The next RPCV, Ashley Schnitker

We have another guest blogger for you today. Ashley Schnitker is a master’s candidate in the Environmental Studies program. She is also part of the Peace Corps Master’s International program. Read on to learn more about Ashley and what brought her here to the College of Charleston.

After three years in the “real world” I have decided to head back to the impoverished world that is college. I graduated with a BS in Biology from Northern Kentucky University in May, 2009. With my “ticket to ride,” I helped to restore the banks of the not-so-mighty-as-I-thought Colorado River and trap gluttonous burros in Yuma, AZ, with the Bureau of Land Management. I worked for a summer in the bustling metropolis (population 141) of Mentor, MN with The Nature Conservancy, cutting down trees and setting prairies ablaze. With the impending brutality of the Minnesota winter, I fled to south Florida to help restore the Everglades. I spent 18 months killing Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius) and propagating and reestablishing sawgrass (Cladium jamaicensis) and muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) into restoration sites. It was a wonderful experience for about 7 months of the year, when I didn’t look like Pigpen with my very own personal swarm of mosquitoes. I began to realize that grad school was a necessary venture, if I was to further my career.

I decided this in the middle of February, with most application deadlines being March 1st. I had always wanted to join the Peace Corps, but with my hefty load of $40k in student loans, it just wasn’t feasible (hence my haste in going BACK to school). I found the Masters International program, which requires a 27-month Peace Corps service after completing the first year of graduate study. Since I’ll be enrolled as a student throughout my service, my student loans will be placed in deferment (with all that interest accruing…). I was sold! Since I was living comfortably in south Florida, I applied to Florida International University. On a long shot, I also found a smaller school (which I prefer) with higher admission standards, in Charleston, SC. With only two weeks to study for the GRE, I rented a two-year old study book from the library and bogged down. Sorta. I ended up spending my birthday taking the GRE, so I had extra reason to celebrate that evening. To my surprise, I did well enough to get accepted to the College of Charleston. My boss offered me a full-time salary (with a raise) and to pay my tuition, if I were to stay and do research in the ‘glades. However, my wanderlust was calling me overseas so I declined, submitting myself to 3 more years of poverty.

I got my Peace Corps application in and, within a few weeks, I had my interview scheduled. I read up on RPCVs (returned Peace Corps volunteers) experiences and browsed for potential interview questions. The interview went fairly well, although my interviewer was typing all of my answers, which makes it EXTREMELY difficult to concentrate. However, it went well enough because I was notified of my nomination for a position the next day! So with my new prospects, I finished up in SoFla and headed north to Charleston…

I am now in my second week of classes (I’m guessing because I’ve had my nose in a book since last Tuesday). I scored an assistantship with the director of the Masters of Environmental Studies Peace Corps Masters International Program (MES PCMI for VERY short) working to promote and provide outreach for the program. I’m anxious to learn more about the issues of the coastal ecosystems surrounding me (who WOULDN’T want to work on the beach?!) and to head overseas. I’m still waiting on the go-ahead for my medical clearance for the Corps, which puts me one step closer to finding out where I’ll be spending the next two years!

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