Ivy Leaf - Winter 2013

Walking the Walk


Lauren Hatch already has seen a lot of the world in her young life. She’s traveled to India, the Ukraine, Spain, England, Ireland, France, Thailand, Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, and parts of the Caribbean. Some of her trips have been for fun, some have been for service, and in March 2013, she’ll be back on the road trying to make a difference once again.

Hatch, an Altoona native and a May 2012 graduate with a degree in Letters, Arts and Sciences, currently is a research assistant for Professor Sandra Petrulionis at Penn State Altoona. But in March, she will embark her life’s dream when she spends the next twenty-seven months in Costa Rica with the Peace Corps. “When I found out I was accepted,” she says, “I was overjoyed. I started crying. This is something I can say I’ve wanted more than anything else in my life.”

She’s been dreaming about joining the Peace Corps, doing humanitarian work, and living in a foreign country since high school. “I’ve always had a desire to live in another culture and soak it all up. And, I’ve always wanted to do non-profit work internationally, so this is a great foot in the door.”

Hatch will spend three months in training, then work with instructors who teach English as a second language to high school students. She also will be doing some after-school community work, and, she hopes, co-teaching. But she knows that she needs to be realistic about the experience. “It will probably be a lot different than I think. I’m going there expecting to change the world, but I need to realize that probably won’t happen. So, I have to find the balance between having too many expectations and really being prepared.”

Hatch has the option to stay with a host family for the duration of her time with the Peace Corps, or live by herself. She will get a monthly stipend for living expenses and she will be able to travel home for visits. She fully expects that some challenges await her; after all, she’s never lived on her own and her past travels were only for a month at a time. To tackle these challenges, Hatch plans to take her sense of humor, creativity, and go-with-the-flow attitude to help get her through any tough times.

She recognizes that this isn’t a vacation. She is picking up her whole life and moving it to another country, in order to serve others. “I’m not going to sightsee. I’m going to be living and working there. Adapting to this life will be one of the hardest parts.” And yet, Hatch is looking forward to becoming immersed in the culture and turning into a “local.”

She also is excited to find a new way of looking at life. “I want to get a deeper understanding of how the rest of the world lives and how I can live my life. Just because my home is America, with all of its luxuries, doesn’t mean that I need to accept them all or fit into American expectations and social norms.”

Follow Hatch's journey on her blog at http://laurenlee239.wordpress.com online.