Southeast Alumna Serving Local Community in Moldova with Peace Corps

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Southeast Missouri State University alumna Ryan Warren has always wanted to serve and help others. This summer, she begins two years of service as a health education teacher volunteer with the Peace Corps in the Republic of Moldova.

Warren, a native of Savannah, Missouri, said the Peace Corps, with its mission of sending Americans with a passion for service abroad on behalf of the United States to work with communities and create lasting change, felt like the right next step for her.

A 2018 Southeast graduate with a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice and a minor in Spanish, Warren has always strived to make a difference in her local community. She’s been a support caseworker with the Community Counseling Center in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and a volunteer for the Special Olympics.

During the first three months of her service, Warren will live with a host family in Moldova to become fully immersed in the country’s language and culture. She will then be sworn into service Aug. 15 and assigned to a community in Moldova, where her work will focus on cooperation with the local populace and partner organizations on sustainable, community-based development projects. The experience will allow Warren to develop leadership, technical and cross-cultural skills.

On being a Peace Corps Volunteer:

Even though being a health educator is not directly related to my degree, I am very excited to work in this field because it gives me first-hand opportunities to work with children in need.

I am currently in the pre-service training process — a 10-week program that teaches the volunteers the language of their host country and how to effectively teach in a classroom. Beginning in September, after completing the training process, I will be working side-by-side with Moldovan teachers to teach the importance of health education. I will be working both in the classroom and in the community. This opportunity has given me so much experience in situations that do not typically arise in the United States, including better cultural awareness and knowledge of new languages.

Warren visits a Orthodox Christian monastery in Moldova. Women keep their heads covered in the church.

On what she’s learned so far about Moldovan culture:

Moldova is in Eastern Europe wedged between Ukraine and Romania and is deeply rooted in its own traditions. Although I am a foreigner here, the people have welcomed me with open arms. Moldovan traditions are typically rooted in Romanian and Russian history. Moldovans love to have guests. It is common for Moldovans to meet someone on the street and invite them to their house for a meal. Moldovans also take great pride in making homemade wine. The land in Moldova is some of the richest in Europe. Moldovans believe that cleanliness is one of the most important values, so much so that they will leave all of their shoes outside the house so they don’t bring dirt into the house. Families typically spend most of the day in the garden. It is common for families to only eat what they grow in the garden. Moldova is also a deeply religious country. Most of the country is Orthodox Christian.

On how she spends a typical day:

Until I’m officially sworn in as a volunteer (after pre-service training), I spend six days a week training, which includes learning the Romanian language, proper teaching strategies and cultural integration tools. The people of Moldova are very religious. Sundays are a true day of rest in this country.

In my free time, I catch up with my friends and family. I also spend time with other Peace Corps volunteers and further integrate into my host community. Exercising is also a great way to spend time here. The views are absolutely amazing.

On her time at Southeast:

Southeast gave me the stepping stones and courage to leave my home country for two years to serve underprivileged children. During my time at Southeast, I was always encouraged to be the best version of myself, and without the University, I would not have found my dream job.

On her goals for the future:

After completing my two years of service with the Peace Corp, I plan on attending law school. The experiences I have with the Peace Corps will give me the skills I need to attend graduate school and apply for government jobs in the future.

On advice for Southeast students:

Get involved. I know it sounds cliché, but I honestly would not be the person I am today without all of the amazing people I met through various organizations. For the seniors who are about to graduate, my advice would be to keep your mind open. Sometimes, the best careers are found in places you never thought to look.

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