Morocco and Turkey: Kendra Burpee ’15

Photo of Kendra Burpee
Kendra when she swore in as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Republic of Georgia (July 2017).

Programs: UMN Arabic Language & Culture, Fall and Bogazici University Exchange, Summer and Fall

Class of 2015: Languages & Cultures of Asia, with certificates in Gender & Women’s Studies, Global Cultures, and Middle East Studies

What have you been doing since completing your study abroad program(s)?
After completing my study abroad programs in Istanbul, Turkey and Fez, Morocco, I graduated with a degree in Languages and Cultures of Asia. I then moved back to Turkey on a Fulbright Scholarship to teach English speaking classes to staff and freshman students at a large university near the Aegean Sea coast. It was an incredible opportunity to live in Turkey yet again and to continue to improve my Turkish.

After that, I moved back to New York, where I’m from, to work at an intercultural education non profit called AFS-USA. I worked as an adviser for two State Department-sponsored exchange programs for high school students, one of which I had participated in myself before enrolling at UW-Madison. At this time I also made the decision to apply for the Peace Corps. I am now living in the Republic of Georgia as a Peace Corps English Education Volunteer.

Starting [September 2017], I [began] teaching English in a K-12 public school in a small town in the mountains. I also recently accepted a position working with the non-profit GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) Georgia on the Recruitment team. I will be working to promote GLOW in rural and under-served communities throughout Georgia, in addition to training and supporting counselors.

Photo of Kendra Burpee
Kendra in the Sahara Desert when studying abroad in Morocco (October 2013).

A reflection on your study abroad experience: How did your time overseas impact your life, your goals, and your career?
Study abroad deepened my belief in the power of public diplomacy and it encouraged me to embrace cultural diversity. My time in Turkey and Morocco taught me the importance of human relationships in promoting peace and understanding, and I have carried this lesson into my work since graduation.

As a result, I have my spent all of my time after UW-Madison either living and working abroad, or back in the States advocating for international exchanges. Although I am now learning Georgian, my Arabic and Turkish studies from UW-Madison opened up many professional doors for me and put me on my current path. I joined the Peace Corps to continue to promote world peace and friendship through people-to-people connections.

Share with us a favorite memory from your study abroad days.
One of my favorite memories while studying abroad was my weekend camping in the Sahara Desert. It included riding a camel through a sandstorm, holding a wild baby fennec fox, and watching the sunrise from the top of a sand dune.

What advice do you have for students returning from abroad?
1) Continue to treat every day as an adventure
One of the best parts of studying abroad is that you are constantly meeting new people and exploring new places. But that doesn’t have to stop once you return to campus! Continue to put yourself outside of your comfort zone and get to know people different than yourself, try new foods, and learn something new every day.

2) Be an ambassador
Be an ambassador for the country you just left – cook the local foods you miss for your friends, share your photos and stories, and give presentations in your classes or at your local high school. And be an ambassador for study abroad. Encourage and inspire others to seek out opportunities to travel and get to know their global community.