Morgan O'Neil, a 2013 University of the Ozarks graduate, will join the Peace Corps next spring and spend 27 months doing service work abroad.
O’Neil, who earned majors in political science, environmental studies, and English, had some difficult decisions to make her senior year. Initially, she planned to immediately enroll in law school after graduating.
"The warning signs were coming while I was filling out my applications for law school," she said. "I kept putting them off, and I’m not the type of person to do that. I began thinking that maybe this isn’t what I’m supposed to be doing right now."
Recent graduate Morgan O’Neil will join the Peace Corps in the Spring for a 27-month assignment in the environmental sector.
"I wasn’t sure that I was ready to just jump right back into school. I had been accepted at Willamette Law School in Oregon, which is where I wanted to go, but I had also been reading and learning more about the Peace Corps and about others’ experiences with it. I was really stressed out for a while trying to decide, but one night I just decided I was joining the Peace Corps. I woke up the next morning and felt peaceful about it."
O’Neil hasn’t been assigned to a particular country yet. However, she does know that she’ll be working in the environmental sector.
"My priority is a Central or South American country, because I meet the language requirements," O’Neil said. "I’m hoping to find out in the next month or so. The earliest I would be sent out would be March or April of 2014. I’ll be working in the environmental sector. My job will include things like planting trees or rebuilding an ecosystem that’s been destroyed. It could also include educating people about sustainability or environmental awareness. Really, it could be anything related to the environment."
While the Peace Corps may not have been O’Neil’s original plan, she is excited about the opportunity to travel and offer her skills to improve a community.
"I’ve been given so many opportunities here at Ozarks, and I feel like I’m in a position where I can share those skills such as leadership, communications and work ethic, and make a really large impact. And I can do it right now," O’Neil explained.
"When people asked me when I was younger what I wanted to do with my life, I always said I wanted to save the world. As I got older, I started thinking that it’s really not possible to save the world, but it is possible to make an impact on one person, on two people, or a significant impact on a community. I’ve been so focused on making myself successful these last four years that I feel like it’s time to take that focus and apply it to a larger community," she said.
O’Neil is still considering law school as an option when she returns to the U.S.
"I’m working on deferring my admission to Willamette now," she said. "Attending law school is definitely still in the cards, but I’m not sure how things will change after 27 months in the Peace Corps. No matter what I end up doing, my service in the Corps will really ground me and allow me to be successful."
According to O’Neil, the decision to join the Peace Corps was not an easy one, but she credits Ozarks with preparing her for tough life decisions.
"For me being in college was different. I was already extremely independent and responsible before I came to college. For me, being here was about finding myself versus fulfilling other people’s expectations for me," O’Neil said. "Just being a part of campus, has really taught me to speak up and use my voice. Before I was so timid, because I was worried about what people would think about my opinion. But now, I’ve gained a lot of confidence in who I am and what I believe in and I’m able to talk about it. That’s a part of the reason I’m joining the Peace Corps."
O’Neil plans spend the next few months with her family preparing for her time abroad. She hopes to be able to share her experiences with other Ozarks students when she returns.
Topics: Political Science