What do John F. Kennedy, the University of Michigan, and international service have in common? Fifty years ago, JFK challenged Michigan students “to give two years of their lives to help people in countries of the developing world.”
This mission evolved to form the Peace Corps, an independent government organization that has seen more than 200,000 American volunteers to date. You’ve heard stories about Peace Corps participants traveling to exotic places or maybe your next-door neighbor volunteered after college, but what is being in the Peace Corps really like? More importantly, how do you know if the Peace Corps is right for you? Her Campus found out!
What is the Peace Corps?
The Peace Corps sends volunteers to (currently) 77 countries around the world. Volunteers do a wide range of volunteer work in their host communities, depending on their expertise and what is needed, including: education, youth and community development, health, business and information and communications technology, agriculture and environment.
The Peace Corps’ mission has three goals:
- Help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
- Help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
- Help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
Currently, women make up 60 percent of the volunteer base, and 90 percent of volunteers have at least a bachelor’s degree (the Peace Corps has representatives at a ton of schools across the country to recruit college students). University of Colorado-Boulder currently ranks No. 1 for producing volunteers with 117 graduates serving in 2010. Check out if your school ranks for number of volunteers abroad!
Alyssa Eisenstein, a current Peace Corps volunteer and Northwestern University 2010 graduate, said, “Probably the most distinguished part of the Peace Corps is the length of time volunteers commit (three months of in-country training plus two years of service) and the unique approach to development. Peace Corps believes that successful and sustainable development work is based on the trust and confidence built by volunteers by integrating into a host community and culture. Volunteers speak the local language, live side-by-side with the people they are helping and help identify both community needs and assets in order to solve problems in a sustainable manner.”
Who can join?
The only eligibility requirement to apply is having American citizenship and you must be at least 18. However, they recommend having an interest in one of the six program areas (listed above!), having volunteer experience (and a commitment to service) and a college degree.
The Peace Corps also values certain characteristics, such as adaptability, self-reliance, resourcefulness, responsibility, and having a positive attitude along with a sense of humor. Having a background in a foreign language can also be invaluable to a volunteer, and can even dictate where in the world you are sent. “Flexible, adventurous, caring and committed” are other attributes the Peace Corps looks for, said Alyssa.