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York College International Relations grad-to-be set to join Peace Corps

Tajah headshot

Tajah McCray ’20 has had two years to think about it. Two years to imagine life without her cellphone, without a TV, maybe even without running water or electricity. She’s thought about how it will feel to be separated from her family, her friends, and everything she knows.

Still, she’s as sure now as she was the day she found her calling two years ago: Tajah is joining the Peace Corps.

Forging a path

“I don’t know what I want to do with my life,” Tajah used to tell her mom. “I just know I want to help people.” She chose International Relations as her major at York College of Pennsylvania because she wanted to learn about other cultures and governments. Coming out of high school, Tajah didn’t know much about places like the Middle East or the European Union, and she wanted to change that.

At York College, she has learned about countries all over the world and is even getting to experience some firsthand. “They have an amazing study abroad program here,” she says. “I appreciate the opportunities we’ve been given so we can continue to gain knowledge.” She did her first study abroad in Cuba last June. In December, she’s going to India to help at an orphanage through the International Service Learning program.

Learning about and traveling to other countries has been an eye-opening experience for Tajah, but she wants to do more than learn—she wants to help.

Joining the Peace Corps

Tajah was a sophomore when she first learned about the Peace Corps. She immediately called her mom to inform her she’d be dropping out of school to join. That was, of course, before she learned she’d need a college degree to enter the Peace Corps.

She continued her education at York College, and she’s glad she did. “The classes offered and the teachers are phenomenal,” she says. “They’ve had a big influence on my experience here. They’re so motivating and helpful, and I’m extremely grateful for them.”

Tajah is a senior now, and she’s been officially accepted into the Peace Corps. On June 7, 2020, she’ll board a plane for Benin, West Africa, where she’ll live and serve for the next two years. “When you learn about all the different hardships that people go through in different countries based on the government systems or lack of resources,” she says, “that’s kind of what drew me to the Peace Corps. I wanted to be able to help others and hopefully brighten someone else’s future.”

‘It brightens my heart’

She’ll be spending her time teaching English in a French-speaking community in Benin. She’s looking forward to giving the people there a leg-up that could help them in the future. “When I see people and know that I can help them, it brightens my heart,” she says.

Tajah doesn’t yet know what her living conditions will be there. She may not have running water or electricity, but she’s not worried about giving those things up. “I’m not really nervous,” she says. “I feel at peace with everything, so I’m just looking forward to it.”