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Chris Cardona

October 31, 2016

Serving as an education volunteer with the Peace Corps was a life-changing experience for Chris Cardona ’14. Not only did he immerse himself in a new culture, Cardona also helped students in China build their confidence in speaking the English language.

Cardona traveled to China after graduating from UNCW to teach English as a second language at a vocational high school in Wulong, China. For two years, he aided students in mastering English language competency and conversational skills while also serving as a mentor.

“As Peace Corps volunteers, we work and live in the communities where we serve. I lived in a rural community where I was often the first American that people had ever seen or met,” he said. “I have an extreme sense of gratitude to the people who welcomed me in the community of Wulong, China. I made lifelong friendships.”

Exploring new cultures is nothing new for Cardona. Born in Goldsboro, N.C., Cardona lived abroad in various countries, including Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, El Salvador, Honduras, Benin and Switzerland. He began his studies at UNCW shortly after returning to the U.S.

UNCW’s Centro Hispano was a deciding factor for Cardona when considering schools. At the time, Centro Hispano was the only Hispanic multicultural center within the UNC system, he said. Cardona was actively involved in the center, serving as vice president of Centro Hispano Embajadores and a mentor for MI CASA, a program designed to provide access to higher education to Hispanic/Latino high school students in N.C.

“As a Latino student, I felt that this place would give me the support I would need to succeed during my undergrad studies,” said Cardona, who majored in international studies and minored in Latin American studies. “Also, my grandparents were living in Oak Island, so after spending so much time living far away, I wanted to be able to be close to them.”

UNCW’s campus provided an atmosphere for meaningful conversations and to build genuine connections with professors, he added. “It’s also big enough that I could meet new interesting people every day. The growing international student population and the opportunity to study abroad made my experience enriching.”

Cardona hopes to take what he learned from his Peace Corps experience to help youth in the North Carolina. 

“Being a mentor to young individuals was one of the most rewarding experiences of being a volunteer,” he said. “I believe there are plenty of opportunities in North Carolina, whether that is promoting students to pursue a higher education or inspire other individuals to join the Peace Corps.”

-- Venita Jenkins