After graduating from TU in 2015, Nicholas (Nick) Klawitter of Johnstown, Ohio knew that he ultimately wanted to pursue a graduate degree in international development, a field similar to that of his chosen undergraduate major – government and national security policy. However, like many fresh out of school, he also felt a break in-between was needed and well-deserved. As he didn’t want to spend this time twiddling his thumbs, so to speak, he vowed to do something that was not only a nice reprieve from academic life, but meaningful and personally fulfilling – volunteering overseas with the Peace Corps.
“I wanted to gain valuable work experience while also engaging in something worthwhile,” Nick explained. “The Peace Corps fit this mold perfectly. Immediately, I was impressed by their focus on achieving long-term goals through continued, hands-on service and tried to mimic this in all I did. I lived and worked in a village in Zambia for two years when I first started and really got to know the locals. Over time, I noticed trends that would have been lost on me had I not lived there for so long. I was able to evaluate the effectiveness of my work and adjust my approach in real-time to better meet the needs of farmers with whom I worked. By the end of it all, I could speak Lunda fairly well and knew the community like I knew my own Ohio hometown.”
Prior to the agency’s swift evacuation in March of 2020 in light of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Nick worked as an aquaculture extension specialist, focused on helping to promote and sustain small-scale fish farming in rural Northwestern Zambia. While his primary responsibility was working as a point of connection between the Zambian Department of Fisheries and local Zambian farmers, he also managed a demonstration pond as an educational tool.
“Much of my volunteering consisted of furthering the goals of the Rural Aquaculture Promotion Project, or RAP,” Nick offered. “RAP partnered with the Zambian Department of Fisheries with the purpose of increasing food security, nutritional diversity and income generation for residents. I worked mostly with small-scale farmers who wanted to establish personal ponds, but also collaborated with farmer co-ops wanting to get aquaculture projects off the ground. In addition to this, I worked closely with a local school on various youth programming endeavors such as HIV education and prevention, as well as environmental conservation.”
Though Nick greatly enjoyed this work, the pandemic had other plans regarding his future in Zambia.
“We evacuated that March when everything shut down. In about three days’ time, I went from living in my village overseas to being back in Ohio. It was all so unexpected,” he remembered. “At the time, I was a month away from finishing my service and even planned to stay for a third year. At the time, I assumed I would only be gone for a couple months. Little did I know of the impact COVID would have on not only the Peace Corps Services, but on the whole world’s operations. For two years, I felt I had unfinished business abroad that I was robbed of a sense of closure. It really stuck with me.”
Thankfully, as public health and safety restrictions have eased in recent months following the global distribution of vaccines, the Peace Corps has been able to resume working overseas safely and Nick was among the very first selected to return, a significant honor and testament to the quality of his prior service.
“When they reached out to me last fall, I jumped at the chance to finish what I started and return to the community I grew to love,” Nick explained. “I wanted to put the whole pandemic behind me and since returning, I’ve started a new role as a Peace Corps Volunteer Leader. Essentially, I oversee and support our newer volunteers in the field and aid in developing new sites for them to visit.”
According to Nick, the education he received and experiences had at TU were central in preparing him for his cross-cultural adventures.
“I’m so grateful for the experiences I had while at TU,” he said. “The support from my fellow classmates and professors was key when I started Peace Corps the application process. I also gained some theoretical knowledge of international affairs through the Global Affairs Organization school club that I still make use of today. I don’t regret the time I spent at Tiffin for a second.”
Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961, more than 240,000 Americans have served in 142 countries worldwide. For more information about the organization and its goals, visit peacecorps.gov.