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Alumni in the Peace Corps: Libbi Wilson ’15 Teaches English in China

After graduating from Gordon, seven alumni are currently opting for an unconventional post-graduate experience by serving in the Peace Corps, from China to Moldova. In the category of colleges with under 5,000 students, Gordon College ranks among schools with the most alumni volunteers. The Bell is currently highlighting some of their stories of service around the globe.

When Libbi Wilson ’15 was assigned a teaching position at a university in China with the Peace Corps, she was surprised, to say the least. Not only had she originally expected to be teaching in Eastern Europe, but China was one of the more competitive programs offered. And while she had taken a Chinese linguistics course at Gordon, her skills with the language were at an “intermediate low.”

“I knew I wanted to teach. I just never expected I’d teach university students,” Libbi says, recounting her initial response to the Peace Corps’ offer.

She’s now more than 16 months into a two-year assignment in China, teaching approximately 100 students across six classes in three unique subjects that involve lessons on reading, writing speaking and translating in English. Most of her students are women between 17- and 21-years-old, and are all pursuing a degree in English as a foreign language.

“Trying to figure out China—China’s narrative, China’s people, China’s various and multiple minorities, religions and languages—I think is an important and fascinating job,” Libbi says. The work she does in China is not just about teaching, but also trying “to uncover that mystery and continuously journey through it.”

libbi wilsonAlongside her teaching position, Libbi also writes for the Peace Corps’s gender-equality newsletter and serves as a training coordinator for the peer support group, keeping up on the well-being of the many people working abroad.

“I felt like Gordon was preparing me for something,” Libbi says, recalling “all these different bits of theory that I was trying to apply to my life, but I didn’t know how.”

“The Balkans was really the first place where I felt like I was truly engaged in fostering human flourishing and fulfilling God’s vision of what he wants for the world and serving what I would perceive to be the common good,” she said.

Alongside Alex Bostian ’16, who is currently working for the Peace Corps in Moldova, Libbi came back from Gordon’s Balkans Semester for the Study of War and Peace feeling that “the entirety of the Balkans cohort was instrumental in pushing both Alex and I to consider the Peace Corps. I not only had some kind of understanding of what my vocation was going to be, but I also knew I wanted another chance to continue practicing everything I had learned at Gordon.”

Libbi is already looking ahead to her next challenge. She is considering going to grad school to further her passion for helping and supporting others—specifically women—in development and post-conflict zones, and hopes to someday be able to play a role in the United Nations Women program in one of its many locations across the world.

“Getting there takes small steps like Peace Corps—although it sometimes feels like a large step,” she says with a laugh.

She doesn’t deny the hard work that comes with her job, but after 16 months of living alongside these people as both a friend and a mentor, Libbi says she feels a sense of comfort in her new community.

“I remember telling my dad that I wanted to work overseas like him, but I wanted to have it just be action,” she says. “I wanted to love people through my vocation and what I did. That’s really what I’m doing in the Peace Corps.”

Read about Ryan Wilkens ’15 in Costa Rica >
Read about Alex Bostian ’16 in Moldova >
Read about Emma Barclay ’16 in Madagascar >
Read about Roland Griggs ’15 in Ghana >
Read about Anna Jonker ’14 in Nicaragua >

By Billy Jepma ’18, English language and literaturecommunication arts