Elizabeth Ferry had always planned to go home to Winslow after college, get a good teaching job, coach sports and live a happy, contented life.

All that changed, however, when she took a trip to Scotland and Ireland during her junior year at University of Maine at Farmington and hiked every day with a small group of students studying geology.

She will never forget the moment she realized the world is large and there’s so much more to see and learn before she settles down.

“We went to the Isle of Skye in Scotland and there were 360 degrees of just breathtaking views. I have never felt so small in my entire life. It was amazing.”

Always an organized person, Ferry, now 22, sat down last fall and mapped out the possibilities for what she would do when she graduated from UMF in May this year: become a Peace Corps volunteer, get a teaching job in Maine, travel to Alaska, teach abroad or hike the Appalachian Trail — all things she wants to do in life.

“I was looking at the messy map and trying to picture which one of these was going to make me the happiest and bring the most joy to the most number of people,” she recalled.

Staying in Maine would be the safest path of the five, but if she chose it, she would likely never do the other four, she decided.

So she chose the Peace Corps, sort of on a whim, never dreaming she would be accepted for one of five English teaching positions the Peace Corps was offering in Tanzania.

It was a long application process that included reams of paperwork and a lengthy Skype interview, but she got word Dec. 31 last year that she had been accepted. She will head to Philadelphia July 9 to train with 39 other Peace Corps volunteers and fly to Africa two days later. She will travel first to Dar es Salaam to live with a host family for 10 weeks and train for Peace Corps work during the day.

After that, she’ll be sent to a teaching post in the East African country, but she has no idea where. She will teach English to students ages 13-18 and live on or around the school grounds, for two years, she said.

For Ferry, that unknown is both exciting and intimidating, but she will plunge into it armed with what she calls her motto: Make connections with students, be kind, be silly and do things that matter. She will practice that motto in Tanzania and bring what she learns from students back to the U.S. to share with future students, she said.

“I hope I can do some good while I’m there,” she said. “I’m going to bring home so many lessons from the students. I will Skype in with American classrooms so our students in America can see what it’s like. When I come back — the stories I’ll tell and the perspective I’ll have. I’ll share that with my future students.”

As Ferry speaks, she exudes enthusiasm. The animated, hazel-eyed, brown-haired athlete, who is just shy of 6 feet tall, blushes with excitement.

The daughter of John and Beth Ferry, of Winslow, she is not your typical college graduate, having completed her studies at UMF summa cum laude and earning a bachelor’s degree in secondary education with a concentration in English.

Her list of accomplishments is long. She played basketball while at UMF, was team captain her senior year and was honored by the North Atlantic Conference with a Senior Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award and was accepted into the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association. She volunteered for Special Olympics and the American Cancer Society, was awarded the Jill Schwab Award for Leadership and Community Involvement and was student athlete ambassador for the UMF Admissions Office. She also coached youth sports and was president of the North Atlantic and UMF Student Athlete Advisory Committee. She was chosen to take part in So You Want to be a Coach, a program sponsored by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, and attended the national coaching convention in April in Indianapolis, where she got to see the University of Connecticut women win the Division I Championship for the fourth year in a row. On Tuesday, Ferry learned that she was nominated for the Woman of the Year Award by the NCAA and North Atlantic Conference.

She coached youth basketball in Farmington as well as Mt. Blue Middle School boys soccer while a UMF student.

“It was an amazing experience,” she said. “They were incredibly talented. We went for two years undefeated. It was so much fun. They kept me on my toes.”

She calls the time she spent student teaching at Mt. Blue High School the best 16 weeks of her college career.

“My students — every time I talk about them, I just glow. Every day I wanted to go to school — every single day.”

She had a rule in her classroom, that at any time, it was OK for students to ask why they were studying a particular subject.

“I do not believe in things that aren’t meaningful or relevant,” she said.

At the time, she roomed with several other student teachers and they would all come home at the end of the day and debrief, she recalled.

“We just lived our student teaching. It was everything. I saw progress, my students making progress. I made connections with them. I stay in contact with them. They’re the best and I hope it’s only the tip of the iceberg.”

For all Ferry has accomplished and all the accolades she has garnered over the years, she is humble about her status and does not believe achievement is the measure of a person.

“At the end of the day, it’s what kind of person you are,” she said.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter for 28 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.

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