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Home » Finding a Job, Live

Is the Peace Corps a Legit Alternative to Getting a Job?

Last updated by on 51 Comments

Could a Peace Corps job be for you?

Despite nearly a 4.0 GPA at a respected university, resume counseling, and mock interview practice, I had a very hard time finding a job upon graduation. After a few hundred resumes and applications and many months in I was able to find ‘something’. Not an ideal job, but a springboard to another job. It seemed like every job out there was looking for someone with at least 2 to 3 years of experience.

This was in the first half of the decade when the economy was expanding. I can only imagine the challenge and frustration that job market holds for those who just graduated earlier this month. In times of economic contraction, it goes beyond saying that there is a lot of very talented people competing for fewer jobs these days. So, what is one to do after months and months of nothing but rejection letters come?

peace-corps-moneyGet experience. There are some legit volunteer opportunities out there that can provide you with character building, unbelievable experiences. Some even pay you beyond covering your basic livings needs.The first such experience that we’ll cover is the Peace Corps.

What is the Peace Corps?

The Peace Corps is a U.S. federal agency that reports to Congress. There are currently close to 8,000 Peace Corps Volunteers worldwide. The Peace Corps has 3 goals in its mission:

  1. Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
  2. Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
  3. Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

Volunteers typically serve 27 months – 3 in training, and 24 on their assignment.

How do I Apply for the Peace Corps?

You can apply on the Peace Corps site. Essentially, the steps are:

  1. Submit the application.
  2. Interview.
  3. Get medical and legal clearance.
  4. You qualify based on skills and suitability.
  5. Get contacted with a placement.

What Areas of Focus Does the Peace Corps have?

Right now, the Peace Corps focuses in the following areas:

  • Education, youth outreach, and community development
  • Business development
  • Environment
  • Agriculture
  • Health
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Information Technology
  • Food Security

What Benefits Does the Peace Corps Provide for Service?

1. Professional Benefits

  • Global marketplace skills: you get up to 3 months of training prior to your assignment in addition to the incredible experience that your assignment will provide.
  • Job placement support.
  • Non-competitive eligibility for federal jobs. If you serve two years, you get 1 year of non-competitive eligibility. This means that for federal jobs seeking prior federal service, you could be eligible to be hired before the general public without any prior federal experience.
  • Credit towards federal retirement if you decide to go into federal employment.

2. Educational Benefits

  • Credits and financial incentives for Master’s degrees at over 50 colleges and universities.
  • Fellows/USA scholarships.

3. Financial Benefits

  • Two days of vacations per month (24 per year).
  • Living allowance so that you can live a lifestyle ‘similar to locals’.
  • $6,000 upon completion of the program.
  • Deferment of federal student loans. Can’t pay back your loans because you can’t get a job? Defer them while working in the Peace Corps!
  • If you have a Perkins loan, you can actually 15% of your student loans in each of the first two years, and 20% in each of the last two years in a four year term. That’s 70% of your student loans!

4. Medical Benefits

  • Comprehensive medical.
  • Comprehensive dental.
  • Affordable health insurance for up to 18 months following service.

What are Some Peace Corps Alternatives?

Some legit alternatives to the Peace Corps include:

  • Americorps: think of Americorps as Peace Corps at home (in the United States). Americorp focuses on everything from housing, hunger, community development, technology, and more. Choose your interest and location – there are local, state, and national focused programs.
  • Teach for America: Teach for America places recent college graduates in under-served communities in the U.S. as teachers. You do not have to have a teaching degree to apply.
  • The National Guard: For those looking for direction and focus, the national guard might be a good alternative.

If you know of any other alternatives, please share in the comments.

Final Thoughts on the Peace Corps:

With all of these nice benefits, the time that it buys you, the respect that it carries on a resume, and above all else the experience that it provides, the Peace Corps seems like a great alternative for those who can’t find a job right out of school, or those who have been laid off recently. It also seems like a great way for those who are mid career who need to ‘reset’. But having not gone through or knowing anyone who has, I can only speculate, and want to hear about your experiences, so please comment below.

We’ll cover a few more post-grad alternatives in upcoming posts, so stay tuned!

Peace Corps Discussion:

  • Have you or anyone you’re close with volunteered with the Peace Corps? How did it go?
  • Would you consider the Peace Corps if you couldn’t find a job or were laid off?
  • Have a Peace Corps review? Please share!

