Jennilou grew up in the suburbs of Milwaukee and Providence. Summer breaks were spent working in retail establishments and with animals at local zoos. She spent leisure time boating, training her pets, singing karaoke, practicing karate, and taking long road trips with her family during summer breaks. Heath, Wellness, and Travel continued to be her passion throughout her college years at the University of Rhode Island, which culminated in a degree in the dietary technician field.
Jeff grew up in a small town and graduated from high school with 140 other seniors. Summer breaks were spent working construction at his father’s business. He spent leisure time deer hunting, fishing, playing baseball and ice hockey as well as splitting wood on his family’s woodlot. Ice hockey continued to be a passion throughout his college years which culminated in a national championship his senior year at the University of Rhode Island. His career interests never wavered during that time. From the beginning, He knew he wanted to remain in the construction field and graduated cum laude from their Civil Engineering program.
After two years of working between the office and construction sites, he decided to return to school to pursue a graduate degree in environmental engineering at Michigan Technological University. Upon receiving his Master’s degree, he proposed to Jennilou and they returned home to Vermont where Jennilou found a job in Sales and Jeff continued working in the Engineering and Construction field.
We have always shared an interest in international development and creating relationships abroad. Jennilou minored in International development and we both love to travel and volunteer in developing countries. During the winter of 2007, we traveled to Honduras to volunteer for Pure Water for the World, a small NGO based in Vermont. Over a three month period, we learned a great deal about the differences between our two cultures and how we needed to adapt our behavior to fit the way business was run in Honduras. Punctuality, dress code, body language, eating habits, business etiquette, and respecting personal space quickly come to mind when reflecting back on our experiences there.
Our time in Honduras gave us ample opportunities to observe everyday life and make necessary changes in our own behavior so we were easily accepted by the villagers we had gone there to help. When we look back at our time with Pure Water for the World, we have only positive thoughts about the experience. We loved learning about a new culture and working hand in hand with local Hondurans which has had a lasting impression on our lives. It was our first time spending an extended time in another country and working in a cross-cultural atmosphere. We had taken short vacations to other countries in the past but never had to rely so heavily on our language skills as we did in Honduras. Since that time, we have traveled to over forty different countries where we have volunteered in the health and sanitation fields. It is our goal to continue to work together abroad and further foster our passion for international development, diplomacy, and peace.
We believe employment in the Foreign Service as a Construction Engineer will be a great opportunity for us to continue doing what we both love to do. Whether we are building relationships or buildings in Vermont or abroad, it must be done one step or one block at a time. It requires patience and an ability to observe situations from several different perspectives so all stake holders are comfortable with the outcome and proud of their accomplishments.