Before Bethany Farrell was old enough to have a driver’s license or board a plane alone, she dreamed of discovering new cultures, helping others and traveling beyond her Williamsburg, Va., home.
“When I ended up at [University of] Mary Washington, I was pleasantly surprised that a lot of people at Mary Washington choose the same path,” Farrell, a 2011 UMW graduate, said.
Community service and a strong sense of civic responsibility are integral to the fabric of UMW. In fact, UMW ranks among the nation’s top small universities for alumni serving in the Peace Coprs. Farrell, one of 21 alumni currently serving in the Peace Corps, is in the midst of a 22-month stint in Morocco as a youth development volunteer.
While at Mary Washington, Farrell felt her dream grow and develop, both through her work as a theatre and political science double major and through experiences overseas.
As a junior, she left the U.S. for the first time as part of the European Capitals summer study abroad trip.
“I have always felt that among the many benefits of the European Capitals trip, one of the most important was how it expanded the horizons of students about diverse cultures, customs and political systems and policies,” said Jack Kramer, distinguished professor and chair of political science and international affairs and leader of the trip. “In today’s increasingly interconnected world, sensitivity to such diversity is absolutely essential and constitutes one of the bedrocks of liberal learning that UMW provides its students.”
Farrell also traveled to Honduras with a group from Students Helping Honduras and the Campus Christian Community, an experience that solidified her decision to pursue the Peace Corps.
During her senior year, between appearing in theatre productions, earning departmental honors and participating in both theatre and political science honor societies, Farrell progressed through the multi-part Peace Corps application process. She arrived in Morocco for her placement just four months after graduation.
Now, Farrell spends each morning at a youth center in the small city of Bejaad, Morocco and teaches English classes in the evenings. She also has opportunities to get to know the residents of the city and travel through different parts of the country, even attending a traditional Moroccan wedding ceremony.
She credits the Mary Washington environment of respect, tolerance and diversity with her ability to relate to and learn from the people in her city.
“I met a lot of people who were different than me at Mary Washington,” she said. “It helped prepare me for life here.”
When her Peace Corps commitment ends in November 2013, Farrell will consider several options for her future, including a return to theatre life, a transition to the education field or another period of service like Teach for America.
“I think students at Mary Washington love learning and love that feeling of community and are very tolerant and respectful,” she said. “That’s something that is important for a Peace Corps volunteer.”
The Peace Corps will hold an information session at UMW on Tuesday, Feb. 12 for current students. The session will begin at 5 p.m. in Lee Hall, Room 411.