Peace Corps values English, science


As graduation nears, seniors seeking post-grad options had a chance to learn about volunteering with the Peace Corps Monday.

For 27 months, a Peace Corps volunteer serves in any country to which he or she is sent. The program calls on volunteers to provide assistance to the host country while also becoming culturally integrated. Based on the skills of an individual, the Peace Corps makes the decision to place the person where their help is most needed. 

Currently, those with backgrounds in English or science are most wanted. The Peace Corps assigns 17 percent of volunteers to either teach English as a second language or treat HIV patients.

The program makes volunteers fill out a 40-page application, which helps match volunteers with tasks they can handle.

At the meeting, Laura Fonseca, a Peace Corps recruiter, advised attendees to apply at least eight to 12 months before departure because of the wait time and the process of becoming a volunteer.

"We want to see how much you are motivated to be in the program and how well you can handle stress," Fonseca said.

She told students that the program, which sent more than 200,000 volunteers to more than 139 countries since 1961, looks for dedicated applicants.

Fonseca suggested applicants take two semesters of a Romance language or volunteer in their desired field for 30 hours to increase their chances of being accepted.

After completing and submitting an application, an applicant has an interview with a recruiter — either in person or by phone — followed by a potential nomination to assist a country. Then, with a series of medical examinations, it takes three to four months to make sure that the volunteer's health is either controlled or good before departing the United States. Once the person is in their host country, the Peace Corps pays all medical costs to solidify the safety and health of the volunteer.

"Which means if you drop your glasses, they're going to give you another pair," Fonseca said.

Once the volunteers reach their designated country, Peace Corps trainers coach them for the first three months of the program. Foreign-language tutoring sessions also prepare volunteers to become better immersed into their new community.

Since studying last semester in Chile, junior Anthony Navarrete is ready to go abroad again.

"It's a good stepping stone because I want to get into international relations, and maybe my time in Peace Corps will allow me to reflect on what I want to do more in life," Navarrete said.

He has already networked with at least 60 past Peace Corps volunteers who have told him about their experiences abroad. He hopes to have everything complete by next year, April 2012, in order to leave immediately after graduating.

Another attendee at the informational session, senior Ally Walker, said the Peace Corps' unique form of integration correlates with her will to build her own skills and promote cultural awareness.

"I just want something meaningful to do after college that would be useful for the future and develop skills that DePauw encourages," she said.