Related Posts:


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51 Comments »
  • fauxlahipster says:

    i think the peace corps is a great option if you have an interest in a career that they serve. plus, there’s really no other time in your life where you can take 3 years to work/live in some random country. plus, i would imagine it looks pretty good on a resume! i actually looked into peace corps myself recently, and they also offer several programs where you can obtain a Masters Degree while working in the corps.

    would love to hear from anyone who’s actually done it.

  • Evan says:

    I was ready to do Peace Corps, but my wife was was Canadian and we were not allowed to finish the paperwork. We had already prioritized our assignments and countries and everything. By the time she was able to naturalize, our window had passed and we had moved on… job and kids. We often think of how we would have loved to serve in the peace corps. I think it is a great opportunity to get out of the states and see/understand the world a bit and serve others! And so much more if you are able to earn more credit/degrees doing so!

  • Greg says:

    I didn’t do the Peace Corps (although I have a lot of friends who were or are currently in the Peace Corps), but I was a corps member of Teach For America (TFA). TFA is sometimes referred to as a domestic Peace Corps, although the programs are in reality very different. Service initiatives like the Peace Corps, Teach For America, and Americorps, among others, are an excellent option post-graduation. And these experiences don’t limit your ability to get another job, they substantially increase it.

    For example, check out TFA’s list of employer partnerships that features companies like Goldman Sachs, McKinsey, and Google:
    http://teachforamerica.org/alumni/employer_partnerships.htm

    I would absolutely not encourage using a service program for the sole purpose of boosting a resume because you can’t find another job. But if you believe in the program mission, you’ll be given a great opportunity to contribute to society and you’ll take a lot from it yourself. Disclaimer: you’ll probably never be the same and will probably tie your future career to service.

    And to address the financials since this is a finance blog, I taught in a rural region, so the salary was ample for a single guy. I was able to save enough to buy a house upon heading to grad school (and got $9,500 for educational expenses from Americorps on top of it).

  • G.E. Miller says:

    @ Greg – I agree, and should have emphasized in the post – don’t volunteer b/c you have no other options if your heart is not in it. TFA is another good one that I’ll also be highlighting.

  • CD Rates Guy says:

    I think more people will be open to it now given the state of the economy. I didn’t know much about the Peace Corp – their mission statement is pretty cool.

  • Cap says:

    Roommate served in the Peace Corps and was at Peru. She speaks highly of it, and I’m sure most people that have served in the Peace Corps will also speak highly of the experience. Having said that, as Greg and others mentioned… you definitely need a heavy dose of commitment. 27 months, regardless of the vacation time allotted to you, is still pretty heavy duty. Beyond dealing with your job responsibilities, you’ll have to deal w/ potential solitude issues. The application process seems like long winded steps too (Peace Corps suggested applying 9-12 months time frame before you’re ready to serve). For anyone that’s interested, visiting Peace Corps’ site and digesting all the information (including their core expectation) should be a must.

    Personally, I don’t really think its a legit alternative to getting a job. You should only serve because you feel that you will be able to get something legitimate out of this, and have legitimately something to contribute (though I imagine most people will be able to contribute in one form or another).

  • Cap says:

    Oh to add, “The Insider’s Guide to the Peace Corps” appears to be a good book for anyone interested. There’s lots of good/bad to Peace Corps, as with most things in life.

  • Britt (Your Roth IRA) says:

    Dont have any Peace Corps experience myself, but I would definitely look favorably upon it on someones resume.

    The area I live in has a lot of current and retired military personnel, so I’ve seen firsthand how much weight military experience carries in a job search. All else being equal, if given the choice between a 22-year-old with a 4.0 from Harvard and a 22-year-old with four years of enlisted military service, I’d hire the candidate with four years of military service. Why?

    Like the Peace Corps, I think it shows a level of emotional maturation that naturally comes from making a long-term commitment, leaving family and friends, and tackling a series of tough challenges. Can you get that while burying your nose in a book in college? Maybe ¦ But it’s rare.

    I’d say the Peace Corps is a great suggestion. I’d also suggest the military as well as the idea of just getting a minimum wage day job and running a part time business at night (for instance, a network marketing business or affiliate-based Internet business).

  • Alisa says:

    I did Peace Corps right out of undergrad, and it was amazing, but also hard, frustrating, it took me about 3 months to recover from the medical issues after I got back. If you believe in the mission, and you understand that the impact you have on your country of service will likely be very different than what you expect go for it. If you need a job _right now_ well it was about 9 months from the day I submitted my application to when I landed in my country of service…

    I will say that employers look very favorably at Peace Corps service in interviews, as do grad school admissions boards.

