Published September 14, 2022 by Rebecca Goldfine

Carolyn Brady ’19 Joins Peace Corps After Two-Year COVID Hiatus

Carolyn Brady ’19, who made headlines when she won the title of Miss Maine in 2019, is among the first Peace Corps volunteers to return overseas since the COVID pandemic curtailed its programming. She is serving as an education volunteer in Madagascar.
Carolyn Brady in Madagascar
Carolyn Brady in Madagascar

Brady has distinguished herself in many ways at Bowdoin and beyond. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in government and is now pursuing a master's of science degree in foreign service at Georgetown University. She served two terms as an AmeriCorps volunteer, and in 2019 became the first Black contestant to be named Miss Maine (a title she held for two years). In this role, she focused her community service on new Mainers and COVID relief efforts.

Now she is among the first Peace Corps volunteers to travel abroad since the pandemic began. Though she is just beginning her two-year term in Madagascar, she found the time to respond to a few questions via email.

What inspired you to participate in the Peace Corps?

After completing my degree in government and legal studies at Bowdoin, I served as an AmeriCorps member in Maine while simultaneously serving as Miss Maine. In both of these roles, I was fortunate enough to work very closely with our new Mainer communities, through which I developed an interest in international development and the ways in which I could be an active participant in this field, both domestically and abroad. The Peace Corps seemed like a natural fit to explore this sector while continuing to focus on service.

Did your plans get delayed at all by the pandemic?

They sure did, but every diversion presents a new opportunity! I was initially invited to serve in Madagascar as an education volunteer with a September 2020 departure date. When I learned that our departure would be indefinitely delayed because of the pandemic, I chose to extend my service as an AmeriCorps Member for one additional year, and then subsequently started my master's in foreign service at Georgetown University. When the Peace Corps called earlier this year to notify me of our finalized departure date, I applied to take a leave of absence from Georgetown to take advantage of this opportunity and I look forward to applying all that I gain as a Peace Corps Volunteer to my second year of school upon my return.

Carolyn Brady posing with the Madagascar flag
Carolyn Brady posing with a peace mural in Madagascar.

Where will you be living and what will you be working on?

I was accepted to serve as a TEFL [teaching English as a foreign language] volunteer, so I will be teaching English as a foreign language to secondary school students. For the first three months, I will undergo pre-service training with my fellow trainees, where we will learn the Malagasy language and gain the skills necessary to fulfill our roles in the field. At the end of those three months, we will be sworn in as Peace Corps volunteers and we will go on to serve in our separate assigned communities throughout the country for two years. In addition to my primary role as a teacher, every volunteer is encouraged to lead a secondary project that is of interest to them and that serves a community need, so I look forward to learning more about my site assignment and collaborating with community members as we work together both inside and outside of the classroom.

How has your arrival been so far? What are your first impressions?

Beautiful! While I have only been here for a couple of weeks, I have truly appreciated every opportunity to integrate into the Malagasy culture. First and foremost, bucket showers are highly underrated. The process of preparing food is also very intentional as most families in our current community do not have refrigerators. It has certainly been an adjustment. My days start when the roosters rise and they end with malaria prophylaxis, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

What are some of your hopes for your two-year service? 

I am really excited to come back with proficiency in two languages. While the Peace Corps only trains us to speak Malagasy, I am one of a few members of my training cohort with prior knowledge of the French language. Shout-out to Madame Dauge-Roth—not only for getting me across the Bowdoin finish line, but also for supporting all of my post-Polar Bear endeavors. Because Malagasy and French are the official languages in Madagascar, I look forward to developing my communications skills in both.

I also look forward to getting an inside look at the grassroots level of international development initiatives and how programs like the Peace Corps empower interested countries to accomplish their own goals. As a student of international affairs, we can only learn so much in a classroom and I hope that my Peace Corps experience will provide me with knowledge that I can apply to the rest of my career as well as the rest of my life.