Courtesy of Danny Herres
After spending his middle school years living in Cairo, Egypt, and later studying in Ireland for two semesters in college, Panther alumnus Danny Herres fell in love with the idea of traveling and living abroad. Although he didn’t know how it would come into play in his career, his passion for international lifestyle was destined to influence his future.
“While I don’t fit the prototypical ‘third culture kid’ profile, I still feel more at home outside of the USA,” Herres said. “I love the daily challenges and surprises that come from living abroad and getting to know a different way of life at a deeper level than from simply traveling. It also helps you to learn more about who you are and what’s important to you, and gives you a broader perspective on life and the world.”
During Herres’ time at the Mill, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his future, but it was likely his love of travel would impact his final decision. After graduating in 2000, he attended college at Emory University.
“I didn’t really have much of a picture [of my future] at all,” Herres said. “I think I went to college partly because I believed it was simply expected of me.”
Another unknown for Herres was his college major. He finally decided psychology after swapping majors several times. After graduating from Emory, Herres attended graduate school at the University of Connecticut where he majored in industrial/organizational psychology.
“[I] eventually finished [college] with a degree in psychology because I was interested in learning more about myself and how other people function,” Herres said.
While in college, Herres learned about the Peace Corps organization from one of his friends who served with it. Herres was always intrigued by the group and idealized joining if it was a possibility for him. The Peace Corps could provide Herres with a way to travel the world and live overseas while helping others.
“[Joining the Peace Corps] had been on my radar for a long time as something that sounded awesome that I knew I’d love to do, but I never thought I’d be able to,” Herres said.
Before Herres decided on applying for the Peace Corps, he moved to Japan to become a teacher. After seeing a job advertised online for foreign teachers, Herres applied to take the opportunity to educate others and explore the one-of-a-kind culture of the country. During his time in Japan, Herres taught a wide age range of students for three different organizations while taking in the lifestyle of the beautiful country.
“Japan captured my heart because it’s such a strong and unique culture that maintains its connection to its history, traditions, and roots,” Herres said.
Herres then found another online opportunity to continue his life abroad through a teaching job in Hong Kong. With his experience working overseas and his Masters in Psychology, Herres was able to secure the job. With all of Herres’ students being fluent in English, his job was to teach them similar subjects to what Starr’s Mill students learn in English class. This included writing and organizing narratives, using imagery and figurative language, and writing argumentative essays using evidence and rhetoric.
“Hong Kong is an interesting place because it used to be a British colony, and now it’s technically part of China but still retains its own individuality, government, and legal and visa systems,” Herres said. “It’s a very competitive academic environment in Hong Kong, so students are active in countless activities outside of school.”
Following his experiences teaching, Herres determined he would put his reservations aside and apply to serve for the Peace Corps. The decision came after Herres was able to talk to a returned volunteer and ask him questions regarding the organization. Through the conversation, Herres was able to confirm the Peace Corps was right for him.
“I love working and living internationally, and I enjoy being of service and helping others, both of which are key components of Peace Corps service,” Herres said.
After being accepted to the Peace Corps, Herres resigned from his teaching job in Hong Kong this past October. With eight months downtime before starting his training with the organization, Herres is currently spending the free time backpacking and traveling Europe. He’s again immersing himself in the international way of life as well as sightseeing the world’s landmarks.
Herres will begin his service with the Peace Corps next June in Malawi and will continue serving for at least the next 27 months. Following extensive training in language and culture of Malawi as well as learning technical skills, Herres will start his work as a community health specialist volunteer. His work will mainly focus on HIV prevention, education, and treatment, and will be based at a rural hospital or clinic in the area.
“The main goals of the Peace Corps are to help the citizens of interested countries in various sectors such as education, health, or agriculture, share American culture with people in other countries, and educate Americans back home about other cultures,” Herres said. “So in addition to development work at a grassroots level, a lot of it also entails soft diplomacy and cultural exchange.”
Through working internationally and joining the Peace Corps, Herres feels he’s getting back to what he wanted to do with his life and not what others pressured him to do. As a teenager, the expectations of his parents distracted Herres from following his passion for global opportunities.
“In high school, I didn’t have much of an idea of what I wanted to do. I felt compelled to do what I thought my parents wanted me to do,” Herres said. “Since then, I’ve found my own interests and goals, and have developed an independent sense of what I want, and I’m willing to let go of the desire to please other people and do what I believe is right for me. I’m looking at changing careers again and getting into the international development sector, continuing my passion for working internationally. In some ways, it’s coming full circle, because while in college I knew that I enjoyed that. I merely got sidetracked.”
As Herres has found his purpose, he’s been able to obtain incredible experiences and live and travel to places some only dream of. With Peace Corps service and plans to work in international development, it doesn’t look like Herres’ worldwide outlook will come to an end anytime soon as he continues to achieve unbelievable career goals and inspire future Panthers.