    • Samantha S. says:

      I am a senior in high school. I have already been accepted into my college of choice, but I plan on transferring to a college in California after my first or second year. I will be applying for acceptance into the nursing program. I would like to get my associates degree, but I’d love to join the peace corps after my four years of college and earn a master’s. I don’t want to do it for how good it looks on your resume, I truly would love to make a difference in someone’s life. I feel like it would help me a lot through my life, not only in physical ways. I’m very indecisive about it for the soul reason that I’d have no idea what to expect and what the daily life would be like. Do you have any advice that you think would be helpful? It would be greatly appreciated.

      Thank you so much for your time!

  • Josh says:

    Britt already covered the Military but didn’t mention the service options.

    Active Duty – Full time job
    Guard – Part time job (Full time positions available)
    Reserve – Part time job (Full time positions available)
    Auxiliary – Volunteer

    People in school or not able to go away for your (peace corps) or can’t commit to active duty should consider the Guard, the Reserve or an Auxiliary.
    – This will allow you to serve most* of the time in the state of your choosing.

    As a volunteer in an auxiliary, you do only what you commit to do, just be sure not to over commit yourself.

    Personally, I server in the Air National Guard and I have done so proudly and successfully within the 3 states I have chosen to live thus far in my life(26 yrs). I also volunteer with the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) which is the Auxiliary of the Air Force.

    CAP has given me tremendous opportunity simply because I was willing to step up. At the start of the new fiscal year (October) I will be the Commander of my local squadron consisting of almost 35 members from age 12 – well… the oldest active member is for sure over 70. My leadership and management skill has been tested in military and civilian settings and my success shows through awards, promotions, etc… My resume is never empty.

    The hardest thing is trying to choose which quality bullet point is the best one to highlight for a given job application or internal promotion at my full time civilian job. (By the way, I work for the leading online retailer in the world… well at least the US I’m sure… but yea… probably the world :)

  • Evgeniy says:

    Peace Corps – I think a good place if you do not find work.
    But if you need to provide a family it is a variant will not go. This is for the young and single is a good option to start a career.

  • Alex says:

    Was a follow up article ever written on other alternatives besides the Peace Corps?

  • G.E. Miller says:

    @ Alisa, Josh – Thanks so much for your volunteer efforts. I applaud you.

    @ Alex – not yet, but on the way.

  • Pete Loans says:

    Is Peace Corps only in US or they have some branches in other countries? BTW, thanks for posting this article, this is very informative!

  • J says:

    I’m a graduating senior and interested in the Peace Corps. The recruiter has suggested to go to informational events that they hold in your area. Right now I’m trying to get a hold of 2 people I know who have just left to serve in the Peace Corps this past year.

    The Air Force is tempting though because of the idea to work around jets/planes and action cause that type of environment is what satisfies my need for physical labor but also a challenge to the mind and an opportunity to be creative.

    Any returning Peace Corps volunteers?

  • Alison says:

    I am a current Peace Corps volunteer in Azerbaijan (close of service is December 2010). I have completed my first year of service and have one more to go. From my experience, if you are considering applying to the Peace Corps then you should have a few qualities: flexibility (every site placement within my country and every other PC country is different so be ready for anything), patience (the pace at which things will happen and you will accomplish things will be much slower than in America and you may never see the results of your work), a sense of humor (cultural differences are often shocking and frustrating so being able to laugh at yourself and the situation is very helpful), and persistence (you will encounter many roadblocks in your application and service with the Peace Corps but if you push through them then the rewards can be sweet).

    Also, it is my personal opinion that if you cannot handle one night sleeping in a tent then you shouldn’t apply to the Peace Corps (a lot of money goes into training each volunteer so if you are not serious about at least giving it your best shot then don’t bother).

    And to specifically answer the question that this blog raises: yes, Peace Corps is a legitimate alternative, but it’s one that you will be working 24/7 for 27 months.

    I hope this helps.

  • J says:

    what are the rewards for you? I mean everything from seeing stuff, experiencing, and results. Not what is on the website about dental plans and stuff like that.

