Erich Lange, of Greenfield Center, N.Y., will graduate from Cazenovia College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Studies on May 18. In September, he will leave for Cameroon to serve as a youth development coordinator with the Peace Corps.
Initial details are sparse. Lange says, "You have to really be willing to go anywhere, and do anything that your education and personality have prepared you for. Essentially, my job will be to enhance the possibility that the youth of Cameroon will develop into healthy, responsible and educated community members. There seems to be a great deal of latitude in how I accomplish that goal. It will probably depend on what has been already been accomplished before I arrive."
"I’ve been aware of the Peace Corps for a long time,” he continues. "When I was starting to think about life after college, research showed me that it will be a great first step for my career. After my two-year assignment is over, I think I will earn a Master’s degree, and perhaps eventually work for a foreign embassy."
Lange speaks French fairly well, which he believes played a part in his assignment. He will have a period of orientation when he arrives in Cameroon. “I’ll spend the first two months living with a local family, getting accustomed to the culture, language and customs; and training with the local Peace Corps volunteers. After that, my housing will be provided and I’ll receive money for expenses, and a mountain bike and helmet for transportation. I don’t know yet exactly where I’ll be working, or even what my specific duties will be. But it will be a great experience, and a chance to expand my resume.”
The International Studies Program was initially attractive to Lange because he loves to travel. “I’ve traveled extensively in the United States, and I spent a semester studying in England, with opportunities to travel in the United Kingdom and Europe. I liked the idea of being able to make a career experiencing different cultures and traveling outside the United States.”
Lange completed an online internship, assisting the development of a youth sports program in San Miguel, Mexico. “I learned about developing youth development programming, but the online aspect wasn’t very satisfying,” he says. He looks forward to getting hands-on experience working directly with people in the small West African nation. He will eventually have an opportunity to visit neighboring countries, but looks forward to getting to know Cameroon first.
Dr. Julia Sloan, associate professor, is director of the International Studies Program, says, “The Peace Corps experience has been very rewarding for previous graduates, and I’m thrilled that Erich is going to have this opportunity because I know how hard he worked to get it. Given his internship working with youth athletics in Mexico, his language skills, and his Senior Capstone Project on ecotourism as a tool for sustainable development, heading off to Cameroon with the Peace Corps seems the logical culmination of a path he started down several semesters ago.”
As he gets closer to his departure date, Lange is understandably nervous about the new chapter in his life. He says, “Now that I’m getting ready to graduate, it’s starting to hit me – everything I have to do to get ready to go, and the unknown aspects of the work I’ll be doing and the people I’ll be working with.”
He is, however, confident about his ability to develop meaningful relationships with the locals, and to be part of the programs he will create in Cameroon. “I think my first year there will be devoted to creating relationships with local people and becoming part of the community where I work. I need to become part of the culture, to prove to the people that I’m there to help and to make friends.”
He notes that the Peace Corps recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of working in Cameroon. “The Peace Corps operates in just about every country that has a stable government,” Lange says. “Safety is a top priority, and they are very concerned about the welfare of their volunteers. My parents are even contemplating a visit once I get settled there.”