Coastal Georgia alum Idorico Sebastiao graduated from the College in 2018 with a Bachelors of Science in General Biology. He then enlisted in the Peace Corps and served as a Health Education Specialist in a rural village in the Republic of Moldova for two years. Idorico is back in the U.S. and shared his experience of serving in the Peace Corps.
Q: What motivated you to join the Peace Corps?
A: Honestly, I've always liked teaching and I knew I didn't want to immediately jump into grad school while I lacked a clear direction, and spend all that money and effort pursuing a degree, not knowing if it's what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Peace Corps afforded me the opportunity to teach, learn a new language, and experience the richness of cross-cultural exchange, all while living roughly 5500 miles from home.
Q: How did the Peace Corps prepare you for serving abroad?
A: Peace Corps has an online portal that is comparable to D2L that each invitee has access to. On that site, there's a lot of information regarding cultural differences and societal norms, along with modules centered on the History of Peace Corps and language resources, so people could get familiar with basic words and phrases before going to their country of service.
Q: What was your assignment in the Republic of Moldova?
A: In Moldova, I was a Health Education Facilitator, and I worked with two co-teachers to teach them how to create fun and engaging lessons centered on health topics ranging from physical activity and the food plate, to more exciting lessons like sleep! The job also entailed creating a short summer camp, and I focused mine on Ultimate because throwing discs was something I enjoyed doing stateside, and I wanted to share that with my community.
During my second year, my responsibilities changed, and I also co-taught two personal development classes and had a health club. Both of those tasks centered on promoting healthy lifestyles. I also liked personal development because I taught it to two ninth-grade classes, so I could do more discussion-based lessons that would require more abstract thinking or more complex activities that I wouldn't be able to do with my younger classes.
Q: What was the hardest thing to adjust to while living in a different country?
A: I don't know if there was something I'd put at the top of my list, but going from The States to Moldova, and back, I've had a lot of time to process everything. In no particular order, the homogeneity of the villages threw me. In a village in Moldova, everyone is Moldovan, most towns only have a church, and it's an Orthodox church. Most households have someone working abroad, and all of a sudden we mix that up with a then 22-year-old ex-pat from America—and it's sort of hard to integrate. Compound that with me learning Romanian and living in a border town, where the predominant language was Russian, followed by a pigeon language of Russian and Romanian, and I just stayed lost in a lot of conversations that happened outside of the school.
Village life in itself is also very different. There's a couple of general stores and a construction materials store, so that took some getting used to, because if I wanted a quick bite to eat, I couldn't duck over to a Taco Bell. I'd have to pack a snack or buy something to snack on. My house also didn't have an indoor toilet, so in the winter when it was 20 below at night, I would have to take care of things during the day or get bundled up to head to the outhouse.
Q: Did you stay with a host family?
A: Yes, some Peace Corps posts require you to stay with a host family while others don't. In Moldova's case, you're required to live with a host family during your first nine months at your placement. I lucked out with my host family in the sense that they previously had a Peace Corps Volunteer stay with them. And as an added bonus my host mom was a nurse, so she didn't use traditional medicine, and she stayed current with a lot of info surrounding modern medicine.
Q: What did you enjoy the most about serving in the Peace Corps?
A: Honestly, the people that I served with. At first, we were a group of 61 strangers, but after going through the highs and lows of service, everyone gelled together. Although I closed out my service in mid-March, due to COVID-19, there's still a couple of group chats and weekly phone calls that still happen. I've also been able to meet up with several volunteers in May and June, and that was nice and indescribable because I went from seeing these people a couple of weekends a month to seeing them for the first time in several months—and we picked up where we left off.
Q: What did you learn about yourself?
A: I'm not trying to downplay this question, but it wouldn't be an interview about me if I didn't mention my bicycle. I didn't realize that going for bike rides was how I decompressed until I was in Moldova, not biking around every day. That forced me to try to figure out other ways to decompress, like listening to smooth jazz while drinking tea. Now that I'm stateside, everything is easy and mellow—as life should be.
Q: How have your experiences at the College of Coastal Georgia helped you while serving in the Peace Corps?
A: While at Coastal, I had a bad habit of overextending myself and signing up for way more than what I thought I could do, but it forced me to dig deep, and I became really resilient. At Coastal I was working multiple jobs while being a fulltime student, and running around campus participating in a variety of activities. Going from all of that to the Peace Corps, it almost seemed like I was going on vacation. Also, while being employed as a Biological Lab Assistant, and as a Resident Assistant, it forced me to work with different people, with different backgrounds, and that really helped me thrive in Moldova.
Q: What's next for you? Are you preparing to go back?
A: This is the million-dollar question. After coming back I got my Teaching English as a Foreign Language and my Teaching English to Young Learners certificates, and I'm getting ready to go back to service. During my service, I applied for a position as an English Language Facilitator in Tonga, a small island nation in the Pacific. My reason for doing that was to see a different part of the world and work in a different sector. My tentative leave date for that is mid-2021, but due to COVID-19 that date may shift.
Q: Any advice to current students about life after college?
A: I have three nuggets of wisdom. First is to remember that life after college is nonlinear. You don't have to go from college to grad school or a first job, and then be a cog for the rest of your life. Don't be afraid to work a one or two-year contract in a field that you might be interested in, but are unsure that you want to be there the rest of your life. Worst case scenario, you leave there with some work experience and a good reference. Although, I'm hoping that you leave there with some sort of direction.
The second thing is that when school and classes are over, and you've graduated, find ways to decompress and explore new hobbies and interests. You aren't spending as much time doing homework, so you might as well invest that time in something that interests you.
My last piece of advice is also going to be a plug. There are thousands of college graduates graduating every semester and a lot of them have very similar qualifications, but Brian Weese and his team at Career Services (now COMPASS) can help you market yourself and teach you the do's and don't of resume writing!
*In the photo above, Idorico is ringing the bell at his Close of Service Bell-Ringing Ceremony. It signifies that he completed his service and is now a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer.