Spotlights UF Homepage,UF Homepage

Out of Africa.


Jessica “Jesi” Griffin

Master’s graduate, Peace Corps volunteer
College of Education

Most seventh-graders don’t dream about joining the Peace Corps or living in Africa, but University of Florida graduate student Jessica “Jesi” Griffin wasn’t your typical seventh-grader.

After Griffin graduates this week with a master’s degree in social studies education, she will spend the next 27 months volunteering in Malawi with the Peace Corps. Griffin has wanted to join the international volunteer organization since she read an article about it in middle school.

“I’ve always been drawn to Africa through my love of history,” Griffin said.

Griffin visited Africa for the first time last summer after receiving a bachelor’s degree in history from UF. She volunteered in South Africa working with children. When Griffin returned to UF for graduate school, she already knew she wanted to return to Africa with the Peace Corps.

The application process took nearly a year. “The long application process is a test of patience and your desire to do this,” said Amy Panikowski, Peace Corps recruiter at UF.

UF is the No. 1 producer of Peace Corps volunteers in the Southeast and ranks No. 15 nationally based on the number of overseas volunteers.

“We’re increasingly seeing more applicants,” Panikowski said. “We have kids at UF that are more globally minded.”

Griffin will leave for Malawi in September and spend the first three months living with a host family while she trains to become a teacher development facilitator. She will educate teachers on proper teaching methods, conduct workshops and work on community development.

“It’s about making a change,” Griffin said. “Peace Corps is 100 percent about the work, not the money.”

While overseas, Peace Corps volunteers are provided with an allowance to pay for living expenses and may defer student loans. Upon returning, volunteers receive about $6,000 to aid them in their transition back to their pre-Peace Corps lives.

While Griffin isn’t scared about being away from home for the next 27 months, she will miss her Phi Mu sorority sisters and their support. As a Phi Mu member, Griffin was involved with socials, philanthropies and Dance Marathon. She also was a member of Signing Gators, a sign language club, and Eta Sigma Phi, a classical studies fraternity.

Griffin said she also will miss simple pleasures such as being able to pick up the phone and call family or friends.

“I’ll have e-mail and Facebook, but it will still be hard,” she said.

Griffin plans to travel when her time is up with the Peace Corps, but for now she is focused on getting ready to move to Malawi and make a difference.

“What they’ve done is really immeasurable,” she said. “It’s amazing to see what actual skill sets and help—not money—can do.”