Less than two weeks away from a two-year trip to Mozambique, Veronica Armstead-Williams is hung up on the little things, like: How to pack most efficiently so she can cram her whole life for the next 27 months into two bags.
"You're taking stuff you wouldn't normally take, like a French press, and extra pens and chalk," she said. “The fact that I’m worrying about the little stuff, it’s all going to be good.”
Armstead-Williams, a alum, is heading to Mozambique—a country along the southeastern coast of Africa—as a member of the Peace Corps on Sept. 26.
During the first three months of her trip, Armstead-Williams will live with a host family to become fully immersed in the country’s language and culture. Once she’s soaked that up, she’ll be sworn into service and assigned to a community, where she will live and work for two years with the local people. She’ll train as a secondary English education volunteer, with the aim of increasing students’ English abilities, promoting effective instruction in collaboration with local teachers, and creating community projects.
Armstead-Williams’ interest in the Peace Corps was first piqued during a trip to Guatemala with Habitat for Humanity her junior year at Fordham University. The chaperone for the trip was a former Peace Corps volunteer and shared many fond memories of his experience, she said. The mission of the Peace Corps, not to mention Habitat, cleave to personal principles Armstead-Williams has long held.
“Going into college, I knew I wanted to go into helping the global community,” she said. “I just knew that I wanted to help people.”
Armstead-Williams joins the 214 New Jersey residents currently serving in the Peace Corps and more than 4,687 New Jerseyans who have served in the Peace Corps since 1961.
Though her primary responsibilities in Mozambique will be those of an educator, Armstead-Williams doesn’t necessarily see herself becoming a teacher when she gets back. She might like to get involved in the “diplomatic sector”—she has a degree in international relations, with a concentration in global studies—and is still figuring out her ultimate career goal. At only 23 years old, she has plenty of time.
“I hope to get a better understanding of how I can help,” she said of the Mozambique trip. “I want to understand people and understand how they need to be helped.”
Armstead-Williams added that, though she hasn’t explicitly considered education as a career option, she hasn’t ruled it out either.
“A lot of our urban communities need good teachers,” she said. “There’s a lot of needs and there’s a lot of potential there.”
Armstead-Williams admitted she’s somewhat apprehensive about leaving the comforts of friends and family for a foreign country 8,000 miles away for more than two full years. But if her primary concern at this point is packing, she should be fine.
“I just hope I make everybody proud,” she said.
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