Monday, January 3, 2011

Peace Corps

When I was younger, the Peace Corps conjured up images of struggling in a mud hut in Africa and feeding starving children. There's a reason the Peace Corps is often referred to as "the toughest job you'll ever love." However, it's not just Africa, though much of it is. It's also Thailand, Eastern Caribbean, Romania, Fiji and many other places.

What's nice about the Peace Corps is that you're not only helping people in need, you also get a short-term taste of what it might be like to be an expat — albeit in an undeveloped area — and you don't have to worry about rent, food, utilities or other aspects of life while you're doing it. Whether you're helping a local school set up a computer network or teaching English in Guatemala, you'll have a two-year assignment and then can come home with a few thousand dollars in your pocket.

Chilemo - Workshop for Peace Corps Volunteers - November 2010
Forestry management in Ethiopia
Photo by Trees for the Future
Not everyone is eligible to join the Peace Corps. The requirements vary, but generally they're looking for people with four year degrees (not always, but 90% of their positions require a Bachelor's degree) and a background which is useful in helping developing countries. It helps if you have volunteer experience (30 hours or three months) and husband and wife teams can go together, but they both have to be qualified and there has to be an opening for both of them at the same time. You can read up about Peace Corps requirements to see if you're a good fit and figure out if you want to go.

What you really want to know is what being in the Peace Corps is really like on a day-to-day basis. If you can't answer that, it's tough to figure out if this is an opportunity you want. Fortunately, the Peace Corps Journals is a collection of journals from Peace Corps volunteers. Their stories are fantastic and you can start with this lovely little blog entry from a volunteer in Morocco explaining what a "PCV" is.