“Life in the Peace Corps will not be easy. There will be no salary and allowances will be at a level sufficient only to maintain health and meet basic needs. Men and women will be expected to work and live alongside the nationals of the country in which they are stationed—doing the same work, eating the same food, talking the same language.
“But if the life will not be easy, it will be rich and satisfying. For every young American who participates in the Peace Corps—who works in a foreign land—will know that he or she is sharing in the great common task of bringing to man that decent way of life which is the foundation of freedom and a condition of peace.”
– John F. Kennedy
A few months ago, as a way to travel somewhere abroad and after reading G. Michael Schneider’s On The Other Guy’s Dime – A Professional’s Guide to Traveling Without Paying, I began looking casually into the United States Peace Corp. At the time, in Michigan, the closest informational office was in Chicago, about 3 hours south of Grand Rapids. Easily doable, but not the most convenient trip simply for information. However, there was an information office here in Boston, right in the center of town near where I had gotten off the train.
I got up that morning and took the T back toward the TD Center area. The Peace Corp office was inside of a Federal office building, complete with security checkpoint and metal detector. I didn’t mind that so much, but no one could tell me where in the building the office was!
After circling around nearly every floor, feeling awkward the entire time, as I was walking aimlessly through a federal building, I finally came across a small, nearly hidden office with 2 employees in it; the U.S. Peace Corp office I had been looking for.
After one of them checking to make sure I was in the right office, I only had to wait a couple minutes. The woman that came to talk to me had volunteer/done a tour for the Peace Corp a couple years back.
One of the key points in the conversation that kept coming up was that her experience, nor anyone’s for that matter, could be a judgment of what my own would be like, as every post in every location was different.
One aspect that intrigued me was a Master’s Degree program that they did along with certain universities where you would spend a certain amount of time at the school training for whatever the concentration was, and then a duration in the field through the Corp. It tended to be a shorter time abroad, though.
One side conversation, related to that program, which we got into, though, was that she had spent a good couple years in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. She was very surprised that I was from Michigan and coming to the Boston office for information. Almost immediately, she began to recount her time in Houghton, while her boyfriend went to Michigan Technological University.
I left the meeting with a lot of the practical questions I had been wondering about answered, a large packet of information, and directions to the post office to mail the packet back to Michigan, for whenever I might end up back there. I also left with a lot to think about for the future.