Magellan Experience Transforms Senior into Peace Corps Volunteer

WASHINGTON, Pa. (May 6, 2013)—Washington & Jefferson College Senior Alexander Nallin spent last summer in Israel studying the microeconomics of the tourism industry.

Nearly a year later, Nallin is just a month away from leaving on a 24-month Peace Corps assignment to Peru, where he will help people in developing communities.

Coincidence? Nallin says not.

Prior to traveling to Israel on a Magellan Project, Nallin imagined a career in politics.

“I like politics and I am good at it,” said Nallin, a history and economics double major from Cumberland, Md. “But that is not really where my passion lies. My passion lies in the Third World, in development and raising the standard of living in these communities.”

Was he even thinking about the Peace Corps before his Magellan experience?

“Absolutely not,” he said.

Nallin’s Magellan experience began on a day tour to Bethlehem in the Palestinian Territories, where he said he saw a lot of things for the first time ever: the refugee camps, the 40-foot wall running through the city, the military bases and checkpoints, buildings with bullet holes through them, remnants of past wars.

While volunteering at the Aida refugee camp, Nallin met a 24-year old Palestinian, who invited Nallin meet his family. As Nallin prepared to leave, he was asked to stay with them in their home.

“This began my nearly three weeks of living in a refugee camp, in one of the most war-torn regions in the world, studying a conflict that has been ongoing since Biblical times. And I never felt more alive in my life. For the first time in my life, I had a passion. I had a cause. I found my passions. And I found myself,” Nallin said.

Nallin is scheduled to leave for Peru June 5. Training begins the following day. His assignment runs two years. While in Peru, Nallin will focus on economic sustainability, helping to create business plans and advise small businesses so that communities can take advantage of economic opportunities.

“I realize I have a skill set that fits in with the Peace Corps,” he said, noting he has developed the business and communication skills as well as the passion for community service.

“My true liberal arts moment came when I had dinner with three Palestinian strangers. I had to draw on my knowledge from Middle Eastern history, Arabic, and even rhetoric; all of which I studied at W&J. It turned out to be one of the greatest conversations of my trip,” Nallin added.

On his return to W&J, Nallin spoke with Robert East, Ph.D, associate professor of environmental studies and former Peace Corps worker in Kenya about his newfound interest in international development. The conversation ultimately led to Nallin’s acceptance into the Peace Corps. 

“The biggest thing W&J has given me a personal initiative. If I want something done, I will find a way to do it,” Nallin said. “The whole idea of a liberal arts education and thinking about things from different perspectives. I am also a very adaptable person.”

W&J President Tori Haring-Smith, Ph.D., said, “Magellan Projects are by nature transformative,” said “Magellan students are learning to author their own lives, to take charge of their own futures, and to find the strength and confidence they need to make a difference in the world.”

Before travelling to Israel, Nallin had never been on an airplane.

“In whatever happens, I know this much. I’m going back to Israel one day,” Nallin said. “Truly, one can spend a lifetime there and still learn something new every day.”

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Magellan Experience Transforms Senior into Peace Corps Volunteer