“The Peaceworker Program, to me, has been all about personal growth and further understanding different cultures. It’s a cultural experience in and of itself. It’s also a window into the social work programs that work in Baltimore and America at large. It’s a window that looks into how we’re trying to solve problems.”
Seated under the steps of ITE, graduate student Ryan Good reflects on his involvement in the Peaceworker Program, international service and everything in between.
Originally from Ohio, Good studied English at Wright State University before serving in Indonesia with the Peace Corps. “I wanted to make a difference,” Good said. “When I was seventeen I used to watch the speeches of JFK and Martin Luther King Junior with my dad. That’s how the idea of international service got into my head.”
While teaching English in a school setting was Good’s primary objective, he also wanted to improve the literacy of his host community, a task that proved to be as difficult as it sounds.
“My first year was a train wreck; nothing really went right,” Good said, chuckling at the challenges he once faced.
“You have limited language skills. You can’t really make connections with the community members just yet,” Good said. Community involvement is something that nearly all Peace Corps volunteers struggle with, because of both language and cultural barriers. “It’s in your second year when your language skills start to improve and that’s when your secondary objectives start to materialize.”
Outside the classrooms of Indonesia, Good worked closely with community members to improve local literacy. “I think that’s a critical element, having a community member who’s as committed as you are. Without that you’re pushing your Americanism on them. And that’s how they feel, like an outsider from America is here and pushing his agenda on me,” Good said.
After service, Good was unsure of what he wanted to do, struggling with the choice of government work and continuing his studies. With interviews for the Department of Education and Department of Labor Statistics lined up, Good decided that he would be happier pursuing higher education. UMBC was the obvious choice for Good because of the school’s spirit, the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages graduate program and the uniqueness of UMBC’s Peaceworker Program.
With his acceptance in UMBC’s Peaceworker Program, Good continues to work for and serve UMBC’s community and those surrounding campus. In addition to being the Campus Recruiter for Peace Corps, Good assists Joby Taylor and the Global Studies Department with their ventures in the Peace Corps Prep Program.
Off campus, Good works with Overcoming Poverty Together, a nonprofit organization that sends microloans to women living in Indodnesia to help them start their own businesses. “It may be off campus, but the nonprofit is still connected to UMBC. They have actually received grants from us to help them grow their loan pool.”
When asked to give advice to those considering international service, Good doesn’t sugar coat anything when he says, “Peace Corps service is hard work, there’s no denying that. It requires tough-minded people. It requires a sense of adventure as opposed to a tendency toward a life of ease. If you have that, then all you need to do is trust yourself.”