Africa in Our Lives: Abigail Cook

Abigail Cook is a Masters student in the Water Resources Management Program and also the new Peace Corps Recruiter at UW-Madison. She was a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal for nearly four years.

Field of Study: Water Resources Management
Union Springs, NY

What brought you to UW- Madison?

I moved to Madison for the Water Resources Management Program MS degree. I knew I really wanted to be a part of this program, and was sold on the school after I visited the campus and city!

Tell us one interesting fact about you.

Kyra Fox with host family in Uganda (Photo by Kyra Fox) I started playing the ukulele in the Peace Corps as an easy-to-carry and durable instrument. This has evolved in my obsession of playing and singing with the banjulele, a ukulele and banjo hybrid instrument.

How did you make the decision to join the Peace Corps?

I somehow heard about the Peace Corps when I was in Middle School, and from then on it was always on my mind. Studying International Politics and Environmental Science as an undergraduate, I wanted to further my education in the field, gaining hands-on, practical experience. The Peace Corps was a way to accomplish those goals, to collaborate with local populations to create successful improvement projects, and develop long-lasting professional and personal relationships.

What did you learn during your Peace Corps experience that still shapes you today?

One main thing I learned from my service with the Peace Corps is that I can successfully navigate difficult, new, or unknown situations. Peace Corps has taught me how to be resourceful and manage both personal and professional relationships in sometimes stressful environments. I learned patience, empathy, and an enhanced openness from my host family and community that I hope to never forget.

Tell us a little more about your role now.

I am currently the campus-based Peace Corps Recruiter. I facilitate and participate in events which educate the community about Peace Corps as an organization, promotes open positions, and working and living abroad. I advise students interested in joining the Peace Corps in deciding potential programs and countries for service. I also assist students and community members through the application process. 

What are a few tips you have for students if they are considering Peace Corps?

Do your research! Spend time carefully looking at the different Peace Corps positions, their descriptions, and requirements. Make sure to choose potential programs that will reflect and help to continue your field of studies, previous work and volunteer experience. Also keep in mind that Peace Corps is a two-year commitment where you are living and working in a community that has requested volunteers with a certain skill set. With an acceptance rate of just over ten percent, the Peace Corps is a competitive professional opportunity and a profoundly life-changing experience.

What would you like to do after graduate school?

I would like to have a career where I can bridge the gap between science and community, extending, and assisting to implement water resources policy and public health. I would like to work within the public sector both domestically and abroad.

Where in Africa would you still like to travel?

Can I say everywhere?! I still have about 49 countries to check off the list. I would love to visit Central Africa, where there are some of the most bio-diverse ecosystems in the world.