When most Enterprise Holdings employees consider going “beyond the reservation,” it likely means stepping up to ensure complete satisfaction with a rental. For Management Trainee Emily E., the phrase has an entirely different dimension.
As a member of the Navajo tribe, Emily has literally gone beyond the reservation lands of her native Navajo Nation to explore cultures and build friendships half a world away. Before joining Enterprise, she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Chengdu — a city of 14 million in the Sichuan province of China.
Having grown up in the small Navajo community of Manuelito and Chichiltah, even the city of Gallup— where Emily now works and which boasts a population of slightly more than 21,000 — is much more populated. It stands to reason that going to Chengdu in 2009 took a bit of adjustment on her part. “There are a lot of people in China,” she says. “Even the villages have a million people.”
Though she’d initially had some different destinations in mind for her Peace Corps assignment, before long Emily found herself really enjoying her post as an English instructor at Southwest University for Nationalities. “China created this university to educate minorities in that country,” Emily says. “They thought it would be a good fit for me since I’m an ethnic minority myself.”
She found the classroom work satisfying and the friendships more so. Sichuan cuisine, famous for its fiery spices, often played a role in those budding relationships. “The natives like to have fun with visitors, giving you the hot part to sample,” she smiles.
By 2013, she found herself ready to go back home. “I’m Navajo,” Emily says. “I love my community and I wanted to be near my family.”
The decision to leave China shocked her friends in Chengdu. “They told me, ‘You’re already home — you’re Sichuan Navajo now,’” she says. “It made me proud of the friendships we’d built.”
Since her return to New Mexico, Emily’s had a chance to reflect on her experience in China and apply its lessons to the work she does every day. “There’s a lot of experimenting with the capitalist economy in China … some good, some not so good,” she says. “It made me appreciate honest business practices, and the importance of helping your customers.”
Enterprise Holdings’ focus on integrity was one of the things that drew Emily to the company. She also discovered that her appreciation for cultural differences comes in handy around the branch.
Gallup welcomes more than its fair share of world travelers thanks to tourists visiting canyon country. “Because of my Peace Corps experience, I understand the shortcomings travelers face with transportation,” Emily says. “That gives me a chance to recognize a traveler’s frustrations and ask what we can do to help.”
It’s an approach that has served her well over the past five years. In fact, it led Emily to be named one of six recipients of the Franklin H. Williams Award for 2014 — presented to Peace Corps volunteers from ethnically diverse backgrounds who exemplify an ongoing commitment to community service and the Peace Corps goal of promoting a better understanding of other peoples.
While Emily appreciates the recognition, she sometimes finds all the attention about her Peace Corps activities a bit surprising. Whether in Chengdu or Gallup, her goal remains the same: “I try to make the most out of every moment: To help people where I can, to build a good life for myself and to be a good role model in the community.”