CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Travis Harrington is starting his post-college years in a life-changing way.
The Clinton Township native, 22, was recently accepted into the Peace Corps. On May 30, he departed to Philadelphia for a one-day orientation with other volunteers. Then he was scheduled to get on a 10-hour flight headed for the West African nation of Togo, after press time.
There, he will spend three months living with a host family, learning their language and culture. And in the following 24 months, he will teach English to students between sixth and eighth grades.
Harrington is a graduate of Utica Eisenhower High School in Shelby Township. He recently graduated from Oakland University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in social work.
“When I first found out about the Peace Corps this past fall, I was actually going to get my master’s degree in social work,” he said, before realizing that conducting social work within a different program in a foreign nation would complete a more “overarching goal.”
He will take part in a program called TEACH, where different English-speaking teachers will work with French teachers already located in Togo. An expansion of knowledge will occur, in a manner of back-and-forth lessons and teamwork-oriented collaboration.
The idea first struck Harrington this past October, when one of his friends mentioned that she planned to apply to the program once she graduated in December 2019.
“I didn’t want to inform family members too quickly about it to get their hopes up,” he said. “I just kind of did it by myself.”
Harrington conducted his own personal research, reading country overviews on the Peace Corps website and getting an idea of what to expect in terms of living conditions and what to pack.
“You kind of know what you’re getting yourself into before you do it. It’s definitely gonna be a humbling experience to see how they live,” he said.
An interview was almost immediately offered. Less than three weeks later, he learned that he was accepted for the position — a “pretty fast” time frame, especially when making a life-changing decision.
“I had to figure out if it was exactly what I wanted to do, and that I was going to make that sacrifice,” he said.
He then told his mother, father, sister and brother about his decision. Recently, he has made his rounds to different family members and friends, notifying them of his plans, which he described as “the hardest part” about moving around the world.
Harrington said the only similar experience he previously encountered was during a trip to China in 2012 for a soccer tournament. However, that was only two weeks and not two years. He’s not even sure how he will wash his clothes, or whether electricity will be available in his village.
While admitting that he was simultaneously nervous and excited prior to leaving home, he was upbeat in his intentions.
“English is being adopted as a second language in countries around the world,” he said. “Having English as a second language can help them in their future, in their careers and possibly getting into different universities.
“It’s a great experience to see the world differently.”