Keeping the peace: Murray State graduate first in state to be invited to serve in Peace Corps

Story by Amy Turner, Staff writer

Photo courtesy of Tyler Mathews

Tyler Mathews is a recent December graduate of Murray State, but his success story doesn’t end at his graduation. After earning a bachelor’s degree in international business and political science he was invited to volunteer for the Community Economic Development sector of the Peace Corps in Moldova beginning in June 2018.  

Like most upcoming college graduates, Mathews struggled with figuring out his post-graduation plans.

“In reality, the Peace Corps offered me a solution to all of my post-graduation worries.” said Mathews. “I desperately wanted to travel somewhere I’d never been, I needed some time to figure out if I wanted to go to grad school or law school and I really just wanted to apply what I had learned in undergrad immediately.”

Mathews found out about the Peace Corps in the summer of 2016 but didn’t make the decision to apply until December of the same year.  Mathews said the largest hurdle he faced was the fear of the unknown that comes with volunteering with the Peace Corps. Through the help of his spanish professor, Robert Fritz and the program coordinator, Shawna Thomas, Mathews said he was able to overcome the fear and hesitation and let eagerness take over.

“Once you have been in the Peace Corps, you share a special bond with all those who have served or intend to serve.” said Fritz. “I’m thrilled for Tyler and happy that I was able to contribute to his Peace Corps experience in even a small way,”

Mathews said his main goal in the process is to learn more about the world and understand the way that people outside of our boarders live.

“It’s really easy, in a country as large as the US, to become border centric and forget that we have neighbors struggling to live day to day.” said Mathews.“It is almost impossible to understand how someone in Moldova can live on 1.70 Euro/day until you are fully immersed in that life.”

Mathews said once he decided to apply, he had a long journey ahead before he was officially accepted and invited to volunteer. The process started with the actual application, which a nervous Mathews didn’t submit until the last minute. He immediately received a confirmation email but still had interviews to attend and legal documents to send. Even now, after he has been accepted, he is still waiting as a few more tasks will trickle in.

“I’m really looking forward to the learning opportunity at hand.” said Mathews. “Almost every returned volunteer I have talked to has mentioned that I will leave the Peace Corps having learned more from the people I work with in country than I will leave them with,”

“I really want to take this time to engulf myself in the culture and the language,” said Mathews.

The Peace Corp Prep Program has been on campus for two years. Currently there are eight students going through the program and four participating members have graduated. Its goal is to prepare members such as Mathews to go on and serve with the Peace Corps upon graduation.

Mathews is a large success story for the program. Not only is he the first from the program to get invited to serve but the first graduate from the state of Kentucky to be invited to serve.

“This program allows students to gain knowledge of their chosen Sector, prepare themselves for international living and be involved in their local community,” said Thomas.

If you are interested in serving as a volunteer, The Peace Corps Prep Program is a great place to start. It gives students the opportunity to begin to prepare for Peace Corps service.

“Peace Corps is a profoundly enriching experience for the volunteer, in both personal and professional terms.” said Fritz. “Service can sometimes be difficult and there are many challenges to overcome – language barriers, cultural differences, physical hardships – but in the end you acquire unique insights into another part of the world, its people, and the challenges they face in their day to day lives.”