Peace Corps to AmeriCorps – Emily Milcent, Indonesia 2016-2018

Students pinning our postcards onto our state map. We ended up receiving over 200 postcards from all 50 states!

Service doesn’t stop when you close your service, and Emily Milcent is a perfect example. She spent two years teaching English in Indonesia and is now starting a new position as an AmeriCorps volunteer. We talk about her in time on Java, the most populated island in the world, her amazing post card project, and why you need rice with every meal.

Photos from Emily’s Story

Emily Milcent’s Peace Corps Story

Where and when did you serve? What did you do?

My husband and I served in Lumajang, East Java, Indonesia from March 2016-June 2018. There, I taught English at an Islamic Boarding school to grades 7-12. I held a weekly English club where we focused on cultural exchange through many fun, hands on projects and by connecting with other schools, classrooms, and individuals across America. In addition to teaching at my school, a group of volunteers and I facilitated teacher training events to help improve teaching practices.

What is one of your favorite Peace Corps memories?

My favorite memory while in the Peace Corps was right at the end in my last month. For the past two years we had been playing Frisbee together in the small courtyard at the school with way too many students. It was crowded and tight and fun. They loved the game and very quickly surpassed me in skills. One of our last few weekends together I asked my principal if the students could meet me at the alun-alun (town square) to play ultimate Frisbee together (I had to ask her because my students live at the boarding school). She agreed and about 20 students walked the 30 minutes from our school to the town center. We played some great games together on the nicely manicured lawns until the evening prayer. It was the first time that they got to play on grass and with enough space to make long passes. It was a simple evening but so much fun for me and them.

What is one of your least favorite Peace Corps memories?

During our semester break, three of us decided to travel to Madura (the island north of Java) to meet up with a few other volunteers for Christmas. We hired a car to take us the 3 or 4 hours to their site which should have been more comfortable than a bus. Upon picking us up the driver informed us that if we wanted to put our bags on the seat next to us we would have to pay for that seat. Annoyed, we placed all our bags, piled high, on our laps. That however became the least of our worries as the only south road on the island was closed all night. We sat on the side of the road for about 8 hours before we were able to convince the driver to take the northern road. We showed up to our friends site 12 hours later than expected with barely any circulation left in our legs but we ended up having one of the best Christmases ever making it well worth it. After that we vowed never to take a hired car again. And we flew home from their site (for the same price as the car).

What do you miss about Peace Corps?

What I miss most about being in Indonesia is my students. I had a group of about 30 students who I met with regularly and became very close with. I miss their curiosity and excitement about little things. I am thankful though that many people in Indonesia are connected on the web. I have been able to email and skype with my students a few times in the couple of months that we have been gone.

What is something you learned in the Peace Corps?

Something that I learned while in the Peace Corps is just how important it is to be giving of your time. Sometimes giving your time means nothing more than just simply being with people. In America we are so fast paced and our time is valuable and something we sometimes don’t want to share with others. But I think being a good neighbor means that you will slow down, listen, sit, talk, and sometimes just be with them.

Do you have a favorite quote or local saying?”

“Kalau belum makan nasi, belum makan” “If you haven’t eaten rice, then you haven’t eaten” In Indonesia, rice is eaten with every meal- no exceptions. So, often, people like to joke around that if you didn’t eat rice then they haven’t really eaten a meal, regardless of how big it is. We cooked for our teachers and neighbors often and it was important for us to include rice into the menu even if we were eating pizza or lasagna. 

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