Peace Corps offers international experience

By Dan Petrella

While some graduates spend their first years after college working in entry-level positions, thousands choose to devote two years working with communities in developing nations as members of the Peace Corps.

Established by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, the Peace Corps currently have 7,733 volunteers serving in 72 countries. Volunteers assist communities in six areas: education, youth outreach, and community development, business development, environment, agriculture, health and HIV/AIDS and information technology.

“You get a lot more responsibility in Peace Corps than you do in other entry level jobs,” said Ted Massey, graduate student in FAA and the University’s campus representative for the Peace Corps.

Massey served from 2002-2004 in Armenia as a business adviser after graduating from Grinnell College in 2000. He learned about Peace Corps from his adviser who was a former volunteer.

The quality that stands out as being most important in someone applying to Peace Corps is patience, he said, noting that both the long application process and many of the situations faced by volunteers overseas require patience.

“I think the number one goal of someone applying to Peace Corps should be service and volunteerism,” said Kristina Bliss, a recruitment representative from Chicago. She explained that placing someone according to a specific geographic interest could be difficult because a person’s skills must match the needs of the community they will serve.

Both Massey and Bliss said that Peace Corps looks excellent on a r‚sum‚. Most international jobs require that applicants have two years of overseas work experience, Bliss said.

Chuck Mellin, a volunteer currently working in the Philippines, said in an e-mail that he first learned about the Peace Corps from the daughter of his high school principal when she came in to talk to one of his English classes about her experience as a volunteer in Africa.

He had a friend during his senior year at North Central College who served briefly in Kyrgyzstan, but had to leave for personal reasons. Mellin’s friend spoke highly of the experience, he said.

When the time came to think about what to do after college, the “real world” didn’t sound like a lot of fun. He began researching Peace Corps on their website and was interested by what he saw.

“I don’t want to sound completely altruistic but it does kind of make sense – ‘Peace’ Corps” Mellin said. “Like instead of guns and stuff that there’s already way too much of going around in my opinion why not try to sort of head it off beforehand?”

He filled out an application online and listed Southeast Asia as one of his three regional preferences. He was given an interview in June of 2003 and afterward was told that he would be nominated for a position. He said he discussed a few opportunities including a business advising position in Southeast Asia.

In October of 2003 he received a formal invitation to serve in the Philippines, leaving in January of 2004.

There have been some challenges for Mellin though. “I mean I try to learn the language but there’s so many dialects,” he said.

For more information on the Peace Corps, visit the Web site at www.peacecorps.gov.