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A Call to Service: Alumna Begins Career in Peace Corps

Imagine waking up to the sunrise at 6:30 a.m., folding up your bedding and throwing a fresh scoop of dung onto the fire to warm your gear before having breakfast with a family who doesn’t speak any English. Welcome to the new morning routine of Emma Archer, CAS/MA ’08, since graduating from AU in May.

Just weeks after crossing the Bender stage and receiving her diploma, Archer flew halfway around the world to Mongolia, embarking on her two-year term as a Peace Corps volunteer.

Along with 11 other volunteers training in the Mongolian town of Xutul through the summer, Archer prepared for her service by taking four hours of language class and two to four hours of cultural and technical training each day.

In late August, Archer was moved to her new home in Mandalgobi where she’ll spend the next 20 months teaching English. “Mongolia has many faces, and it would seem that Mandalgobi is her Old West,” notes Archer. “I can’t properly describe it, but it’s on this strange boundary desert bareness and sheer beauty.”

Archer is now working as a teacher trainer at a complex school, with just over 1600 students and nine English teachers. She teaches 5th through 9th grade students, as well as working with the teachers to explore new teaching methodologies and develop resources for the school.

Archer is the first to proclaim that she has had some amazing experiences already in the first few months of her two-year appointment. She even had the honor of dancing the Mongolian reindeer dance in front of the American ambassador, complete with a furry orange costume, as part of her official volunteer ceremony. “Learning about the riots in Ulan Bator [Mongolia’s capitol] was unnerving [and] being stopped by the side of the road by an old man so we could help his granddaughter with her English homework was a lot of fun,” comments Archer.

Yet, she definitely misses a few comforts from the states. “I miss cheese, coffee, salads, and Mexican food,” she says. As a vegetarian, several of Mongolia’s traditional dishes such as roasted goat intestines and mutton dumplings, hold little appeal but others are growing on her, including fermented mare’s milk (called “airag”), and Mongolian yogurt. Archer is jumping right in and trying it all. “I even lick my yogurt bowls clean in true Mongolian fashion,” she remarks.

Through her experiences in Mongolia, Archer has been continually amazed by the sheer beauty of the country and its people. “They’re unbelievably kind and hospitable,” she remarks.

“I have great hope that we’ll be able to have a positive impact on the community through our service here. It’s exciting.”

AU ranks seventh in the nation for mid-sized universities with the highest number of Peace Corps volunteers. More than 700 AU alumni have joined the Peace Corps since it’s inception in 1961, with more than 45 currently volunteering around the world.