Casey O’Neill, a 2012 Cohoes graduate, returned to the high school on Friday to discuss her experiences as a Peace Corps volunteer in the country of Moldova.
For the past year and a half, O’Neill has been living in a village in the small Eastern European country, working on community development.
“Transportation, infrastructure, language. It was all a little bit of a culture shock,” said O’Neill.
She told the crowd of Future-Ready Pathway students that her interest in volunteering and traveling to foreign countries started in Cohoes, when she was a student in Andrea DeStefano’s social studies class.
“After graduating college, it’s something that I was excited and passionate about,” she said. “I wanted to help people and travel and really challenge myself.”
According to O’Neill, the average annual salary in Moldova is around $100.
“They don’t have a lot, but they’re grateful for what they have,” she said. “They’re always giving toasts during meals about being healthy and happy. That’s what’s important. They’re very family- and community-oriented.”
O’Neill will return to Moldova in January and continue volunteering into July. After the Peace Corps, she plans to finish her master’s degree in international relations.