DeGroot, '16, Chosen for Peace Corps in Africa

August 22, 2016 | By Jake Weber

 Audrey DeGroot graduated magna cum laude from Albion in May 2016. She is the daughter of Mark DeGroot of Mason and Susan DeGroot of Leslie and a graduate of Dansville High School.
Audrey DeGroot graduated magna cum laude from Albion in May 2016. The Michigan native is the daughter of Mark DeGroot of Mason and Susan DeGroot of Leslie and a graduate of Dansville High School.

"It came as a real shock. I really had been expecting not to get it," said Audrey DeGroot, '16, of her invitation to join the Peace Corps in the West African country of Guinea. "I remember just staring at the email on my computer screen waiting to comprehend that this was really happening!"

This month, DeGroot begins her two-year stint as a Peace Corps volunteer, Albion's first since Christin Spoolstra, '11. "I don't want a 9-to-5 job and an apartment, I want an adventure," she says, listing some of the "million and one" reasons she decided to apply for the position.

"I think Peace Corps's goal of cultural sharing and education really appealed to me," she says. "I feel like I'll have a chance to not only see other cultures but experience them and, hopefully, contribute to them."

DeGroot will spend three months in intensive language study and pedagogy courses, preparing to teach English and work with Let Girls Learn, a U.S.-funded program sponsored by First Lady Michelle Obama. Home will likely be a mud-walled hut without electricity or running water.

"My reaction to this assignment was definitely disbelief," says DeGroot, who is very excited for the challenge. "I thought, 'Where is Guinea? What is Guinea? Is there political turmoil? Ebola?'" she recalls.

"My list of questions was definitely long," she adds. "But looking back I realize that I never even considered not accepting the position and I think that is very telling."

An English and art major at Albion, DeGroot completed the Prentiss M. Brown Honors Program and received two Foundation for Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity (FURSCA) research grants. She spent her junior year abroad, studying at Oxford University in England and Studio Art Centers International in Florence, Italy.

"I feel very qualified to write grants, and help set up teaching programs and projects. I think Albion educated me in the practical side of giving back," DeGroot says. "But studying abroad prepared me more than anything else could have.

"I already know what homesickness feels like. I feel prepared to live without a dryer and not speaking the local language," DeGroot continues. "I can handle two years in a mud hut in rural Guinea because, heck, I already navigated the London Underground and hitchhiked two hours back to Florence after miscalculating bus schedules."

Recalling a prior farewell, she adds, "When I hugged my dad in the airport before leaving for England, he told me to give it my all because this was going to be the greatest adventure of my life. And I looked at him and said, 'It better not be!' I think it's safe to say my wish has come true!"

DeGroot has started her Peace Corps blog at www.guineaaminute.wordpress.com.

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