What is your name and where are you now?
My name is Rita Hill and I served as a RYY Vista from St. John Fisher in 2013-2014. I am currently a Peace Corps volunteer serving in Guinea, West Africa as a Public Health Educator. I am also a student at University of Denver pursuing a MA in International Development alongside my Peace Corps service through the Peace Corps Master’s International program.
How has RYY played into your career goals? Was your current work always in your career plans?
Serving with RYY gave me the opportunity to give back to the community I grew up in, while at the same time, giving me the time and space to think about what I wanted to do next in my career. My service gave me the chance to gain professional experience, understand the kind of work environment I like and really think about the specific field and type of work that was important to me at the beginning of my career in public service.
I had actually considered Peace Corps during my last semester of college but said “no way!”At that point in life, I was not ready to live abroad for 27 months. It was through communication with returned Peace Corps volunteers I met throughout my Vista service that got me to consider Peace Corps more seriously and inspired me to apply for the Master’s International program at University of Denver (and eventually, the Peace Corps!)
What do you love/miss about the City of Rochester?
Well, one thing I do not miss about Rochester is snow. I have definitely enjoyed sunny days and snow-less breezes over here in middle Guinea.
However, what I miss most about Rochester is the sense of hometown comfort I get there that I am unable to get anywhere else. Since it is the place I’ve spent most of my life, there will always be a sense of home, belonging and comfort in Rochester that is unmatched in the other places I’ve lived thus far. I miss the ease of being able to connect with those I love since most of my family still lives there. In all, I will never again take for granted being able to make a phone call to a family member without the signal dropping or having a nice home cooked meal, aka, a garbage plate.
What attracted you to that position or program? What is the most rewarding part?
I love that the Peace Corps Master’s International program allows me study and apply what I’ve learned in real time. I feel it is the perfect combination of learning on all fronts, in both academia and on the ground.
Being immersed in a completely new lifestyle and culture has been both scary and beautiful. From language, to food, to transportation, to how I bathe, almost everything about my life is different. It can be overwhelming sometimes, like having a taxi breakdown multiple times and being forced to travel at night on terrible roads, in the rain, in a country with no speed limit, all while sitting between a snoring man and crying baby. However, I have also experienced laughs with amazing people, swam in waterfalls, watched the best sunsets I’ve ever seen, and even helped new life come into this world.
I’ve come to learn and appreciate that working in development requires a sense of selflessness and reflexivity; that serving others is not as easy as saying “I’m willing to help”, but truly understanding your capacity to give, collaborate, and learn from others. Service requires digging deep to understand one’s intentions and motivations. It requires an honest examination of one’s privileges and biases, and how it effects the work you do.
Discovering and embarking on this learning process has been one of the most rewarding aspects of service as a PCV. Ultimately, it’s the relationships I’ve made in Guinea and the ones I have in America that keep me grounded, motivated and growing.
What’s one fact that some people don’t know about you?
One fact many people don’t know about me is that I’m really into poetry, both reading and creating my own. It’s something that’s been an outlet for me throughout my life.
If you could be an animal what would you be?
I would totally be Wolverine. He is an animal right?
Claws and cool hair. What more could I ask for?
Thank you so much for your time Rita!
Rita Hill served in the Rochester Youth Year/AmeriCorps VISTA cohort in 2013-2014 at the Monroe County Youth Bureau.