Aquinas Graduate Serves Botswana as Peace Corps Volunteer
For Aquinas students, studying abroad is the perfect opportunity to step outside the boundaries of a conventional education, gaining hands-on experience in new cultures and ways of life. After returning, many students are never the same. Coupled with the passion for service, a hallmark of an Aquinas education, graduates may find themselves traveling the world to the aid of the global community. Just ask Adam Hii, a 2011 graduate currently living and working in Botswana. Hii is serving as a member of the Peace Corps, an American organization which provides humanitarian aid and other services to various countries around the world.
“After studying abroad and doing various service events… I knew that I wanted to try and make some kind of difference in the world so I figured that Peace Corps would be a great fit and they could utilize my skills,” Hii said. He credits the Aquinas focus on service with his current work. “My AQ experience really livened my passion for service, hence why I am here,” said Hii.
Hailing from Gardner, Illinois, Hii initially chose Aquinas College as his first stop on the way to a law degree. “I came to Aquinas because it was far enough from my house for some independence yet close enough that I could go visit.” When he graduated, Hii was a triple major in political science, international studies, and Spanish. “Though I changed my plan I fell in love with the people and professors here, which is why I stayed,” Hii said of his shift in educational focus.
Of this love for Aquinas, Hii said many of his favorite moments took place in class. “My favorite memories from AQ are all of the times I spent in class with [Roger Durham, Ph.D.] and [Molly Patterson, Ph.D.],” he said. “They are great professors and really helped me find my way.” Speaking fondly of his social experiences as well, Hii mentions The Moose and the Student Leadership Office, where he spent much of his time. “Really the great part of AQ is just being able to meet nearly everyone and have easy flowing conversations on hard topics with all of them,” Hii said. “So I don't know if it was so much the experiences as the people that made AQ for me.”
For Hii, this social element proved not only to be a source of fond memories, but a valuable tool in relating to the culture of which he is now a part. “So much in this culture is based on personal communication that it has helped immensely being comfortable enough to engage strangers in conversation. The international studies major helped too.”
Hii’s current work is with the Khoisan community, largely in a primary school “aiding teachers in implementing the government of Botswana's life skills program to all subjects to teach critical thinking and positive behavior patterns, particularly in regards to HIV/AIDS.” While this consumes much of his time, Hii also described his other endeavors: “Besides this primary project I am also working on secondary projects in the whole community in regards to sustainable gardening and animal husbandry to help the community become more self-sufficient.”
Painting a picture of a day in his shoes, Hii said, “An average day would be spending my morning at the school. Then I go and spend my afternoon meeting with various stakeholders (village chief, village development committee and such) to get new projects off the ground. Yet not all days are full of activity. If everyone is busy I sometimes just spend days relaxing at home and prepping for future days, so it varies.”
Hii has learned a lot in the short time he has served the Khoisan community. “The two biggest things I have learned are more patience, since everything in Botswana moves a bit slower than American culture,” said Hii. “Also I have learned a lot about myself and my personal preferences and limits since when you are the only person in the village that speaks English as a native language you spend lots of time inside your own head reflecting. So I have learned the benefit of thought and silence.”
In the future, Hii projects graduate studies in International Relations, but admits that his plans might change. “Peace Corps has a way of bringing your priorities into focus so I might be a new person in a few years, in fact I almost guarantee it,” he said.
Hii has this advice for current Aquinas students: “Keep your mind open to new ideas. I didn't decide fully on this path till the beginning of my senior year. Also if you can, over-extend yourself. I know it sounds like a disaster, but part of what made me able to handle this was pushing myself beyond my previous limits in college and I now have a better idea of just how much I can handle. So as long as you don't hurt yourself, at least push your limits so you can be open to more.”