  • Alison says:

    The rewards for me include living in and learning about a country and part of the world that I knew very little about before coming to (you are able to learn about a culture in a way that a tourist never could), getting to know individuals and being able to debunk myths about Americans (to the Azeris) and about Muslims (to my family and friends), being able to travel around to other countries in my region (I recently went to Turkey and Greece), making a difference in the lives of people that most of the world knows nothing about (there are worthwhile people everywhere and every little bit helps), growing as a person (I have definitely changed for the better; I’ve become more patient, understanding and outgoing), gaining skills like grant writing, working with people of different ages, and organizing projects, and when I return to the U.S. my experience with the Peace Corps will hopefully help me get a job(I hear Peace Corps looks great on the resume but I wouldn’t recommend doing it just for that reason).

    Don’t get me wrong, this is the hardest job I’ve ever had but when you add up the good and the bad, in the end there are more good things than bad ones. It does get hard at times but remember that it is really a volunteer experience and you can leave at any time. Let me know if you have any more questions.

  • tb says:

    i was a volunteer in west africa from 2000-04. i agree with the comment- need ability to spend a night (or 4) in a tent. the hardest part of corps is not your job, which depending on the country, will not strictly enforce attendance. the most difficult aspect is finding yourself isolated from things familiar- food, people, language, non-verbal comm., everyday interactions. this may sound romantic, but lead many a volunteer to “whack evac.” or terminate their service early due to psychological/emotional issues. Yet, that is an other great aspect of the experience, anytime you want- you can pull the chord and find yourself back in kansas.

    the volunteers who made the greatest impact or had the most satysfying experience- really wanted to be there, were open to learning/living in a whole new way. yes, it may look good on a resume, but that is a ridiculous reason to do anything in life. 2 years in a hut, w/o running water or electricity is a long time to sacrfice for something as obtuse as resume building. if you are willing to roll in the dirt, eat with your hands, be aliented, and you can laugh about it at the end of the day- peace corps is for you.

    i never looked a the world the same after returning (cliche) & currently live in american samoa with my wife (from philippines). i call peace corps my re-education, much more beneficial than 20+ years of organized education. before you gu, realize this is more about expanding your horizons or character building, than about assisting others in any long-term fashion. what you do will probably be undone after you leave due to the ever-changing politics/reality of the 3rd world. if your ok with that- do it… my website is tales of the south seas http://faa-samoa.blogspot.com/ . good luck!

    tusitala

  • IM says:

    I am a junior in undergrad and I keep going back and forth with wanting to apply or not… I have done my research and gone to career fairs with PC reps, but for me it’s the 2 year period that is uneasing me. For those of you who have actually served, what made you make your final decision?

    I am also worrying about adjusting after serving (finding a job, etc.)

    Please help me out, thanks!

  • Marie says:

    I’m an accountant who just graduated 2 years ago from undergrad. Yes, I have a good paying job that I should be latching onto for dear life in this economy. I also am in a relationship (on the rocks) for the past 5 years. I have a car loan and some college loan debt, but not enough financial reponsibility to feel trapped.

    Point is, I can’t help but feel like, I’m 23, an accountant, don’t have kids or a mortgage- this is the time for me to do something like the PeaceCorps. I may not have the chance in the future. 2 years is nothing when you have the rest of your life to work a norm job afterwards…?

    Anyone know how the peacecorp would use an accountant? Business development? If I do it, it would be nice to have it relate in some for or fashion to my work history, no?

    • Jordan says:

      Marie, did you ever decide to join the PC? I am in a similar situation. I was fortunate to find a good engineering job right out of college and have been working for almost two years. I’m almost debt free (will be by end of year) and am trying to decide if leaving my job and joining PC is the “right” thing to do. Also, if I do join I would like to be able to contribute in a way that is in my field. I think I could add the most value to the PC in that way and it could help out my resume when I return.

      • Dom says:

        Hey Jordan,

        I’m not sure if you are still deciding on becoming a volunteer or not but I’m a current volunteer and graduated with a Engineering degree. I would suggest you look into Peace Corps Master’s International program. I know that UC Davis has a Civil/Environmental Engineering Ms program that I wish I knew about before I joined PC.

  • Elena says:

    Marie- I highly encourage you to do it. I am a current business Peace Corps volunteer and had similar doubts about PC using my experience, having gotten my MBA degree immediately before getting assigned.

    I’m currently working in Business Education in the Kingdom of Tonga and I’m using my skills in business every day, and learning new ones constantly. Your experience in accounting would be invaluable, especially because many small businesses struggle with record keeping, fraud control, and business control systems in general. Regardless of the job field anyone has experience in, Peace Corps tries their absolute best to match relevant skills with relevant jobs.

