Peace Corps Exhibit

As Peace Corps celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, volunteering to encourage positive change in developing countries remains one of its primary goals, but students often discover that most of the change occurs within.

Joining the Peace Corps changed Tonya Turben in every way. Placed in rural Paraguay for two years, the Portland State graduate student learned to give up the do-it-all-now America ethos and immerse herself in the pace and values of another culture.

"It's changed me completely," says Turben, who worked on a clean water project. "I view life through my Peace Corps lens."

Like many returned volunteers, Turben says one of her biggest lessons was one of the hardest: accepting that she would get more out of her experience than the people she was there to help.

Turben's advice? "Go there to be the student, instead of the teacher."

Turben returned home to Wisconsin in April to find she had been accepted to Portland State's Graduate School of Social Work and enrolled last fall. She and her boyfriend, whom she met during the three-month Peace Corps training, strive to retain some of the lessons from their service. They eschew TV, try to limit their consumption and focus on building personal, not digital, relationships with others.

"Arriving in Paraguay and at the site was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life," says Turben, 31. "The next hardest thing I've ever done was leaving."

Watch: President Kennedy's executive order establishing the Peace Corps.

Peace Corps Master's International: a new program that combines Peace Corps service with one of five master's programs at PSU. Typically, students will spend one or two years in their master's programs before heading overseas. The first cohort will form in fall 2011.

Exhibit at Oregon Historical Society: "Peace Corps: 50 Years of Service" opens March 1.

Peace Corps in Oregon: Oregon ranks 4th in the nation per capita for the number of Peace Corps volunteers. Portland ranked 10th for top metropolitan areas for total number of volunteers, with 151 residents currently serving.

More Americans are serving as Peace Corps volunteers today than any other time in the last 40 years. More than 200,000 Americans have served.