Will Anda

Former Panther pops protective ‘bubble,’ experiences life 10,000 miles away from PTC


Caylee Cicero

Starr’s Mill alumnus Will Anda graduated in 2013 with a passion for neuroscience. Before Anda follows his dreams by attending medical school, he decided to travel to Cambodia and volunteer with the Peace Corps.

Hoping to gain real-life experience as he prepares for a career in medicine, Panther alumnus Will Anda left the comfort he grew up with for a journey into Cambodia via the Peace Corps.

I never pictured myself ending up 10,000 miles away volunteering in the Peace Corps in rural Cambodia.

— Panther alumnus Will Anda

Anda spent his first three years at the Mill focused on keeping up his GPA and enjoying his high school experience. But during senior year, the possibility of a future came into view.

“It wasn’t until my senior year that I found a course that captivated me and eventually led me to go down the pre-med track,” Anda said.

After enrolling in AP Psychology, Anda was able to further his fascination with neuroscience. Following graduation in 2013, Anda decided on majoring in biology at Georgia College & State University and following the route to medical school.

During his time at GCSU, Anda built an impressive résumé, including a high GPA and on-campus extracurriculars as well as a social life outside of school.

“Prior to graduation I knew I had to really apply myself in order to excel as a biology major to make myself a competitive applicant for med schools or any future endeavors,” Anda said. “But I never pictured myself ending up 10,000 miles away volunteering in the Peace Corps in rural Cambodia.”

Again, during his final year of schooling, Anda really started to consider his future critically, evaluating the choice to apply to med school right away.

“I didn’t feel ready to commit myself to a life in medicine,” Anda said. “I wanted to expand my understanding of myself and other parts of the world, get out of the classroom to do grass-roots development work in a health setting, and take on an adventure that would push me far outside my comfort zone of ‘the bubble’.”

Caylee Cicero
Former Panther Will Anda won “Biggest Flirt” in the class of 2013’s Senior Superlatives. Since high school, Anda’s interest in medicine has led him to volunteer with the Peace Corps as a Community Health Educator.

Anda soon began researching exactly how he could meet his newfound goals before pursuing a life of medicine. Through his searching, Anda was immediately drawn to the Peace Corps, a program that fit all his desires and without hesitation signed up to join.

“Every volunteer experience is completely individualistic. Peace Corps has volunteers in countries all around the world, across many sectors, and we all face different challenges and have different opportunities,” Anda said. “For me, I am a Community Health Educator, which means my primary assignment is working in a rural health center with a focus on health education.”

The magnitude of options presented to Anda by the Peace Corps allowed him to achieve the real-world experience he yearned for before getting back on track to medical school. The organization also provided him with an experience he may have never expected. Anda’s service led him to Cambodia, a country on a continent he had never visited before.

“Traveling to Cambodia for the first time was an experience all its own,” Anda said. “I had never been to Asia before, yet here I was, traveling 10,000 miles to the other side of the world with 72 other volunteers whom I had never met before. I could never have anticipated the kindness and welcoming spirit that is so prevalent in Khmer culture.”

Anda’s focus in Cambodia is maternal and childhood health. He’s also involved in the Peace Corps water, sanitation, and hygiene initiative there.  But that’s not all, Anda additionally co-teaches English literacy to fourth, fifth, and sixth graders, co-coaches a sixth-grade girls’ basketball team, and sponsors his own English club that meets every evening.

[M]y community is indescribably welcoming of the strange foreigner riding his bike in the Cambodian countryside.

— class of 2013 graduate Will Anda

“Cambodia is a young country, with a young population that is eager to learn and improve as a country,” Anda said. “I feel extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to live in this remarkable country during a time of rapid development and to work with an organization like Peace Corps that values sustainability and approaches development unlike any other organization that I know of.”

Just as important to Anda as the education he provides Cambodians is the relationships he has been able to build with them and the understanding of their culture he has gained in his time there so far. One of the ways Anda and other volunteers are able to do this is by learning the native Cambodian language of Khmer. This has allowed Anda to explain American culture to Cambodians while immersing himself in Khmer tradition.

“My favorite part of my Peace Corps experience is undoubtedly living within a community full of rich culture and traditions,” Anda said. “I live with a host-family with my host brother and sister and their three young kids, and my community is indescribably welcoming of the strange foreigner riding his bike in the Cambodian countryside.”

Through living in Cambodia, Anda has been able to learn about and participate in Buddhist holidays, gain knowledge on Cambodia’s brutal history and its effect on the people, and take part in the agricultural way of life led on by the majority of Cambodians through rice farming. Most importantly, Anda has gained a second family and a second home through his journey.  

“The people I’ve met thus far, once volunteers and now friends, once host-family members and now family, are people I will never forget, and the experiences I’ve had and will continue to have will be something I carry with me for the rest of my life,” Anda said. “I just hope to have a fraction of the impact on my community that they have made on my life so far.”

[My experience] has helped open my perspective on the world, and acted as a catalyst for me to do my best to be understanding and compassionate to people different from myself.

— Panther alumnus Will Anda

With the Peace Corps, Anda is able to experience first-hand what living in one of the less fortunate countries in the world is like. This presents a lifestyle far from the suburban perfection of “the bubble” he was raised in, making his excursion truly eye-opening.

“In high school, I was a run of the mill student at The Mill, and I’m only now beginning to see just how fortunate I was to go to a school with amazing teachers, several of whom I still keep in touch with,” Anda said. “Additionally, seeing another part of the world in the capacity of a volunteer who is embedded into a community is an indescribably challenging and rewarding experience. It has helped open my perspective on the world, and acted as a catalyst for me to do my best to be understanding and compassionate to people different from myself.”

Although he admits the future isn’t on his mind right now, after completing his service with the Peace Corps, Anda plans on returning to the U.S. to attend medical school. Currently, Anda’s trying to focus on living in the present and gaining as much from the once in a lifetime opportunity in Cambodia that he has been provided.

“Right now, emergency medicine is the specialty that interests me the most,” Anda said. “As a result of this experience, I would love to also work with global medicine one day, perhaps with an organization like Doctors Without Borders.”

To further follow Anda’s journey as a volunteer in Cambodia and learn more about the culture he has experienced, students can visit Anda’s blog The Camboydia. Through his blog, Anda hopes to promote a better understanding of Cambodians and their way of life.


Views expressed in this article are those of the interviewee. These views may not represent the Peace Corps and its affiliates.