    Be aware, though, that the business situations you will deal with in Peace Corps are not at the level of complexity you are probably used to. For example, you’ll have to convince people they need to keep income statements before you train them on how to keep them.

    Peace Corps service will add another dimension to your job experience, and even if you go back to accounting jobs afterward, yes, your resume will be that much stronger and you’ll be that much more interesting of an applicant, not to mention being able to lend a different perspective to any job situation after you finish service.

    Business development would be a first choice, probably with business education/advising (what I’m doing) as a second choice. Your student loans can be deferred.

    Do some serious thinking about your relationship. Either you’re serious about it and you stay, or you’re not serious about it, you cut it off and you go. Previous relationships rarely survive Peace Corps service- usually the volunteer chooses Peace Corps or the relationship, sometimes once they are already in the country of service, which can lead to problems.

    Overall, I highly recommend it. Do it now, as you say, before you get other commitments. Think of the wonderful unpredictable experiences you’ll have, the people you’ll meet, the things you’ll learn, the travel vacations you can take during service (!), and the stories you’ll be able to tell when you’re back.

  • Martin says:

    I’m about to begin my service with the Peace Corps this June. I’ll be heading to west Africa as a health volunteer. I just graduated from undergrad and believe this is the best time I have to join the Peace Corps. I’m done with school for now and I don’t have any serious responsibilities such as a house or kids. If your in the same position and have the spirit to help a little, then I would definitely suggest the Peace Corps.
    I’m joining because I like the adventure offered and have always been involved with community service, but there are also many benefits for when I’m back in the states. I get incredible experience, benefits for graduate school, and non-competitive status for federal jobs throughout many different federal agencies. I’ve been looking into a future career with the Foreign Service(those who work at the US embassies around the world). After talking to a former ambassador at my school, I learned returned peace corps volunteers often make great candidates for the foreign service. Right now my plan is the Peace Corps, then attend graduate school with benefits from PC service, and then begin a career with the Foreign Service.
    I hope this helps and gives you some idea about what you can do!

  • Kevin Tran says:

    Hello,

    I am about to enter my fourth year of my undergraduate studies in biochemistry.(almost done! woo!) I am also certified as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and would hope to go paramedic some day. As an aspiring paramedic, I would hope I can practice my medical services so I wouldn’t lose out on it. Does anyone know if there are positions in the Peace Corps that can utilize these skills? I personally wouldn’t mind doing other things in the service (I would love to grow trees and give back to the earth). My focus is emergency care, which I suppose is health related, but I was curious if first aid was available for volunteers.

  • Sai says:

    I am getting ready to go to the peace corps in a little over 2 months. My only concern is not during my time with PC but the career/financial BENEFITS AFTER the PC. Will I finally have the “relevant experience” for an international career (e.g UN. Foreign Service, etc??). I finished UCLA with two degrees B.A. in International Development and an M.A. in African studies. I am looking forward to the experience but I am TIRED of being BROKE and in debt(student loans, car I voluntarily turned in for repossession) than Ive made in my entire life. With my turning 29 by at the end of my service it will not be long after that I want to start a family and I want to start a REAL CAREER by that time.

    I would really like to hear from someone who has benefited career-wise BECAUSE of their connection to PC. Where are you working now? Did working for the PC OPEN doors to the career for your dreams?

  • Alisa says:

    Sai, as I mentioned before I did Peace Corps, and while I left early for medical reasons and didn’t get the Non-competitive Eligibility benefit I still think it helped my career. I will also say think about what you want to do post peace corps while you’re there…

    The Good
    1) employers are looking at 100s of resumes, PC is unique and will help you stand out.
    2) you have a chance to do a level of self-directed work you don’t often get to do in the US so if you know you want to do grant writing when you’re back write some grants in PC, if you want to do NGO management, start some projects and develop budgets and timelines, if you want to teach in the US, teach while you’re in PC. I don’t know about your country but mine basically put me in a village and let me do whatever.
    3) the experience is unparalleled and I found that behavioral interview questions were much, much easier after PC.
    4) if you’re interested in working in your country of service, you would have just spent 2 years turning down job offers from locals and expats and could probably get a job, especially an NGO or teaching job, fairly easily

    The Bad
    1) it takes time to deal with reverse culture shock. Give yourself at least a month between PC and starting a job state-side
    2) You might miss some new and shiny technology while you’re gone and have to catch up
    3) your typing speed may be shot and you’ll have to catch up
    4) you will have to unlearn local etiquette and relearn US business etiquette (sounds silly but I had to remind myself not to take off my shoes before entering my office for months.)
    5) working 40 hour weeks will be a shock, but so will hot running water

  • Sanchez says:

    I’m currently waiting in the last step of the Peace Corps placement process for the Business Advising program and it’s killing me. Very excited to get going.

