As part of my ongoing series for future PCVs, today I'm going to give you what constitute, in my opinion, the ten best reasons to join. Some are as altruistic as our mission; some are more pragmatic, for those of us not channeling Mother Theresa; some are just funny. For the flipside...see my post in two days.
1. You'll love it. There's a reason that Peace Corps used "The toughest job you'll ever love" as their tagline for so many years. Many jobs are tough, and many are deeply rewarding, but once you've climbed this mountain - crossed language barriers, culture barriers, and thousands of miles - you'll stand on the summit, surveying all you've accomplished, and feel a core-deep thrill.
2. You'll be working for peace. You'll be in the business of strengthening connections between America and the world, deepening understandings across cultural divides, and enriching the world's peace dividend. Remember the old joke about the military? Travel the world, meet interesting people, and then kill them? In the Peace Corps, you get to travel the world, meet interesting people, and share two years of your life loving and helping them. It's not as funny, but it makes up for it. :)
3. You'll make some of the best friendships of your lifetime. Your connections to the people in your community as well as your fellow PCVs will sustain you through these two years and through the decades beyond. My stage-mates and my neighboring Volunteers are a constant source of laughter, strength, and renewal.
4. "Peace Corps Volunteer" and "International Development Worker" both look awfully good on a resume. You'll instantly demonstrate to future employers that you're resourceful, adaptable, and persistent.
5. Many international aid organizations want you to have experience abroad, to know that you're up for the challenge. Two years living and working in a developing country is more than they'd dare to hope for. You'll be beautifully positioned for any number of NGOs or government posts.
6. In the current economy, jobs with a guaranteed future are hard to come by. In Peace Corps, you'll get twenty-seven months of a living wage and benefits, plus your readjustment allowance of around $6500, payable when you return to the US. And to steal a line from the Hegemonist, if your employer goes under, you'll have bigger things to worry about than your career.
7. Considering grad school? Dozens of graduate programs have partnered with Peace Corps to offer advantages to returning PCVs, from waived application fees to course credit. For details, look here.
8. Your host family gives you a whole new family to love (or hate). You'll have new birthdays, new siblings, and a mountain of aunties, uncles, and cousins to share laughter and love with. Many PCVs stay in touch with their host families for the rest of their lives.
9. You'll gain a new appreciation for the amenities of life in the US. Alternatively, you'll discover that you don't actually mind going a week without a hot shower. Or probably both. :) Living a lifestyle that doesn't prioritize this year's shoes or this month's hairdo frees you to celebrate the deeper aspects of individuality. Plus, your morning routine will drop to a minute or two. :)
10. The weight-loss plan. As in, "Do you have a parasite or have you been working out?" (Which, yes, is a real quote.) The adjustments your body makes to the hygienic conditions and new foods will have all kinds of effects on you, but yes, weight loss is a frequent side effect. Most of us lose between 10 and 50 pounds. (Seriously.)
So whether you're in it for the altruism, the careerism, or the diet plan, Peace Corps offers these and countless other benefits. I know I'm thrilled to be here; wouldn't you?
11. Your cooking skills will expand exponentially. You're likely to be in a place with abundant produce and few (if any) pre-processed foods, so you'll be forced to learn how to cook everything from scratch. And with two years of trial and error, it's inevitable that you'll become quite a cook. :)
12. You'll grow as a person. You will have hours upon hours in which to reflect on life, love, God...all the big questions. You'll face challenges that most Americans can't imagine, and learn things about yourself that will change the course of your life. Maybe that's why Peace Corps changed their motto from the one quoted above to, "Life is calling. How far will you go?"
3 years ago