FAIRFIELD — Fairfield University sophomore Chloe Riven has always known she was meant to volunteer.

Her life itself is a testament to that. Originally from South Korea, Riven was adopted when she was three months old, moving to Maryland and then Vermont. Growing up, her family instilled in her a desire to volunteer and help others in the community.

“I showed interest in volunteering starting in my younger years,” the 19-year-old sophomore said. “I had always heard of amazing stories about the Peace Corps and everything related to it, so I started asking more questions about the experience. It sounded amazing because I love tying travel and helping others together.”

Now, Riven will get a chance to try out the Peace Corps before she even graduates.

The recently started Peace Corp Prep program at Fairfield U. helps guide prospective volunteers through four key components: experience in a work sector, foreign language skills, intercultural competence and professional and leadership development.

“Our goal was to sign up four students by the end of the year and now we’re at 13,” said Anita Deeg-Carling, the associate director of the international studies program and head of the new program. “Our first student graduates this December and we’ve already certified somebody.”

More Information

To learn more about the Peace Corps, visit: https://www.peacecorps.gov/

To learn more about the Peace Corps Pep Program at Fairfield University, visit: https://www.fairfield.edu/undergraduate/academics/resources/scholarships-and-fellowships-offices/peace-corps-prep-program/

If students fulfill the requirements that include a specific number of courses in the four core subjects and 50 hours of hands-on experience, according to the program student application, they will be certified by the prep program.

Deeg-Carling is a former Peace Corps volunteer herself. Her experiences took her to Madagascar from 1997 to 2001 as an environmental volunteer, something, she admits, that has become her raison d’etre.

“It was very interesting that the common thread was that we got to our country thinking that we were going to save the world and we got there realizing that we’re gaining everything,” Deeg-Carling said about her Peace Corp days. “Now we’re reorienting the way we think; we have to sit back and think about our motivations for doing this.”

Eunsun Hong, a senior who also goes by “Sunny,” has volunteered in Gambia for the past two summer and is convinced her future is going to take her back to the west African country.

“Since I was in middle school I’ve had friends from Congo and Nigeria, which is when I was first exposed to different cultures and I wanted to know more about it,” Hong said.

Hong is currently applying to the Peace Corps and hopes to find out about her acceptance in June.

“The Peace Corps Prep program is for anyone who wants to work abroad or research even locally. The program makes you take courses you wouldn’t think about,” Hong said. “If you don’t end up having certification, taking these courses can also be very helpful.”

Cassie Harlow, a junior at the university, is looking to apply to the Peace Corps after she graduates and the new Fairfield U. program is helping her prepare for the upcoming process.

“The new Peace Corps Prep program at Fairfield makes me feel more confident going into the application process next year and ensure that I have the background that would make me an ideal candidate for the position,” she said.

As the program goes through its first stages, Deeg-Carling hopes students can find a group where they can discuss future plans and ideas about their volunteer experiences.

“We really want to create a community because we all have similar interests,” Deeg-Carling said. “Diversity is also very, very important. We want to have a community that is very supportive of each other.”

humberto.juarez@hearstmediact.com