    I wanted to refute one of the claims in this article: Peace Corps is not a very good option if you’re unemployed because the application process takes FOREVER. It’s one of the ways they sift out those who are only somewhat interested. I thought I would fly through being young, very healthy, and with plenty of practical business knowledge, but I’ve been told that even if I do get an assignment at all, it will be a full year to a year and a half after I first applied and was nominated to the Corps! This can only be partially blamed on budget issues.

  • Ryan says:

    I’m getting US Citizenship in a month or two. As soon as I get it, I’m going to apply for Peace Corp. I’m hoping it’ll help me a lot when I finish it. I’ve been unemployed for a year and it is sad that I need to wait another year for the application to be processed, but it’s better than not working for nothing, right?

    The only thing that worries me is…Why are there so few volunteers? With the benefits they give, there should be at least a million volunteers already. Is it really that hard to get into Peace Corp? I have BA in Communication and my GPA….is right below 3.0…but anyway, once you graduate school, it seems GPA doesn’t really matter (couldn’t find an article that says Peace Corp requires GPA of at least X.XX AFTER you graduate)

    There’s what, 200-300k volunteers around the world? What is that number? Why are there so few? Can someone let me know why there are so few volunteers even with great benefits?

    • Alison says:

      Ryan, I commend you for wanting to do the Peace Corps so soon after getting U.S. citizenship. I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Azerbaijan with a recently nationalized man from Kenya and I believe that his passion for the work he was doing was an important contribution.

      To answer your question about why there are so few volunteers when the benefits are so great, it all comes down to money. Peace Corps is funded by the U.S. Government (i.e. taxpayers) and Congress is in charge of deciding how much funding Peace Corps gets. This is directly related to how many volunteers each Peace Corps country office can support since the Peace Corps pays for each volunteer’s living allowance, medical care, and transport to and from their country of service. It can be difficult to justify the expense of a Peace Corps volunteer to Congress when quantifiable “results” are not always easy to convey. I believe that my Peace Corps experience was extremely valuable to the community that I served in and to myself as a person. But to someone who does not know Peace Corps, community development, or the cultures of the countries that volunteers serve in, then increasing the budget may not seem prudent. It’s also a function of the number and size of each Peace Corps country. A country the size of Maine cannot support hundreds of volunteers; there are just not enough schools/organizations to place them with never mind the support staff in each country’s Peace Corps office.

      Another reason why there are so few volunteers is that there are not as many Americans as you might think who are willing to give 27 months of their lives to live in a strange country, speak a strange language, and live in vastly different conditions. I believe in the benefits of Peace Corps, both for host countries and the volunteers, but it’s certainly not for everyone.

      Please let me know if anyone has more questions about Peace Corps. I am happy to talk about my experience.

  • D'Auria says:

    Alison,

    I am looking to join Peace Corps next year after I graduate from college with a B.A. in English Lit. I am most interested in youth outreach, especially as it pertains to sexual assault. I have volunteered for four years with an organization in D.C. that aids sexual assault survivors. We have also spoken with Peace Corps volunteers who have talked about problems within the Peace Corps such as rape of female volunteers. Clearly, this is a concern of mine so I’d like to know more details of your experience. I also would like to know of your living conditions, not so much the physical aspect, but the social aspect. Were you the only volunteer in your area? What exactly was your mission operative and what tools did they provide you with to help you meet your goal?

  • Alison says:

    D’Auria,

    There are definitely positions in Peace Corps that would be great for your skills and interests. Make sure that you express those interests in your interview and application.

    The issue of sexual violence against Peace Corps Volunteers has been in the news a lot lately and is, of course, very concerning. I can point you to the Peace Corps website and their section on Safety and Security, which has a lot of info about volunteer safety, frequently asked questions, and an annual report of incidents. Each country is different and each volunteer’s experience is different so I can only really speak about my service.

