What Is The Peace Corps?
For some, graduation holds open a door of endless opportunity and an exciting life ahead, but the rest of us would rather slam that door shut and stay contentedly where we are.
Perhaps the ambiguous post-graduation future is just too much. Do you have a job lined up? How are you going to start paying off those loans? Can you even graduate or is there some obscure gender-role beer-tasting history class you haven’t taken?
This stew of ambiguity and unanswered questions is not something anyone wants to dive into, but just like throwing in one redeeming ingredient, the Peace Corps can make the plunge a little more appealing.
The Peace Corps was the brainchild of John F Kennedy. When on his campaign for election, he was speaking to some college students and challenged them to spend two years after they graduate doing good for the third world.
In March of his first year in office, Kennedy signed Executive Order 10924, creating the first Peace Corps. Since then, the Corps has seen growth in most presidencies since Kennedy and was declared an independent federal agency in the ’80s.
So what is it? The Peace Corps is a humanitarian organization that helps developing countries and impoverished areas around the world. The Corps focuses on humanitarian aid and education with teachers, doctors, nurses and social workers deployed worldwide.
Volunteers to the Peace Corps apply to the position like any other. The only requirements are that you are a U.S. citizen at least 18 years of age.
Some go straight in from high school, but most enter after college. There is no language requirement and you will be taught any applicable skills needed to do the job. You just volunteer time in training and a two year stint overseas, not unlike the military.
The Peace Corps recommends that you apply 9-12 months ahead of when you’d like to leave the states. Before you start your application, you can check their website for openings across the globe, specifying the region you wish to serve and the field you wish to pursue. I pulled up a list of 112 openings worldwide. The positions ranged from regional planner to English teacher to community service. Each has a date listed of the depart time for the volunteer.
After acceptance, volunteers will go through a three month long training period where they will live in a country and learn the language of the local community. They receive training in education, business, or whatever else their specialty might be, but also basic bits of knowledge like safety, culture and first aid. In this period, the volunteer is housed with a host family and lives in the community with a few more volunteers.
Once the volunteer has completed training, the volunteers are sworn in as full Peace Corps members and expected to abide by the rules of the Corps and live up to its standards. The volunteers are then sent to their assignments overseas where they help some community. The job can be monotonous or exciting. The assignments are generally very safe, but there are inherent risks to volunteering abroad.
The volunteers are paid, but only a small allowance, really. However, for two years, your food and housing are essentially taken care of. The pay is not why most people do it either. With a focus on humanitarian aid, it’s not about the wage, but the impact.
When joining the Corps, most student loans are deferred until leaving. One of my managers is a graduating senior entering the Peace Corps who has joked that she’ll volunteer until she’s dead and that way won’t pay student loans. Joking aside, it is a viable way to put off the pain of loans at least a few more years while you’re volunteering.
Besides pay and loan deferment, the Corps offers a unique way to travel and immerse yourself in another culture. Americans are largely held with global contempt and, while that might be not unjustly so, the Corps seeks to soothe bad relations by inserting young people into countries to learn more about them.
The total immersion experience of the Corps lets you really see the workings of a culture and learn the language as a native. The people you serve also are exposed to America’s culture, learning to appreciate the beautiful aspects of it as well in wonderful cultural exchange.
With a growing demand for experience prior to entering the workforce, there just seems to be almost no options. Here’s where the Peace Corps excels. It takes inexperienced people from zero to 100 in experience in real world scenarios. This is not a classroom. It’s a real job with real life experiences to teach you better than any professor ever could.
Whatever your plans are for after graduation, the Peace Corps is always there. They accept all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds. So if you’re thinking about joining now, or find yourself restless in a future job, just think of student loan deferment, 48 days of paid vacation, travel for family emergencies, language immersion, cultural exchange and community building.
Because the Peace Corps just might have a spot open for you.