UNC Around the World

Entrepreneurs, social workers, teachers, actors and volunteers are among the 800-plus UNC alumni living and working abroad. Ten graduates share their stories following their life-changing decisions to take their talents to countries spanning the globe.

JanelleModeling Self-Reliance in Nicaragua

When Janelle England moved to Nicaragua to join the Peace Corps, it’s almost as if she traveled back in time.

England lives “in the sticks,” in a tiny, poor town, helping the people there with projects that make them more independent. The job fits with her degree in Anthropology. The lifestyle isn’t much like where she grew up, but the surroundings have similarities.

England was born and raised in Greeley, a city flanked by corn stalks, crops and, yes, cattle. But electricity in Nicaragua is still a luxury, and although she has it and potable water, other volunteers don’t have either. Even where she lives, regarded as one of the “richer” areas in the country because of the cattle farms there, horseback is still the main mode of transportation.

“I feel like I’m living back in the olden days,” England says, “only with cell phones and electricity.”

She has access to the Internet, too, but only in the cities, not through wi-fi at home.

VideoThe lack of creature comforts (pigs and chickens often wake her up, and she also does her laundry by hand with a washboard and buckets of water) provide an opportunity for England. For example, she developed an efficient brick-and-barrel-style oven owned by women in the village to bake bread they can sell, giving them a chance to turn a much needed profit — instead of paying for a rented oven and someone to tend to it. The farmers there know agriculture, and she helped them produce patio gardens so they can raise food to eat, not only to sell, and save them a trip to the markets for vegetables and fruit. In addition, she’s showed them how to compost to inject life back into the area’s weary soil.

She’s also formed a simplified bank for the villagers to teach them about interest and savings.

“I think the bank is going to be the best project that I’ve done so far,” England says.

At UNC, she minored in Spanish but needed to really learn the language by living in a country that speaks it.

“It’s total immersion,” England says.

When she returns to the States, England will consider graduate school with her experience speaking a second language and being a part of a different culture. NV

—Dan England is a Greeley journalist.



• Learn a foreign language — Many get a job simply because they can speak the language over there.

• Get some experience abroad — A stint in the Peace Corps or internship overseas builds the résumé.

• Teach or volunteer — Opportunities abound in those two vocations, even for first-year teachers. If you’re willing to go anywhere, you will get a job, and usually schools will help you with the paperwork.

• Do it — It’s difficult, and the transition, especially at first, will probably be tough. But it’s worth every experience.

• Think outside the box — The jobs available overseas are probably different then in the U.S. But that means opportunity as well. Find a way to combine your skills.

• Go somewhere you didn’t expect to go — Many interviewed for this story wound up in a place they didn’t expect to go but also wound up loving their lives there.

• Use an agency — There are many agencies and opportunities online. Just be careful about which agency you use.

• Understand it’s going to be different — You left the U.S. to experience other cultures, so enjoy the differences and embrace them, even if that means changing the way you dress or act in public. Life overseas is a new adventure. Treat it that way.

—As told to Dan England by graduates
working abroad