An estimated 300 people gathered at the Monterey Institute this weekend to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps, sharing stories, paying tribute to the lasting legacy of volunteers at home and abroad, and savoring food and music from the countries served by MIIS students.
Alumna Jenifer Carter: “Finding the World in Your Own Backyard”
March 19, 2013
Jenifer Carter’s parents, both returned Peace Corps Volunteers and educators, instilled a sense of curiosity about the world and other cultures in Jenifer (MATESOL ’97) and her four brothers. “They encouraged us to travel and see as much of the world as we could,” Jenifer says, adding that she was first really bitten by the travel bug when she participated in a high school exchange program in France. “Attending the University of Vermont as a French major allowed me to spend my junior year abroad attending the Université de Nice, where I taught ESL in a French high school and discovered I loved it!”
Next it was off to Japan where Jenifer taught in the JET program for two years. She then followed her brothers to McMurdo Station, Antarctica where she worked for a science support company seasonally while exploring the South Pacific on the off seasons. “My last contract included ‘wintering over’ so I was there for 14 months!” It was during that dark winter that she hatched her plan for further education. “I remember Kathi Bailey helping me apply to MIIS via email as we would only receive regular mail by airdrop once that winter!”
After graduating, Jenifer headed to Vietnam to teach at the Institute of International Relations. She later returned to the U.S., got married, and took an ESL teaching job at North Salinas High School with her friend and former TESOL classmate, Jill Doughty (MATESOL ’98). “It was wonderful to be living back in Monterey and at that time I had no idea that one year at NSHS would turn into twelve more!”
Having taught beginning and intermediate ESL to students from all over the world, Jenifer continues to be inspired and humbled by her students. “They work incredibly hard each day to learn English, all the while facing and overcoming challenges and obstacles I can’t imagine facing at their young age.” A highlight of the last two years has been taking her students to MIIS for International Education Day. “They get to interact with MIIS students and see not only the value of learning a second language, but how coming from a different country and culture is actually a gift. Who knew one day could make such an impact? It is a wonderful feeling for me to be able to share the place that turned me into their teacher!”
Jenifer says it is very rewarding to watch the amazing progress her students make: “I have kids who have gone on to attend wonderful schools, the first in their families to attend college!” She always thought she would return to teaching overseas, but says “sometimes you can find the world right in your own backyard.” With her job and her husband teaching at the International School of Monterey, where they are also active parents, she says they feel like they have found their “overseas” experience right here in Monterey. “At least until that travel bug bites again!”
Jenifer Carter is featured in the newest edition of the Communiqué newsletter, now available online.
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