Top 10 Common Myths About Peace Corps Service

Submitted by Chad Chernet, Central and North Florida Recruiter for the US Peace Corps

peace_corps_0As the central and north Florida Regional Recruiter I encounter many people with varying levels of knowledge about the United States Peace Corps and what Volunteer service entails.  I have heard everything from “Wow, I didn’t know Peace Corps still existed!”, “I am too old to serve”, “If I decide to apply, will I be placed in Iraq or Afghanistan” and “I do not have the money to serve”. In fact, none of these statements or questions is accurate and it is my job to ensure that the next generation of Volunteers is fully informed of all aspects relating to Peace Corps service. For full information regarding Peace Corps, please visit www.peacecorps.gov or contact Chad Chernet at 407-450-8840 or cchernet@peacecorps.gov.

Below I have listed the top 10 common myths regarding Peace Corps followed by the facts regarding each topic.

1)      MYTH: Peace Corps Volunteers must cover their own expenses while serving abroad.

FACT:  Peace Corps service does NOT require any out-of-pocket expenses. As an agency of the Federal government, Peace Corps is in a unique position to cover the costs associated with service. This means that we cover housing, monthly expenses (such as food, local travel and incidentals) as well as travel to/from the country of service. We also fully cover medical and dental expenses.  Furthermore, returning Volunteers receive a “readjustment allowance” which helps them transition back to life back in America. Even immunizations and all legal documents (Passport, Work permits, etc.) are covered.

2)       MYTH: Peace Corps Volunteers serve in dangerous countries.

FACT: We are a “need based” Agency and only send Volunteers to countries who have requested trained men and women and who are stable enough to ensure the safety and security of our Volunteers.

3)      MYTH: As a recent college graduate, I am not competitive.

FACT: The majority of Peace Corps Volunteers are recent college graduates and work in all six of our program areas. They bring energy and creativity to the local community and job assignment.

4)      MYTH: Once I depart for service, Peace Corps will leave me at my location for 27 months without any support.

FACT:  Peace Corps service begins with a 3 month intensive language, cross-cultural and technical training process whereby each Volunteer lives with a host family to better immerse them into the culture. Following the training period, Peace Corps support Volunteers with funds to continue language training, project assistance and other methods for ensuring success. Volunteers also receive periodic visits from our medical, safety and security staff.

5)       MYTH: Peace Corps will not help my professional growth.

FACT: This is actually the biggest myth. Peace Corps is a life-defining leadership experience. You are placed in a unique situation where you are responsible for representing America while also working within a specifically defined program area. The leadership, language, cross cultural, leadership, adaptability, cultural sensitivity, resourcefulness and other skill sets you acquire will add to your competitiveness in the job market. Several Returned Peace Corps Volunteers acquired post-service employment due to the skills they attained while serving. Peace Corps offer job placement support, access to the over 210,000 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers network as well as “non-competitive eligibility” for Federal government jobs.

6)      MYTH:  Volunteers do not get paid for Peace Corps service?

Fact:  The Peace Corps provides Volunteers with a living allowance that enables them to live in a          manner similar to the local people in their community. The Peace Corps also provides complete medical and dental care and covers the cost of transportation to and from your country of service. To assist with the transition back home, Volunteers are paid $7,425 (before taxes) at the close of 27 months of service. The money is yours to use as you wish: for travel, a vacation, making a move, or securing housing.

7)      MYTH: I cannot serve if I am married or in a same sex domestic partnership.

FACT:  Peace Corps accepts both heterosexual and same-sex couples in a domestic partnership. While the application process may take longer to place couples, once overseas they will live together during their 2 years of work.

8)      MYTH: I will be placed in the same country as my boyfriend or girlfriend.

FACT: Unlike married couples, applicants in romantic relationships such as boyfriend or girlfriend are unlikely to be placed in the same country. Applicants must apply separately and due to the fact that Peace Corps Volunteer serve in roughly 75 countries, it is highly unlikely that they will be selected to serve in the same country.

9)      MYTH: I should attend graduate school before I serve as a Volunteer.

FACT: The opposite is true. It is beneficial to volunteer before graduate school in order to take advantage of our programs. Peace Corps offers two excellent graduate school programs that offer a combination of free academic credits, graduate assistantships, free medical insurance, stipends, scholarships or in-state tuition. One program is called the “Master’s International” and the other is known as “Coverdall Fellowship”. Each program is offered at numerous colleges and universities around the country and in over one-hundred different disciplines.

10)   MYTH: I can wait until the final week of my senior year to “join” Peace Corps.

FACT:  This statement is actually both true and false. While there is no age limit to apply for Peace Corps, an interested student should prepare themselves as early as possible in college to ensure that they are the most competitive for our programs. Several programs only require a degree in a particular discipline to meet minimum qualifications, while there are several other degrees where work and/or volunteer service is necessary to become competitive.

Thus, applicants do not “join” Peace Corps, but rather “apply” for one of our programs.

For students that wish to minimize the amount of time between graduation and departure for service, I suggest applying during the beginning of their senior year. Furthermore, it is important to read about our program areas and determine what experience and/or degree is necessary to become qualified. For more information on program areas and requirements, see www.peacecorps.gov/workareas

 

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