Before coming to RMU, Julie Nelson ‘10 had never been out of the country. Today she's a seasoned traveler, having spent time in 15 different countries. Currently she's working as an English teacher for the Peace Corps in Azerbaijan.
Julie originally started out in RMU's hospitality and tourism management program. Then, in 2008, she decided to take part in a Study Abroad trip to West Africa. It was a decision that not only changed her career path, it changed her life.
While she was in The Gambia, Julie was surprised to see how happy the people were, even though they had so little, and it inspired her to try to help them in any way should could. "Many of the things they had - resources, education - a lot of it wasn't good enough yet," she says. "It's still developing."
Today Julie lives with a host family in Azerbaijani town of Yevlakh, where she's the only American in her town. The hardest thing she had to get used to was the different gender rules. "It's hard to be a 23-year-old woman there," she says. "There's roles are very traditional here. Women live out of home until married, and they don't go out after "dark."
Last spring, Julie was chosen for the Peace Corps Azerbaijan WID/GAD Committee (Women in Development, Gender and Development), which serves as a resource to Peace Corps volunteers in Azerbaijan, developing materials and programs to endorse gender issue awareness. For their latest project, Julie and the WID/GAD Committee formed a partnership with World of Women Social Union, which has extensive experience in promoting gender equality in Azerbaijan. "This project has the potential to positively impact the lives of Azerbaijani women, men, youth, and children for years to come," says Julie.
Julie says that one day she would like to work in RMU"s international office so that she can encourage other students to take the opportunities to travel. "[Studying abroad] is such an eye-opening experience. And this is the best time of your life to go."
If you'd like to follow along with Julie as she continues her adventure in Azerbaijan, check out her blog www.julieslife.com.