Christine Serwan ’13 is heading home this summer after serving two years in the Peace Corps in Malawi as an Education Volunteer.
Over the course of the program, Serwan, a biology major, held a variety of roles, including counselor, teacher, and program coordinator. As part of one of her final projects, Serwan co-led the planning, fundraising, and organization of a week-long program called “Camp Sky” that prepares students for success on an important national examination called the Malawi School Certificate Examination.
You can read more about the camp on the blog Serwan and her staff used to reflect on their experience.
In addition to the blog, Serwan remained in contact with her professors and community at home, despite having limited Internet access. In an email she sent after her last day at “Camp Sky,” she shared a particularly special moment from their final celebration with students:
“…[A] student that I have spoke of before, Mtawona, stood up in front of 80 peers and 20 Peace Corps Volunteers and, with the utmost confidence, told everyone she is a different person now than she was when she first met me. And she is. And it's amazing to see this. As they sang the words, ‘Although you are going far away, we will never forget you,’ tears came flowing out of my eyes because this is it...I'm done. All this hard work has paid off, and these students will never be the same.”
Serwan credits her time on campus— including her involvement with the Center for Public Service (CPS) and her work with professors— with helping her find this opportunity.
“My advisor, Dr. Kittelberger, was a strong supporter in my decision to apply for the Peace Corps, and it worked out that I got sent to serve in the same country in which he had served twenty years prior,” Serwan said.
“The support system and opportunities that Gettysburg provided me really allowed me to push myself to where I am today, and I am forever grateful for that. If it weren't for the support of professors and staff I would have never believed I had the potential to move across the ocean completely on my own and teach science to a class of 100 plus students for two years.”
Prof. Kittelberger said he’s impressed by the work that Serwan was able to accomplish and the personal growth she’s achieved between her start at Gettysburg and now.
“She’s tackled some incredibly difficult challenges in her time in Malawi. Both she and I have been struck by how similar the problems are that she’s encountered teaching in Malawi to what I encountered myself 20 years ago,” he said. “Christine has found a way to stay positive and to make a real difference in the lives of the young Malawians she’s worked with, especially through her work with Camp Sky. That kind of positive energy, hard work, and grassroots one-on-one effort is how problems get solved, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Christine applies these skills next."
Serwan is looking to continue similar work at a non-governmental organization or non-profit when she returns home, but she’s not letting go of what her time in Malawi has meant for her career and personal development.
“I can't even begin to explain everything I have gotten out of this experience and how much it has made me grow as an individual,” she said. “At the beginning I had no idea how I would possibly make it two years here and now I can't believe it's not longer. My time here will impact the way I live the rest of my life.”
Above, Serwan poses with the leaders and students of Camp Sky.