Laura Bramblett ’12 returns to Centre to share her experiences from the Peace Corps
The mission of Centre College is to prepare students for meaningful lives of learning, leadership and service, and alumni consistently uphold this mission in a variety of inspiring and impressive ways. Laura Bramblett ’12 (pictured above, back row, fifth from left) has dedicated the past 28 months of her life to serving others as an Education Peace Corps Volunteer in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. She will return to Centre on Oct. 22 to share her experiences from the Peace Corps and to give a presentation on Zulu culture.
Bramblett taught English and HIV awareness to primary school children in the surrounding area and made a lifetime’s worth of amazing memories while there. Bramblett admits that her initial interest in joining the Peace Corps was slightly unconventional, however.
“My history teacher in seventh grade was really cute and had done Peace Corps, so naturally I thought he was the coolest human alive, and, if I did Peace Corps, maybe, just maybe, he’d think I was, too,” says Bramblett. “Luckily, during the time between seventh grade and graduating from Centre, I discovered and embraced sturdy personal reasons for joining: the desire to learn and live in a new culture while positively portraying my own; a yearning to lend a hand to the world and help in whatever capacity it asks; and — let’s face it — adventure.”
Bramblett certainly signed on for adventure. During her nearly two and a half years as a Peace Corps Volunteer, she lived with a Zulu host family in a hut without electricity or running water, cooking over a gas stove and using candles at night. Each day she walked three miles to and from the school where she taught. Of all the experiences she had while volunteering, Bramblett says her most gratifying moments were those in which she witnessed her students’ growth.
“Watching my learners finally understand something and seeing the education almost physically ‘click’ into place was incredible,” she says. “Screaming ‘Correct!’ and dancing around with them in celebration was pretty fun, too.”
Bramblett credits Centre for preparing her for the Peace Corps in a number of important ways. She spent two semesters studying abroad in Merida, Mexico, and Seville, Spain, which she says gave her the opportunity to gain “experience living in far-flung places with different cultures, people, diet, customs and dress.”
Other aspects of her Centre Experience were equally as influential.
“While at Centre, I became comfortable in seeking out professors’ knowledge and advice, having my own identity within a small classroom size and, as an Atlanta native, delving into the Kentucky culture—these are all skills that I employed during my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer in South Africa.”
In addition, Bramblett was part of Centre’s Bonner Program, a national leadership program that focuses on community service and civic engagement. She credits Bonner for cultivating her service-oriented nature and giving her “knowledge and practice in balancing realism and compassion in regards to lending a hand in service.”
After nearly two and a half years away, Bramblett says she is thrilled to return to her alma mater that has meant so much to her.
“I can’t wait to walk the grounds again (some of which have changed, I’ve heard), reconnect with professors and friends, and simply view the place that was pivotal in my life for four years through new eyes.”
She is also looking forward to speaking with the Centre community about her time in South Africa and hopes to facilitate an open conversation with the audience. Her talk is hosted by Centre’s linguistics program with support from the Dean’s Office and a Mellon Grant, and will take place Wednesday, Oct. 22, at 4:30 p.m. in Vahlkamp Theater located in the Grace Doherty Library. She will speak about linguistic observations she made while learning Zulu, the native language of her students and their families, as well as various projects she was involved with in the school and community. Bramblett will also show pictures from her trip and answer any questions audience members might have.
Associate Professor of Spanish Phyllis Bellver organized the event and believes Bramblett has made Centre very proud.
“It has been great to see how Laura has been able to transfer her knowledge of basic linguistics principles of phonological variation, or sound change, to her efforts to understand the dialect of Zulu that she has encountered at her Peace Corp site,” says Bellver. “Anyone interested in non-traditional languages, in the diverse cultures of South Africa or the work of the Peace Corp there, will be very welcome to her talk.”
Bramblett’s advice for anyone interested in joining the Peace Corps is simple: “Do it. If I can, you can. You’ll love it.”
Bramblett certainly loved it, so much so that she has extended her Peace Corps service another year and will return to the same area of South Africa next month. She will work with an educational non-governmental organization through October 2015. After that, Bramblett will go in search of more adventure.
“I plan to hike Mt. Kilimanjaro with a friend before working our way through Europe and finally coming home,” says Bramblett. “I then plan to continue pursuing a life that fuses my love of both sustainability and art by working in some capacity of green architecture.”
To read about Bramblett’s adventures and service in South Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer, view her blog: laur(a)frica.
by Caitlan Cole