February 28, 2019
NEWBURGH, N.Y. -
Megan Rossi ’13, Study Abroad Coordinator at Mount Saint Mary College, presented “My Journey in the Warm Heart of Africa” on February 26.
Megan Rossi ’13, Study Abroad Coordinator at Mount Saint Mary College, discussed her three-year volunteer mission to Malawi in “My Journey in the Warm Heart of Africa” on February 26.
The presentation was part of the “Travel To” series, which is sponsored by the college’s Career Center and coordinated by Rossi. The series gives Mount staff and faculty the opportunity to present their travel experiences and share the world with the Mount community.
Graduating in 2013 marked the end of Rossi’s time as a Mount student, and the beginning of her time as a student of world culture in the Peace Corps. Taking only what she could fit in three travel bags, Rossi headed to Malawi, Africa in March of 2013, where she would stay for the next three years.
Malawi, located near Zambia and Zimbabwe, is about the same size as Pennsylvania, but is home to nearly 20 million people. It’s almost 8,000 miles away from New York State.
After a short training period where she learned the local language, culture, and other basics, she was introduced to her Homestay Family. One of Rossi’s most cherished memories was meeting them for the first time.
“We were driving down a dirt road and we had the windows down because it was really hot on the bus,” she explained. “All of a sudden, we just hear singing and drums. It was our Homestay Mothers, dancing and singing, welcoming us off the bus…I still get goosebumps when I think about that.”
Things were a little different than what she had grown up with, Rossi said. Like many other houses in the area, Rossi’s home was equipped with a pit latrine outside, and a bathing room which required bringing in a bucket of water.
“I learned very quickly to bathe with very little water,” she said.
The wildlife was sometimes a far cry from what one might encounter in America. Rossi befriended an ostrich named Evelyn at the reserve a few miles away from her home, avoided poisonous centipedes, and had a close call with a camel spider in her bed.
Rossi’s job was to educate the people of Malawi about public health topics, such as making sure children were receiving proper nutrition. She spoke at the local hospital, the high school, and other venues.
“I would do nutrition talks and educate mothers who came to the hospitals in the morning to get vaccinations for their babies,” she explained. “In Peace Corps training, we learned various ways that they can improve the nutrition of the food that they eat.”
Rossi also discussed the prevention of AIDS and malaria, as both are somewhat common in the country. During her time with the Peace Corps, Rossi helped to distributed more than 9 million bed nets to the people of Malawi, to prevent mosquitos from transmitting malaria.
According to Rossi, only about a quarter of girls in Malawi make it to high school. As such, Rossi discussed making positive life choices with groups of middle and high school aged girls, and highlighted possible career paths that the teens may not have known were possible, from doctors and nurses to soldiers and religious occupations.
Helping out in the community that had so quickly accepted her was very rewarding, Rossi noted: “It was a wonderful experience,” she said. “I’m so happy I did this.”
Rossi had wanted to join the Peace Corps since she was a child. The experience combined her love of travel with her desire to improve people’s lives, she said.
Before joining Peace Corps, Rossi was already a world wanderer, having spent time in Lebanon, China, Thailand, Cambodia and beyond. The travel bug first bit her when she was in high school, a result of accompanying her grandmother to Bosnia.
Once an intern for the Mount’s Study Abroad program, it’s fitting that Rossi returned to the college to become Study Abroad Coordinator, she said.
Rossi isn’t the only Mount Saint Mary College grad to join the Peace Corps: History major Lauren Truss ‘14 was stationed in Palau in the Federated States of Micronesia for 27 months, teaching English as a second language to sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. In addition, Christina Mistretta of Brooklyn, N.Y., currently a senior, has accepted a Peace Corps position as a secondary education science teacher in Tanzania, Africa and will begin her journey this July.