Sunday, October 2, 2016

Pizuka accepted to Peace Corps

Olivia Ward, "Pizuka accepted to Peace Corps Pizuka accepted to Peace Corps, "

Pizuka image from article

Senior international relations major Michael Pikuza was accepted to the Peace Corps on Sept. 9, attributing much of his inspiration to his family’s background.

“I wanted to go into the Peace Corps to help people who go through poor conditions and challenges, such as my grandparents did,” Pikuza said. “This is to make a difference in the lives of those who go through challenges within their country, and I’m here to assist in that aspect of their life. This is what I know I was meant to do.”

Pikuza’s grandparents were refugees from eastern Europe, his grandfather from Belarus and his grandmother from Lithuania. He said that his grandparents have been incredibly influential in his life, inspiring his pursuit of education.

“I chose to be an international relations major because I come from a very international background. My grandparents were actually refugees from eastern Europe, during the the time of World War II. Understanding the oppressions they went through during their youth has really inspired me to pursue a career within international affairs and to obtain some sort of political position where I can speak on behalf of those who don’t have the time or who don’t get the chance to speak about the circumstances and challenges that they go through,” Pikuza said.

Pikuza’s grandparents introduced him to different languages and new cultures, resulting from what they learned within the refugee camps.

“Some of these refugees were scholars,” Pikuza said. “They were very well educated people. Within the refugee camps, a lot of those educated people had backgrounds in different languages and my grandparents spoke seven different languages fluently because of the little lessons that were set up within the camps. These people who were educated wanted to teach the youth the importance of language and the importance of being able to interact with someone in times of need. I felt like that was very influential to me.”

The Peace Corps serves countries that are experiencing difficulties in the education, economic, agricultural or health care areas of government.

Pikuza explained that Peace Corps asks Americans to take their academic and career skills to countries in need, acting as a global advocate and helping these communities to grow from within.

“This is something that I feel God has placed me on this Earth to do: to go into these communities, to hear what their challenges are and to make some sort of difference within their community,” Pikuza said. “When I found out, I was so at peace with my heart. I was just so thrilled to be given this opportunity.”

Pikuza explained he is not nervous and does not have any hesitations regarding his work with the Peace Corps.

“I think it’s my biggest accomplishment. I’ve put a lot of time and effort into this,” Pikuza said. “To see someone else happy fulfills my happiness.”

Pikuza will be teaching middle school and high school level English, as well as constructing English curriculums in Moldova, an eastern European country, previously under Soviet control. “It is the poorest country in Europe,” Pikuza said. “Moldova was my number one preference because of my eastern European heritage.”

Pikuza explained that both of his grandparents came from Soviet-occupied countries and feels a familiarity with the people of Moldova, especially with their use of the Russian language.

“I wanted to do it to serve people who went through similar oppressions to my grandparents. That’s why I chose Moldova. Even though I have no Moldovan nationality, I can understand who they are as people within their culture,” Pikuza said. “I feel like it’s going to be home away from home.”

Pikuza explained that Peace Corps representatives emphasize the isolation associated with the 27 – month commitment and the need for a strong support system among friends and family.

“My grandma is very excited for me. She’s excited that it’s Moldova,” Pikuza said, explaining his family’s support and reaction to his Peace Corps acceptance. “They’re excited for me, but they are sad because it has a big commitment…They know this is what I want and they’ve accepted it.”

Pikuza has previously taught English while studying abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica. He wanted to become a teacher after being inspired by his own instructors.

“I felt like I wanted to be that for young students who are also trying to achieve something greater, like myself and all of us here at Lewis,” Pikuza said. “It’s really rewarding because not only are you helping them learn English, but you’re also learning about who they are and where they come from around the world. That gives you a global perspective and I feel like that’s so vital.”

Pikuza leaves for Moldova two weeks after his spring 2017 graduation. After working with the Peace Corps, Pikuza will pursue a master’s degree in Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies at Stanford University.

Pikuza will pursue this degree with hopes of becoming a public diplomacy officer working in United States embassies across eastern Europe.

“We all are one international community and a lot of people forget that,” Pikuza said. “We can hopefully come up with some sort of relations where it’s not just politically driven, but based on friendship and understanding one another.”

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