    I felt very safe in the community that I was placed in. I knew all my neighbors, had a great counterpart that looked out for me, and learned the rules for what women are and are not allowed to do. These social rules are different everywhere; even within the same country there are areas that are more or less conservative. When I say “allowed”, I mean that my reputation (and my work in the community) would have been affected if I had done things that other young women would not. Given that, I did live in a house alone and cook and clean for myself, which was seen as very unusual, but it did not greatly affect my reputation. I did not have male friends stay overnight at my house, buy alcohol in my town, and did not wear revealing clothing. These “rules” did not affect my life much. The thing that I had to do differently was not smile at strangers. Walking down the street I would always look down and not make eye contact with men, in order to not attract attention. In general I felt very safe but I would not have if I walked alone at night or hung out alone with men I didn’t know well. There was one other volunteer (woman) in my town but I was in a small village just outside of town. My second year, a married volunteer couple came to my town.

    My goal as youth development facilitator was to develop the youth of my community. There were three months of training in which Peace Corps trained us on what development is and is not and ideas for what we could do in our communities. Azerbaijan is a very young PC country and many people are unfamiliar with what we do. Due to that and the fact that my village had never had a volunteer before, I had to start from scratch. Peace Corps tells you the ideal and then you take that, assess you community, and adjust things to make it fit. For example, my students spoke no English so my training on English conversation clubs would not work for me as it might for other volunteers. That was fine; I just did what I wanted to do. I created English learning, art, and sports clubs. Also, “youth development” for me was anything from talking to one of my students about their life to organizing a summer camp in which they had fun but also learned how to play fair. If I had questions I could always call my program manager and she could help me with logistical and cultural issues. There is a library in the main PC office in the capital city that had tons of resources on how to do conversation clubs, start a community garden, or develop business plans, etc.

    I hope I answered your questions properly. Peace Corps and my PC experience is very complicated and sometimes hard to describe. Please let me know if I can answer any more questions or clarify something for you.

  • valente says:

    I am a professional teacher trainer and i have already finished Licenciatura degree in ELT at Univesidade Pedagogica in Mozambique.
    I am currently living in Nampula Province, in the north of mozambique and i would like to apply for a job at Peace corps.

  • Aleksey says:

    I’ll be done with college when I’m about 31 years old. I’ve been wanting to do PC since I started my 4 year education. However, the more I think about my age the less attractive PC becomes. I’ll be 31 when I graduate and 33 when I come back … I feel like I would miss out on a lot of job opportunities.

    I’ll be graduating as a Marketing Major.

    What are your thoughts on that? I also speak Russian, but would rather get a Spanish Speaking country, any advise on that?

    • Alison says:

      I do not think there is a wrong time in your life to do Peace Corps, unless you have significant family or financial obligations. I think your skills would be greatly appreciated in the Business development program and there are several countries in which knowing Russian would be very useful. I would talk to a Peace Corps representative but I believe that many Spanish speaking PC countries require you to already speak Spanish because they then teach you a local language that you will also need.

    • hawkins says:

      If you haven’t done so already, you should definitely go for it! Anyway, the average age for a PCV is 28!!

  • Alison says:

    Check out this article. I think it can help explain some things about Peace Corps to people who are considering it.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/maya-lau/what-the-peace-corp-taugh_b_1099202.html

  • Karen says:

    Hi Allison,

    How did you end up in the town you were in (my impression is that you chose a country and described your interests and someone at the PC office helped match you up with a community that expressed a need?)?

    What was its like when you first arrived? How did you get settled there? What resources did you have to help you find a place to live and how did you find the resources you needed (like food, household supplies, transportation, in addition to what you needed for your mission)?

  • Alison says:

