“I’ve been preparing for this my whole life”: Alumna Rebekah Jungen ‘22 serves in U.S. Peace Corps

As a passionate student of the world, Rebekah Jungen ’22 (English) knew she was meant to use her college degree to spread her love of world cultures to the next generation.  

“Higher education was a dream of mine I knew I had to fulfill,” she said. “Being a college student taught me that you can achieve anything as long as you put your mind to it, and I now feel the same about my post-graduation goals.” 

Jungen spent her youth almost entirely in South America, raised by missionary parents who fostered her appreciation for world cultures. But she had her sights set on a college education and moved to the U.S. a few years ago to attend Dutchess Community College and then SUNY New Paltz.  

While her childhood abroad motivated her to join the U.S. Peace Corps, her education from SUNY New Paltz prepared her for her inspiring next step. Starting this fall, she will serve as an English teacher at a primary school in the South African province of Mpumalanga.

“What drew me to apply for the Peace Corps was the long-term work of developing relationships with different communities,” she said. “When you’re devoting your life to serving people in another country, it allows you to form meaningful relationships with the locals.” 

Members of the Peace Corps Volunteers, a federal agency that trains and deploys skilled people of all ages to provide economic, social, and educational support to developing nations, serve two-year terms following three months of training. While in service, projects are centered around the community’s self-identified need, and the volunteer’s skill set and previous work experience, and Volunteers often stay with a host family during the course of their service.  

“I’ve been preparing for this my whole life,” she said. “I knew I was going to spend the next chapter of my life following graduation traveling and making a contribution to society.” 

Jungen credits her faculty mentors at New Paltz, Associate Professors of English Jackie George and Heinz Insu Fenkl, for affirming her ambition of going into public service abroad. 

“They saw my passion and dedication in classes, and their validation of my hard work helped give me the confidence in both my life decisions and academic decisions,” she said. 

Following her two-year commitment, Jungen hopes to apply her experience in South Africa towards a future teaching career, either in the areas of English as a New Language or elementary education. 

“Teaching is one of my passions,” she said. “I think this experience with steer me on the path to becoming an educator and raising children’s awareness of different world cultures.”  

For fellow alumni looking to follow in her footsteps, Jungen has three simple words of advice: “Go for it!” 

“If you’re passionate about helping people and seeing the world while gaining experience, there is nothing that should stop you,” she added.  

Interested in teaching English as a New Language? Click here to learn more about New Paltz’s Master of Science in Second Language Education.