Durham Tech graduate joins Peace Corps, headed to Armenia

will smiling at camera with water on one side and stone building on other side in backgroundWill Arrington will soon embark on what he knows will be a life-changing experience.

Arrington, a Durham Tech and UNC graduate, will be leaving on March 18 to travel to Armenia for two years to teach English as a foreign language with the Peace Corps.

“I’ve always wanted to do some kind of international work,” he said. “I’m going 8000 miles away to a place I’ve never been to do some good while in it.”

Arrington’s interest in this type of work stems from participating in the 2015 Durham Tech trip to Cuba, where he and other Durham Tech students and staff and local residents traveled to learn more about the culture.

It was his first international escapade.

“Cuba was definitely the catalyst for me wanting to explore different parts of the world that I didn’t necessarily think I’d be interested in, and it got me hooked on studying the post-Soviet world over,” Arrington said. “I decided once I got back from Cuba, once I got done with school, I wanted to do something meaningful to contribute to a place that used to exist and is now in the process of rebuilding itself.”

One aspect that drew him to the Peace Corps’ Armenian program was the fact that he could earn an English as a foreign language teacher credential. That meant he could travel and teach in another country after Armenia if he wishes.

It wouldn’t be the first time Arrington has taught students whose first language isn’t English. He tutored students at a middle school in science and math and co-taught an U.S. citizenship class. The other draw to the program was the country itself.

“It just seemed like a fascinating culture,” he said. “Armenia is thousands of years old. … (It) is very old-fashioned in both its society and, in a lot of ways, its technology and things like that. … There is no central heating in basically any of the buildings outside of the major cities.”

Arrington said the country may lack in amenities and technology, but he’s excited about the culture.

“I have been told to expect that people will be extremely friendly and … to expect to eat quite a bit because they love to feed people,” he said. “I’ve just been told it’s a beautiful culture.”

Before leaving, Arrington has to study basic Armenian. His studies are currently focused on the language’s alphabet, which only that country uses.

Upon arrival, Arrington will be engaged in training for three months. If he passes, he can stay and teach for the two years.

Arrington is still close with the Durham Tech Cuba trip group, which recently threw him a going-away party.

He credits his time at Durham Tech for helping progress to this point.

“I thank (my former advisor Jim DePalma) for pretty much everything. I don’t really think I would be here without him,” Arrington said. “He (and Dr. Connie Gómez-Joines and Heidi White with The Center for Global Learner) have all made a profound impact on my life. … I don’t think I would be the person I am if I hadn’t gone to Durham Tech.”