When Ben Bowman begins searching for jobs next year, after earning his master’s degree from Kentucky State University, he knows that there is one experience on his résumé that will make him stand out in the applicant pool: his Peace Corps service.
Bowman, who is currently studying aquaculture at KSU, served as rural aquaculture promotion Peace Corps volunteer in Zambia from 2012-14. Bowman taught his community the benefits of managing fish ponds, vs. fishing from lakes and rivers, and the hands-on experience set the foundation for his higher education and career. In addition to working with the fish ponds, Bowman collected and planted 5,000 seeds for trees that support income generation, food and reforestation.
“Gaining practical, real-world experience is highly sought after in jobs and schools,” Bowman said. “Working internationally in developing countries can definitely give your résumé an edge your competition might not have. Apart from being a résumé builder, the experience you gain while working professionally and in situations you might not be comfortable in will also help develop your skills in your area of work.”
As an undergraduate student at the University of Louisville, Bowman worked alongside professors and graduate students in a biology lab before graduating in 2011 with a double major in psychology and biology. Looking back years later, he says the experience not only taught him about science, but also put him on a path toward making a difference as a Peace Corps volunteer.
“Now when I face challenges, Peace Corps has allowed me to develop my own ways of going about finding a solution,” he said.
While the work in Zambia shaped Bowman’s professional path, it is not what he misses most about his time spent in the southern African nation.
“What I miss the most is the friends I made and the times I spent with them. I’d go to a friend’s farm once a week or so and walk around his property, talking about his trees, pigs, and chickens. We’d sit in the shade for hours laughing and telling stories.”
At KSU Bowman is investigating the economics of a small-scale hatchery and nursery, as well as sustainable feed ingredients for Australian red claws crayfish. When he graduates in August 2016 he hopes to continue working in research and sustainability.
“I’ve always wanted to travel and see not just tourist hot spots, but real parts of the world,” Bowman said. “Peace Corps allowed me to learn a new language and live in an African village without electricity, running water, or plumbing. I was forced to be non-materialistic, and focus on what really matters, like relationships with friends, work I’m passionate about, and life that is hard but simple.”
Courtesy of the Midwest Peace Corps Volunteers