Peace Corps talk on campus offers an alternative option for students
ASST. NEWS EDITOR
On Sept. 23, Amber Lung, a field-based reporter for the Peace Corps, spoke at University of San Diego, informing students about the new application process that makes it easier for graduating seniors to join the organization.
The Peace Corps, a federal government organization created in 1961, trains and sends American volunteers abroad to work with people in developing countries. There is no fee to apply and the length of service is typically two years.
The new application process takes about an hour, as opposed to the old application that could take up to eight hours to complete. Also, students and those considering joining the Peace Corps now have the option to choose their location and preferred field of work when applying to become a volunteer.
Applicants are chosen based on the work they are qualified for, making the recruiting process more selective. However, there is no limit on how many times someone may apply.
There are transition funds for returning volunteers, financial assistance for graduate school programs and student loan assistance.
Volunteers with Perkins Loans may be eligible for a partial cancellation benefit, and there are school loan deferments for several federal programs including Stafford, Perkins, direct and consolidated loans.
Previous Peace Corps volunteers and students have expressed their thoughts and concerns about joining the organization, weighing the benefits and possible outcomes of becoming a volunteer.
Though the reasons for joining vary, Lung explained why she chose to become a Peace Corps volunteer in Namibia, Africa.
“I wanted to gain international public health experience, and to learn a new language,” Lung said.
Lung believes many students continue to choose to serve for similar reasons.
“Students join Peace Corps for many reasons, but I think the common thread is that they are looking to make a difference in a unique way,” Lung said.
More than 215,000 Americans have served in the Peace Corps and volunteers range in age from 20 to 79 years old.
With the new application process, students must now plan ahead and apply nine months in advance of their desired date of departure.
Assistant professor of political science and international relations at USD, Avi Spiegel, described his experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco.
“The Peace Corps changed my life,” Spiegel said. “If a student wants not just to live in the world but to immerse themselves in it, I cannot think of a better way to spend two years after graduating.”
As a potential post-graduation option, Spiegel believes the Peace Corps embodies USD’s mission.
“The Peace Corps is the ideal representation of this university, with its dedication to the public good and its strong commitment to international service,” Spiegel said.
According to peacecorps.gov, the Peace Corps’ mission is to work toward world peace and friendship by helping people in designated countries meet their need for help by trained men and women providing assistance. It also aims to promote a better understanding of Americans across the world, and a better understanding of the world by Americans.
Senior Farzi Nawabi expressed her desire to join the Peace Corps and how she aims to work toward the Corps’ mission.
“My passion is to help others in developing countries who can’t afford to seek medical attention which is why I want to become a doctor,” Nawabi said. “By joining the Peace Corps I would be able to accomplish these goals and gain leadership experience as well as experiencing new cultures and meeting people.”
Nawabi believes that joining the Peace Corps aids in breaking down barriers between different cultures.
“We often tend to point out the differences between each other, but in the end people are people everywhere no matter the geographic location,” Nawabi said.
While Lung expressed that the feedback she heard from other volunteers was mostly positive, some students have differing opinions about the Peace Corps’ mission and what serving entails.
Junior Jeffrey Hallock described his experience coming into contact with Peace Corps volunteers while he was traveling in Ecuador.
“I spent a month in the close company of three female volunteers spread across the small towns of the region,” Hallock said. “While the women were intelligent and determined, they faced many hurdles in their work, including apathy from the local populations. Their work had to incorporate the locals and they were often met with disinterest.”
Hallock also explained his concern for what the organization does.
“I think the Peace Corps does more for the individual than it does for global development and the organization doesn’t seem to have a structure of long-term sustainability for the work sites,” Hallock said.
Hallock also stressed the importance of being aware of the possible challenges that can occur when becoming a volunteer.
“Each Peace Corps experience will be different as every region in need of assistance will provide a unique set of challenges and anyone applying for the Peace Corps should be cognizant of what the two years of work will truly entail and the realities that each potential site they get assigned to will provide.”
Senior Daniela Conde also has conflicting views about the Peace Corps.
“I think the Peace Corps is upholding this paternalistic view of semi-charitable work,” Conde said. “There is grassroots work in the United States that would be more responsible instead of going into other countries and solving other countries’ issues when we have plenty at home, and these local issues are interconnected with global issues.”
While the Peace Corps continuously develops, it is a decision many continue to consider as an option after graduating. Approximately 94 percent of volunteers have at least an undergraduate degree.
Previously, there have been 190 USD alumni that have joined the Peace Corps, and 11 are currently serving.
Lung also mentioned the advantages graduating seniors tend to consider before joining as a volunteer.
“The technical skills gained, and proven ability to work in developing countries helps volunteers stand out and be more competitive for graduate school and future work,” Lung said. “Volunteers learn more about the world and themselves, serve as ambassadors for the United States abroad, and gain concrete skills that will help them in graduate school or their future careers.”
While the application process for the Peace Corps has become less time consuming and more preference-based, students are still left with diverging opinions about the Peace Corps as an option for life after graduation.