Sara Ray’s said her 26-month stint with the Peace Corps in the Eastern European country of Macedonia has given her a new perspective and maturity.

The 24-year-old the daughter of Elizabeth Maddaus of Dixfield and Malcolm Ray of Canton returned home in November and moved to New York City last week in search of her next great adventure.

Macedonia was just that, a great adventure, she said. It slightly modified her idealistic beliefs, gave her a chance to help young women become leaders and allowed her to take lots of mini-trips in and around the former Yugoslavian state.

Like some in her 2008 class at George Washington University, she joined the Peace Corps to make a difference, she said. Her role as a teacher of English in a small Macedonian city helped many to learn the language, and her leadership of a group of young women helped open a few eyes.

Her own perspective changed a bit, too.

“It was positive, but not easy. It promoted a lot of personal growth,” she said by telephone from the city.

Many, both in the classroom and outside of it, treated her in a certain way because of what they saw in Western movies and television shows, such as “Sex and the City,” she said.

“It was perceived as reality,” she said.

Some of her students thought hip-hop music obscenities were OK to use in the classroom. She had to tell them otherwise.

Her experience “grew me up very fast. My youthful idealism, it was scrubbed away very quickly. I learned about reality and the change that can be affected. I learned a realistic view of human nature.”

She said many people in the country were unaccustomed to seeing young women with work experience, including some of the middle-aged men who learned about nonprofits from her. Her house mother, who had hosted young women Peace Corps volunteers prior to Ray, wanted to marry her to a local man. That didn’t happen to Ray, but it did to a previous Peace Corps volunteer.

Leading a group of young women who were motivated was perhaps Ray’s most satisfying experience, she said. The young women had a high level of English language usage and wanted to learn about leadership.

After a few weeks at home, in the state she loves, she decided to head to New York because so many other Peace Corps volunteers were living there, she said.

She’s staying with friends on the East Side of Manhattan, looking for a job in publishing, nonprofits, or in a university, and considering graduate school. She’s using all the resources the Peace Corps makes available to its former volunteers.

Although she’s not sure exactly what she would study in a graduate program, she knows it will likely be in a social science field, maybe museum anthropology at Columbia University.

As gifts to her New York City friends, she’s given jam made by her mother, and maple syrup made by her father.

“I love being from Maine,” she said.

Ray attended Dirigo Middle School and Dirigo High School during her freshman and sophomore years, then graduated from the Maine School of Science and Math in Limestone in 2004. She earned an undergraduate degree in anthropology and linguistics.

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