BY KJ ADLER
On Feb. 17, over 30 students sat in the Woodard Campus Center to receive information about the Peace Corps as an option after college.
With Jessica Koehler, a former Peace Corps volunteer and regional recruiter, leading the meeting, students of all grades sat and listened to the benefits of volunteering abroad for the two years required by the organization.
For the sixth year in a row, Peace Corps has ranked the University of Mary Washington in its annual list of “Top Producing Colleges and Universities” in participation.
This year UMW is ranked as the sixth leading small college in America to participate in the Peace Corps. Last year, 21 students were accepted to volunteer in the Peace Corps.
“I am very pleased to be working with such a spirited community,” Koehler said during the introduction of her presentation. “I love how so many people want to get involved in a rewarding and life changing experience.”
The Peace Corps is an international volunteer organization that serves 70 developing countries. Volunteer jobs fall under the categories of education, health, business, environment, youth outreach, and agriculture.
“I’ve decided to apply because it’s just such a great opportunity,” senior Amy Lajoie said. “I think it’s a great opportunity to not only give back to the community but also to have an incredible experience in a different country.”
Volunteers work under contract with the Peace Corps for 27 months. For the first three months, volunteers will learn about the culture of their determined country, the language and what jobs are expected of the volunteers.
After the volunteer time is served, the Peace Corps provides a number of benefits, including fluency in another language, student loan deferment, and career and medical benefits.
The Peace Corps also has the option of international graduate school. For those volunteers who get accepted into a participating graduate school simultaneously, the Peace Corps will allow the student to go to graduate school for their first year of enrollment. Then the student goes to their volunteer destination to both work and receive graduate credit. After their time is up, the student can return to graduate school to finish out their degree.
Aaron Winston, ’08, will soon be following in the steps of over 200 UMW alumni who have participated in the Peace Corps.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time,” Winston said. “I’m a very political person, and I’d feel hypocritical if I wasn’t putting my beliefs into practice in some sort of way. The Peace Corps seems like a good way to do that.”
Winston is in the last part of the Peace Corps application process-placement. After turning in an application, interviewing, and filling out an extensive medical exam, applicants must wait until they are placed in an area with a program that is best suited for the applicant’s abilities. Applicants have little say in where they are assigned.
“I haven’t been placed in a specific country yet, but I know that I’ll be somewhere in either Central or South America,” Winston says. “I’m going to be in the water sanitation program.”
Currently it takes between eight months to a year for an application to be processed.