UNCW hosts Peace Corps send-off for student volunteers

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UNCW hosts Peace Corps send-off for student volunteers

Christopher Cardona, far right, the Peace Corps Regional Recruiter at UNCW, speaks to several volunteers on Wednesday at a sendoff for UNCW Peace Corps student volunteers.

Christopher Cardona, far right, the Peace Corps Regional Recruiter at UNCW, speaks to several volunteers on Wednesday at a sendoff for UNCW Peace Corps student volunteers.

Fairley Lloyd

Christopher Cardona, far right, the Peace Corps Regional Recruiter at UNCW, speaks to several volunteers on Wednesday at a sendoff for UNCW Peace Corps student volunteers.

Fairley Lloyd

Fairley Lloyd

Christopher Cardona, far right, the Peace Corps Regional Recruiter at UNCW, speaks to several volunteers on Wednesday at a sendoff for UNCW Peace Corps student volunteers.

Fairley Lloyd, Assistant News Editor

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UNC Wilmington hosted a ceremonial send-off on Wednesday for seven students invited to serve in the Peace Corps after graduating from UNCW Wednesday night at Watson.

The Peace Corps is a national volunteer program run by the United States government. The program recruits Americans to live and volunteer in another country for two years. Volunteer work targets six sectors: agriculture, community economic development, education, environment, health, and youth development.

Peace Corps has a heavy presence on UNCW’s campus, thanks to several UNCW students and staff members who previously served in the Peace Corps and encourage interested students to apply to the program. Through a few programs here at UNCW, they provide several opportunities for students interested in joining the Peace Corps.

This includes the UNCW Peace Corps Prep Program, which provides courses to prepare students for service work similar to what they may do if accepted into Peace Corps, and the Peace Corps Student Ambassadors, UNCW students interested in joining the Peace Corps who recruit like-minded peers.

Autumn Buford, marine biology and international studies double major and former Peace Corps Student Ambassador will be serving in the Philippines after graduating this May.

Buford has had past traveling experience. During high school, Buford and her family hosted three exchange students from Germany, and the family individually went to Germany on separate occasions. During her sophomore year of college, Buford studied abroad in Costa Rica and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

She eventually applied to serve in the Peace Corps.

“I didn’t really have a preference for which country I wanted to serve in,” Buford said. “I just love the idea of traveling and challenging myself to try new experiences.”

Emily Bergland, a psychology major and Spanish minor who attended college in Utah, is in a relationship with Buford and will also serve in the Philippines after May graduation.

Bergland has a history with the Peace Corps, as her aunt served in Jamaica several decades ago. When she got to college, Bergland studied abroad in Costa Rica, where she lived with a host family (and also met Buford). These experiences led Bergland to join the Peace Corps.

“Studying abroad in Costa Rica was one of the best experiences I’ve had,” Bergland said. “I love learning about a culture I’m not familiar with.”

Buford and Bergland’s sentiments were reiterated by several Peace Corps volunteers, including Peace Corps Regional Recruiter and UNCW alum Christopher Cardona. Cardona often revisits UNCW to help recruit students interested in Peace Corps.

“Coming back to Wilmington doesn’t feel like work. It feels like home,” Cardona said.