Kelly Hill: Words of Wisdom From An IIC Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Alum
Kelly is a Returned Peace Corps Veteran who is passionate about the refugee cause. Kelly graduated in June 2019 and has just started working at the World Relief Triad in North Carolina as a Volunteer Services Manager.
Where did you do your Peace Corps volunteering?
East Java, Indonesia. I was an English education and teacher training volunteer from 2014–2016.
How did you choose the IIC program? What drew you to the program?
I first came across the IIC program while looking at schools that were Coverdell Fellowship partners. During my time in the Peace Corps, I had become interested in how we can make international and intercultural exchanges more successful—whether in-person, online, or through other media platforms and representations. When I came across the IIC program, which combines academic knowledge and practical skills related to communicating between nations and cultures, it seemed like a perfect fit! I liked the small class size, the accessibility of professors, the joint nature of the program which allows us to take classes through Media, Film and Journalism and the Korbel School of International Studies, and of course the Denver location.
How did the IIC program prepare you for your future? How does this connect to your Peace Corps experience?
The IIC program constantly helped me reshape my expectations for the future. While still continuing with my interest in international and intercultural exchange, the program widened my perspective to see how many opportunities are really out there. Through classes like "Foundations of Strategic Communication," "Global and Multicultural Campaigns" and "Global Media and Communication," I've learned practical skills and foundational theories which will be useful in a variety of fields. I've complemented these classes with Korbel courses focused on conflict resolution, adding a more interpersonal perspective to creating understanding across cultural difference.
One of the things I love most about IIC is that it helped me process and re-evaluate my Peace Corps experiences in ways that lead me to better understand them, but also mold those experiences into marketable assets. I was constantly thinking back over my time in Indonesia through the lens of what we were learning about in class. Between my Peace Corps service and my time in the IIC program, I feel like I have entered the job market as a more capable and aware person. I'm excited to see where the experiences I've had and skills I've learned will lead me next.
Describe a memorable DU experience. This could be a relationship with a professor, a compelling class, an activity you were involved in, etc.
During my time at DU, I was also fortunate to work for the university as a graduate coordinator for DU DialogUes and GlobalRes. Both of these programs have helped me practice my own intercultural skills as well as develop them in others. With DU DialogUes, I was able to facilitate communication between DU students and staff of different backgrounds. I was able to see firsthand where participants face difficulties in understanding and learning from one another (where culture and identity clash) and have used these observations to develop dialogue training that has been adopted by offices and departments across campus. With GlobalRes, I helped design and implement an intercultural curriculum to build community among 25 second-year undergraduates. There, too, I've seen where students face challenges and what does and doesn't work to help them overcome those in order to better understand and support one another. Both of these work experiences allowed me to try out what I learn in class directly on DU's campus. I can't say enough how important having these concrete experiences of putting learning into action have been for me!
Did you collaborate with anyone—fellow students, professors, alumni or any local community organizations—during the IIC program?
During my first year in the IIC program, I collaborated with two classmates on a workshop for DU's Internationalization Summit. To be completely honest, this was something I never would have thought I was qualified to do. But when a classmate approached me about it, I figured there was no harm in applying. To my surprise, our topic was accepted! We did tons of research, spending many extra hours at the library. But it was so rewarding to see all our hard work culminate in an interesting and engaging workshop. We had a full room of participants and received positive feedback. Although this was a huge step outside of my comfort zone at the beginning, by the end I was incredibly proud of what my classmates and I had put together. I think it showed all of us that we had much more potential than we may have given ourselves credit for.
What's next for you?
I'm a very recent graduate, so I'm still not sure what's next for me, but I'm confident that I'll find something meaningful and rewarding to be a part of. I'd love to work in refugee resettlement, specifically helping to connect volunteers, community organizations and refugees through meaningful partnerships. But I'm also interested in community dialogues, educational exchanges and anything else the helps build bridges between individuals, communities, cultures or nations.
What advice would you give Peace Corps volunteers thinking about going to graduate school?
When considering going to graduate school, we all have different expectations and hopes. I knew that I wanted to be somewhere that felt accessible and welcoming, was academically challenging, and would give me the real-world knowledge and skills I'd need to continue working in intercultural fields. I think it's so important to consider your career and life goals and figure out what it will take to get you there—what the next steps are. There are so many options, but not every option will work for everybody. Think about what you most want to get out of your experience. Is it small classes? Approachable faculty? Internship opportunities? Practical skills? A deep-dive into theory? Then look at what classes are offered, institutional rankings, length of program and cost. Send emails to the programs you're interested in and consider the tone and nature of the responses. Are they welcoming? Interested? If you can, talk to current students or go for a visit! I like to do a lot of research, but I also trust my gut. In the end, IIC just felt right to me. Faculty were responsive and approachable, there were plenty of classes that I found interesting, I could see that I would be gaining marketable skills, and the funding I received through Coverdell made the cost manageable. So make that list of what you are and aren't looking for and do as much research as you can, but in the end trust your instincts. I'm very happy that I did and ended up where I am.