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MSU contributes to the adventure in Earich's busy life

Life in Nashport, Ohio, resembles a "Mayberry" existence. The city is surrounded by arts and culture, historic sites, parks and biking trails. For Grant Earich, an MSU Job Corps Executive Management Program (JCEMP) graduate, the rest of the world was waiting to be explored.

Upon graduation from university, Earich didn't have a definite plan for his future. But as he found out, sometimes the best plan is not to have a plan. He received a job offer back in Nashport as an assistant to state Sen. Joy Padgett, so he moved home.

"After two years, I got that 'itch.' I had been surrounded by four walls every day, and I knew I didn't want to wake up in my 30s or 40s and feel like I'd wasted my 20s," he said.

On a whim, Earich joined the Peace Corps (PC).

"My first assignment was Kazakhstan (in central Asia). My dad, a Vietnam vet, and my mom were real supportive, but they said they didn't know anything about the country and weren't too trusting of any place ending in 'stan,' so I turned down my original post," he said.

Within two weeks, he was reassigned to Ukraine, where he spent the next 27 months in the city of Vinnytsia, teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL). He worked with exceptional students, ages 13-19, preparing them for universities in foreign lands.

Although Vinnytsia is a large city, life was not without its trials.

"One of the biggest challenges was the language barrier," Earich said. "The local dialect, Surzhyk, is a blend of Russian and Ukrainian. When I first arrived, I looked around and saw people wearing baseball caps, drinking Coke, and I thought, 'This isn't so different after all.' However, if you take off the top surface layer, you realize you're in a different world. The culture shock for me was realizing how familiar things seem, but how different they really are."

In 2008, he returned to the United States and moved to Denver. Still very much attached to the PC edict to "continue serving," Earich began working in February 2009 in the U.S. Department of Labor's Job Corps program.

"The first year was amazing," he said. "About that time, I applied for JCEMP, which brought me to MSU. We had 15-20 students from all over the U.S., so at times I found it really hard to coordinate teamwork. But once we came to Minot, the professors and staff were so encouraging that we became 'North Dakotans.' We created our own community where we had fellowship. We ate together, worked cooperatively, balanced our strengths and became neighbors helping neighbors. We went from being workers at different Job Corps to being a family."

After receiving his master's in informational systems, Earich worked for Job Corps another six months before "the itch" beckoned a second time.

The MSU alumnus applied to Peace Corps Response for a short-term volunteer opportunity and was assigned to PC Eastern Caribbean. He was posted as the library technical operations manager at Antigua State College, Antigua and Barbuda, West Indies. Earich finished his assignment in April 2012.

In August, Earich was hired as an information technology specialist with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, requiring he move to Washington, D.C.

"I didn't expect to move to Washington, but this is the perfect job for me. I will be the person who takes the technical data and puts it into laymen's terms for its intended audience - which means I will be using my MIS degree from MSU exactly as it was meant to be," Earich said.

"I've been so blessed. I never expected to do PC Ukraine or PC Eastern Caribbean, or go to school at MSU," he said. "I have many interests and will look at whatever opportunities come my way and take advantage of them. It never hurts to take advantage of something that's there, because it's usually there for a reason."

To read this story in its entirety or more like it, visit the fall 2012 Connections Magazine [pdf].