Cumberland Times-News

July 15, 2007

FSU grad heading to Mongolia for two years with Peace Corps

Tess Hannapel, Times-News Intern

CUMBERLAND — Ready for some new adventures and challenges, one Frostburg State University graduate decided to join the Peace Corps and will be in Mongolia for the next two years.

Having majored in international relations with a concentration in political science and a minor in Spanish, Amanda Chenkin of Salisbury, a 2004 graduate, said she first started thinking about the Peace Corps during her last year at FSU.

“There are many reasons (I wanted to do this),” Chenkin said. “I think I would like to work for a non-governmental organization or non-profit (organization) doing fieldwork, but you can’t work in the field if you have no experience. Peace Corps is good field experience.”

She added it helped she loved traveling and helping people.

However, Chenkin said she didn’t feel ready to apply for the Peace Corps during her last year at FSU and decided to wait. She moved to Boston where she worked for six months as a residential assistant at an English Language School and then went to work at Tufts University.

“I started thinking about (the Peace Corps) again almost three years later and decided to fill out the application and see what happens,” Chenkin said. “I was at a point in my life where I was bored and needed something new and different.”

Chenkin filled out an application in April 2006 and was invited to the Peace Corps in November 2006, after she completed the medical screening. She said she had the option to travel to Latin America, Eastern Europe or Mongolia.

“Mongolia is the most adventurous country there is, plus I didn’t want to be an English teacher,” Chenkin said about why she chose Mongolia. “When I think of Peace Corps, I thought of Mongolia. You can still live in traditional housing and visit the nomads. It’s also considered the hardest country to serve because of the language and the weather conditions.”

Chenkin left on June 2 and is currently in the Northern region near the Russian border. She is training to be a Life Skills Trainer working in Community Youth Development.

“I wanted (this position) because it’s very flexible and allows you to develop your own projects based n what the community wants and needs,” Chenkin said.

Chenkin’s training includes technical training three times each week and cultural training two times each week. She also has four hours of language lessons.

“Mongolian is one of the most difficult Peace Corps languages to learn,” she said. “The sounds are very different form English. They have sounds that sound very similar to our ears, but if you say it wrong you have completely changed the word.”

However, Chenkin said because of her program, her training is mostly hands on. She said her living conditions in training are quite nice.

“I’m one of the few people in my class that has indoor plumbing — indoor plumbing is still rare and most people have outhouses,” she said. “When I get to my host site, I hope to lie in a ger, basically a felt tent.”

Chenkin said though her classmates are great, she still misses her friends and family.

“The one thing I miss the most so far is being able to easily call my family and friends to tell them about my day and how things are going,” she said. “I am lucky that I have easy access to Internet, but since it’s still early in the game in terms of making connection with other people in my group, I really miss them.”

Chenkin said she has lived abroad before so she knew how she was going to feel. She also says keeping a journal, an MP3 player, books and pictures of home has also helped her tremendously.

But even with the bad days, Chenkin says she still doesn’t really want to go home.

“I just want my friends and family to be here with me; it’s an amazing experience,” she said. “Being here I know that I’m helping a community grow,” she said. “I am also fulfilling a personal growth.”