Amy Bowes, a Study Abroad adviser at the University of Iowa, was lost. It was 2005, and she had just graduated from the UI with a degree in political science.
She remembered the Peace Corps building she had seen while interning in Washington, D.C., and decided to volunteer. Six months later, she was teaching high-school English in Lesotho — a country in Africa.
Bowes said she now uses her experiences of feeling unsure about travel and her future to relate with students on campus today.
Bowes traveled to Egypt in summer 2008 before starting graduate school.
“I’ll often say to [students here] that they should follow their heart,” she said, ”If you’ve always wanted to see a panda in China, go to China.”
Bowes has visited Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, Turkey, South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Ghana, and the United Arab Emirates.
Students now seek her advice on not only where they should go around the world but sometimes in life in general.
“They don’t necessarily know what to do,” she said, “I tell them that I had no idea either, but a variety of opportunities are presented,”
International travel was something that was new to her before she graduated. Going to Lesotho was the first overseas trip she had taken, though she had always wanted to travel.
“When I was growing up, I always wanted to see the animals outside of their cages,” Bowes said, “The Peace Corps gave me the perfect vehicle to do what I wanted to do.”
She said she turned to the Peace Corps because it was easy to join, with few prerequisite skills required.
The Peace Corps requires a bachelor’s degree for 90 percent of its positions, according to the Peace Corps website. The organization also takes into account the hobbies and personal interests of applications.
Meredith Mahy Gall, the UI Peace Corps representative, said studying abroad can be indispensable for students.
“The ability to become the part of another culture benefits not only the students, but the U.S. as well,” Gall said.
The vice principal ‘M’e Matalasi and Bowes celebrate Meshoeshoe’s Day in Mokhotlong, Lesotho.
She taught in Africa for more than two years before returning to the United States with a Peace Corps fellowship — a program in which the organization would pay for Bowes’ graduate education at the University of Missouri. After she finished school, she moved to Georgia, where she worked with the Study Abroad program at Kennesaw State University.
When Bowes saw the opening to be a study-abroad officer at the UI, she jumped at the opportunity.
UI Study Abroad adviser Cory Petersen said international experience is of central importance to working with Study Abroad.
“To be able to give that perspective to students is really important to give students good information, and information they can trust,” Petersen said.
Bowes echoed these sentiments, adding her travels changed her world view.
“As I’ve gone other places … getting to know people in other countries and ask them questions … I’ve gotten to know people,” she said, “I think a lot more globally now. It’s about what’s going on on a greater scale.”
- Peace Corps