Sara Ray has gone from chatting with college classmates about solving the world’s problems to doing something about them.

The George Washington University graduate from Dixfield and Canton has just finished nearly 12 weeks of intense training in the Macedonian language. She is about to begin her Peace Corps assignment teaching English as a foreign language in this eastern European country that was once part of Yugoslavia.

She gave the student address for her university before 25,000 people on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in May.

Reached by e-mail as she sat in an Internet café in Macedonia, Ray, 22, wrote that surface similarities to Western countries are just that.

“Things look the same, but ultimately, the mind-sets and mentalities behind those similarities are vastly different,” she wrote.

The culture of this 2,300-year-old country is a combination of Middle Eastern, European and Hellenistic. Learning about the deeply embedded ethnic conflicts helped Ray understand and sympathize with the nation.

She will be teaching high school English in a city of about 20,000 people for two years.

“No changes in my long-term goals. I’m very short-term oriented right now.

“For instance, today my goals are to find peanut butter somewhere in the city and to explain to my host mother that she doesn’t need to find me a husband!” she wrote. Ray is considering a career in law, government or linguistics.

– Eileen M. Adams

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