Being young gives you a unique perspective they want to hear. When I finally spoke up and took initiative, I was able to get the go ahead to write my Barbie op-ed, which, as I mentioned before, ended up being what I was most proud of during my eight weeks.

James: Anything else you’d like to share?

Dial: I’d just like to take this opportunity to thank NPCA for this incredible opportunity and for such an unforgettable summer. I particularly would like to thank my supervisor, Tiffany James, for all the support she has given me not just during my eight weeks interning but even after. Throughout my entire application process, she was there providing resources, advice, and a letter of recommendation. I genuinely do not believe I would have been able to get in without NPCA’s support.