CHADRON – When Joel Milos accepted his Chadron State College Bachelor of Science degree at the Winter Commencement ceremony December 14, he didn’t face the uncertainty about the future that confronts many students upon graduation.
That’s because Milos, a native of Bellevue, Nebraska, knows that he will soon be heading halfway around the world to work as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Himalayan nation of Nepal.
“I’ll be an agriculture volunteer, working for food security,” said Milos, who earned a Rangeland Management diploma with magna cum laude honors.
Milos’ interest in serving in the Peace Corps grew from a training session on wildlife conservation activities for students that he attended as part of a sophomore year course at CSC.
“One of the leaders was a returned Peace Corps volunteer,” he said. “She talked about it briefly and got me looking at it.”
A summer job as a cook at Yellowstone National Park put Milos in contact with people from all over the world furthering his interest in an international experience.
After deciding to graduate a semester early, Milos began looking in earnest at potential Peace Corps positions involved with agriculture development, a primary focus of the 57-year old volunteer program.
“They had two that interested me. One in Nepal and one in Madagascar,” he said. “I settled on Nepal because I have heard so much about the natural beauty. I really wanted to go (there).”
In late June, two months after completing a detailed online application, Milos was contacted for an interview. About a month later he was invited to take the position, which involves soil conservation work, fruit tree cultivation and nutrition education in a community in western Nepal.
Milos said his rangeland degree was a definite plus in being accepted for Peace Corps service, because the agency has trouble finding people with agricultural training. While there isn’t much rangeland in mountainous Nepal, he thinks some of the subjects he studied will be useful in the job.
“A lot of the base courses do apply, like soil science and hydrology,” he said. “We learn about herbicide application and the effect of tillage on soils, and I’ve taken outside courses like entomology and botany.”
On January 30, Milos will join a group other Peace Corps volunteers and fly to Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, where he will have about three months of cultural and language training before going on to the community where he will spend the next two years. Through a Facebook group of new and recently returned volunteers he has received tips about what to expect and reassurance about the conditions he will encounter in the impoverished nation, which is still recovering from a long-running domestic rebellion and a devastating 2015 earthquake.
“It’s a pretty old program. They know how to run it,” he said. “Nepal was one of the first Peace Corps (locations).”
While in Nepal, Milos will receive a stipend to cover living expenses, and upon returning to the U.S. he’ll get a modest readjustment bonus.
But money didn’t play a part his desire to become a Peace Corps volunteer.
“The biggest interest I have is to represent the United States and to use my degree,” he said.
Milos said his long term plans after the Peace Corps are flexible.
“Ideally, I’d like to work for the National Park Service, but I’m pretty open to whatever happens,” he said.
And for now, he’s looking forward to the experience of living and working in a land and culture far different from his Nebraska home.
“It will be fun,” he said. “I think it will go by pretty quickly.”