As a prospective Peace Corps volunteer, I can tell you firsthand how time-consuming and exhausting the application process can be. This past week, however, I was able to take a glimpse into the life of a Peace Corps volunteer, helping me realize that all the work and time put into my application will be worth it. During the information session led by returned Peace Corps volunteer and recruiter, Katy Howell-Burke, students at Florida State were given the opportunity to ask questions about the Peace Corps, talk with other returned Peace Corps volunteers in the Tallahassee area, and skype with Florida State student, Catherine Lampi, who is currently serving as an Economic and Community Development Volunteer in El Salvador.
Throughout the session, many attendees including myself asked Catherine all about her experience thus far in El Salvador. Catherine has been in El Salvador for the past seven months and is currently working on projects to build community and citizen participation groups, especially among women, in rural El Salvador. One of the many questions asked to Catherine during the session was about what she missed the most about being home or just being in the United States in general. I think Catherine’s response surprised a few audience members. She said she simply missed the freedom she had at home- the freedom to just get in her car and go somewhere. Her answer really put into perspective many of the little things that we have that we sometimes take for granted.
When asked about what kind of items to bring with you as a Peace Corps volunteer, Catherine said that linen pants were a must- they are lightweight and help to maintain a more conservative appearance in El Salvador and are perfect to wear in the warm climate. She also highly recommended that if you are placed in an area with a very warm climate to invest in silk sleeping blankets and items- they are lightweight and will help keep you cool during the warm nights.
Catherine along with Katy and the other returned Peace Corps volunteers also explained to prospective volunteers how payment systems work. Peace Corps pays volunteers a certain amount each month based on the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), and the higher your country’s GDP is, the more money you will be given. However, because you may have more money, goods and services may also cost you more. Catherine says that she makes about $300 U.S. dollars a month, $60 of which goes towards paying for her room and the rest she uses for other living expenses. Catherine also mentioned that she does not really spend that much money, simply because some products are very inexpensive. Additionally, she mentioned that most “American” products can be found in larger cities in the area.
Overall, the information provided by Catherine, Katy, and the other returned Peace Corps volunteers really inspired not only me, but many of the other attendees at the event. Hopefully in the future Florida State University will send out more Peace Corps volunteers to go and help all over the world.
Interested in becoming a Peace Corps volunteer or just want more information? Contact FSU’s Peace Corps Recruiter, Katy Howell-Burke at email@example.com.