Emese Nemeth Ready to Change the World as Peace Corps Volunteer

After a stint in clinical research, Gifft Hill School alumna Emese Nemeth is heading off to Malawi as Peace Corps volunteer.

CORAL BAY — Trading in a research job for a chance to change the world, Gifft Hill School alumna Emese Nemeth is heading off to Malawi next month to teach biology to primary school students as a Peace Corps volunteer.

After graduating from Simmons College with a psychology-biology degree, Nemeth, now 24, spent two years working in clinical research but was not feeling fulfilled, she explained.
“After graduation I was working in Boston in clinical research studying aging and dementia and the elderly,” said Nemeth. “I did that for two years and realized that clinical research is not my calling. Then I read a book by Dr. Paul Farmer and it inspired me.”

“I really wanted to do more humanitarian type of work and help people on a large scale,” Nemeth said. “I also wanted to work abroad, so the Peace Corps seemed like a natural fit.”

Nemeth began the lengthy Peace Corps application process in March 2014 and was not informed of her acceptance until December.

“Throughout the process you are interviewed and then you are nominated for a program and then you enter the doldrums,” said Nemeth. “They just go through your application, which is pretty lengthy, and go over one thing at a time and then you get the acceptance.”

Nemeth was nominated for Peace Corps’ education sector as a biology teacher and was given three countries from which to choose for her assignment, she explained.

“When I applied I didn’t put any preference for where I wanted to go,” Nemeth said. “I was living in Boston at the time so I just wanted to be someplace warm. But I was nominated in the education sector and I had to choose between Malawi, Liberia and Ghana.”

“I chose Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world, as my top choice and when I got my acceptance in December I was told I was going there,” she said.
The Peace Corps commitment is a 27 month post with a three month training.

“I’m flying over on June 17 with a group of volunteers and we’ll do training for three months in Malawi,” said Nemeth. “The training will be about the language, the culture and their way of life. English is the official language but in rural Malawi, which is where I will be posted, many people speak Chicewa, so I think it will be a mix of both languages.”

As soon as she received notice of her acceptance, Nemeth began the process of receiving vaccines and inoculations to prepare for living in Africa.

“I have made many trips to Myrah Keating lately,” she said. “I got accepted in December and they say you have three months to get to the dentist and the doctor’s office for the three or four vaccines I needed.”

After her initial three month training, Nemeth will receive her official assignment somewhere in rural Malawi.

“Those first three months will be jam packed with training and then we will get our official assignment as to where in the country we’ll be living for the next two years,” said the Peace Corps volunteer. “Right now I know I’ll be going to Malawi but I have no idea where exactly I’ll be teaching.”

Having grown up on St. John will give Nemeth a bit of an advantage when adjusting to life in southeastern Africa.

“I think growing up on St. John and living here will help me adapt to living in Malawi,” she said. “I know what it’s like to have power outages and to have to collect rain water. I know it’s going to very different, of course, but I think living here will definitely help.”

While she is under no illusion that life in southeast Africa will be easy, Nemeth is passionate about the positive impacts education can have on improving the world.

“It will be hard to be away from my family and friends and the comforts of being here and all the amenities we have,” she said. “But I’m really excited to teach and I firmly believe that education is the key to helping people move out of poverty. If I can help a few students move past high school and get to college, that will be huge.”

While teaching biology will be her primary goal, the Peace Corps also requires volunteers to work on a secondary project which Nemeth hopes will center around empowering female students, she added.

“You go over to do your primary goal — I’ll be teaching — but there is also a secondary project requirement,” said the Peace Corps volunteer. “For that I want to do something with keeping girls in school. At the same time, it will depend on the needs of the community.”

“If they need help building a well, I’ll do that of course,” she said.

After her Peace Corps commitment is fulfilled, Nemeth hopes to pursue a master’s degree in public health.

“I’m passionate about women’s rights and my dream job would be working for the World Health Organization,” she said.

With two bags of clothes, a copy of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and laminated photos of her family, Nemeth is thrilled to start her Peace Corps adventure on June 17.

Congratulations Emese!