Years in Peace Corps: 2010-12
Region/City: Baré, Littoral Region of Cameroon
A traveler at heart, Taiwan native Jenny Wang ’01 is inspired to learn about other cultures. When a friend mentioned the Peace Corps, Wang, who had recently applied for U.S. citizenship was intrigued. “I needed a change of pace, and it seemed like the right time to apply.”
Wang traveled to Baré, Littoral Region of Cameroon, a country in Central Africa and says, “I think being exposed to so much diversity when I was a student at UCLA made me more accepting of new things.” In Baré, she taught computer literacy at a lycée, teaching critical thinking through interactive games. With not enough computers for everyone, she divided classes, from 60 to 90 students, into groups. “There were days where I felt I didn’t do a good enough job teaching since not having computers was challenging,” said Wang. Throughout her service, Wang felt she was representing the Asian American community, and strived to be her best self. Her students were shocked when she talked about homelessness, since there is virtually no homelessness in Cameroon. “Some people knew all their neighbors, others had conversations with strangers on the bus and women would sometimes hand over their babies to strangers to hold on crowded buses.”
Wang found adjusting after her service more difficult than when she arrived in Cameroon. “I changed a lot during those two years while most people back home stayed relatively the same,” says Wang. “I remember being overwhelmed by the availability of choices, for example, the variety of spaghetti sauces at the grocery store. I also became sensitive to food waste, it was uncomfortable going out with friends and seeing them leave leftovers.”
Wang is currently at a crossroads. She is taking a “gap year” to travel and find inspiration on how she can best contribute to society. The Peace Corps gave her access to a network of amazing people and when she travels she tries to connect with current volunteers.