    Hi Karen,

    You are not allowed to choose a specific country to volunteer in, but you can tell your interviewer which region (Africa, South America, Eastern Europe, etc) you would prefer. That does not guarantee that you will go to that region but I think they try to take that info into account when they choose your placement. They also place you in a program (teaching English, health, agriculture, youth, etc) that is hopefully related to experience that you’ve had. You get what is called a nomination that includes a country and a program and you can either accept or decline that nomination, though if you decline there is no guarantee that you will get another nomination (or at least another one soon). Once you accept the nomination you become an invitee and they will send you all the info you need for your country and program. Before you leave the United States all of the volunteers that are going to your Peace Corps country at that time will have an orientation and then all fly to your PC country together. Staff in that country will then pick you up at the airport. In my experience (and I cannot guarantee that all PC offices are like this), after they picked us up from the airport we stayed in a hotel for 4 days and went through a short cultural and language orientation. Then we were dropped off with the host families that we’d be living with during training. For 3 months you live with those families and go to language, cultural, and program classes. At the end of the 3 months you are sworn in as volunteers and move to your site placement. Your program manager interviews you during the training period to figure out what kind of place you would prefer to live in (city vs country, near lots of volunteers or not, etc). They also try to take this into account when selecting your site. I was placed in a site about 5 hours by bus from the capital city. For the first 4 months of service (which is different from training) I lived with another host family in my new community. Then I was allowed to move out and live on my own. This varies greatly from country to country. In order for a school or organization to get a PC volunteer they must have a counterpart for the volunteer to work with. My counterpart happened to be an English teacher and he helped me acclimate to my new community and life. When I lived with host families they fed me and by the time I moved out on my own I had enough language skills to find my own food, household supplies, and transportation. Each volunteer receives a stipend that is supposed to be comparable to the living standard of other people in your community. In my case that money was deposited into a bank account and I could access it from the ATM in the center of my town. I found the stipend was enough to live on and did not have problems living within my means. If I needed work related help I could always call my program manager for advice and there was also a library in the main office that had tons of materials that I could use. There was also two doctors that I could call at any time if I had medical questions or needed medicine and there was a safety adviser that I could call if I needed help.

    I hope I answered your questions. Please let me know if you have any more.

  • Sam says:

    Hi,

    Can you apply to be a peace corp volunteer during your last yr of 4yr college? Does the peace corp require you to apply after you get the degree?

  • Alison says:

    Hi Sam,

    Yes, you can apply during your last year of college. I did it and it worked out great. Since the application process takes so long it actually worked out for me to leave for Peace Corps about 3 months after graduation. I think you just have to show that you’re in good standing with the school and tell them your expected graduation date.

  • Allan says:

    Hi,

    I am currently a rising senior Business Management major at my university. I am very interested in considering the possiblity of joining the Peace Corps.

    Do you have any advice in terms of preparing for the application process, the term of service and the readjustment process afterwards? I am extremely nervous about the readjustment part because I feel that I would be behind my business-minded peers when I return (which might hurt my chances of getting a job later on). Any other advice would be helpful as well.

    Thanks!

  • Nick says:

    I was in the Peace Corps in Costa Rica. All of the comments have done a great job describing what service is like, how hard it is and yet how how many benefits there are.

    As some people have commented already, you probably shouldn’t dedicate 27 months of your life to something unless you have a heart to serve, are flexible, etc. Having said that, I got my job because of my Peace Corps service. That was a nice side benefit after I got back.

    I work as a Spanish Interpreter at a hospital. After I was hired, my boss told me that she had applicants with much more experience (interpreting) than me, but she hired me because she was impressed with my Peace Corps service.

    • Shefki says:

      Hi Nick,

      I live & work free lance in NYC I spent last summer working at an orphanage in Brazil through IVHQ a Volunteer Abroad program & some time this summer teaching English in Cambodia.

      I finally want to make the longer commitment to a project by applying to PC. My question is related to living & relationships with other volunteers, I have read some comments about ppl feeling very isolated during their appointments. Are there generally multiple volunteers working on a specific project or are you guys left on your own to work solo. I know I can live rough and am very adaptable, I’ve traveled extensively, speak many languages & have lived in different countries, but the one thing I do not like is being alone, so I was wondering what your living situation was like, did you have interaction with other volunteers while serving or were you mostly solo?

      Thanks

      • Nick says:

        My situation:

        I was in a small town of a couple hundred people, with small towns scattered nearby. The nearest “city” with a couple thousand people was only about 15 miles away, but because of bad roads and public transportation, usually took 30-40 minutes to get there. The nearest Peace Corps volunteer to me lived there. I would probably only see him about once a month, give or take.

        But I knew other volunteers with someone within 15 minutes, and others with the nearest volunteer within about 2-3 hours.

        Even though every couple months you have meets and get togethers with other volunteers, the majority of your time will be spent “alone” as the only American, but you will be surrounded by locals. I lived with a local family.

  • max says:

    hey all,

    I am looking into applying but it seems like many people who apply speak more than one language. i only speak one language, is this a problem? and would the PC put me in a country of english speakers or would they try to train me in a different language?

    thanks!

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