Three days after graduating from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in psychology, Alyssa Amendola (BCHS/GSPIA ‘21) boarded a plane to Tanzania to serve as a volunteer at an orphanage. Upon her return home and once the jet lag settled, she got to work on her application to join the Peace Corps.
“I was anxious for a longer experience where I could really dive into a new culture,” says the MPH/MPA candidate and Paul D. Coverdell Fellow. “I also was not ready to commit to going to graduate school or finding a career, so I was eager to spend a couple years of my life learning outside of the classroom.”
Through the Peace Corps, Amendola was assigned as a TEFL volunteer in Indonesia, where she says she was able to find clarity in her choice of a career path. She decided public health was the perfect fit—it combined her years of experience in community outreach and strong academic background in the social and soft sciences—and Pitt Public Health offered the perfect graduate program to meet her needs.
“The school’s focus on global health and eclectic research interests, as well as the strong faculty made me more than confident that this school was a match for me,” she says.
In addition, Amendola cites the school’s joint degree program with the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA) and the welcoming environment and myriad opportunities available to Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs), including the Coverdell Fellows program. “I am grateful to be in a school that recognizes the unique experience that RPCVs can bring to the classroom,” she says.
Pitt Public Health and GSPIA help to relieve some of the overwhelm for RPCVs returning to school by offering networking assistance as well as help applying for jobs and internships. Both schools also provide research, teaching, and fellowship opportunities that enable students to build relationships with faculty and gain experience in their specific fields of interest.
Amendola says she’s happy she chose a nontraditional path. “While the Peace Corps was incredibly challenging, I have no regrets about participating,” she says. “Not only did I build lasting relationships, I also gained a new perspective that I would not have otherwise. I feel that I am getting more out of my graduate experience than I would have if I had not volunteered with the Peace Corps.”