To kick off the event, Regional Recruiter Laura Fonseca conducted a video meeting with current in-the-field IU volunteer, Michael Cowlick in Peru.
“This is totally different than where we were 10 years ago, and it’s great we got to video chat a volunteer,” Fonseca said.
Fonseca said the Peace Corps also hopes the event encourages interested students to apply for volunteer positions by giving them more information.
“Most people, we find, already know they want to do Peace Corps before they really know what it is,” Fonseca said. “I think that’s great and so we don’t really need to recruit. But it’s about exposing people to who we are, IU’s return volunteer network and giving them resources to increase overall awareness.”
Dispelling false conceptions about the Peace Corps is important to the organization, Associate Director for Volunteers Helen Lowman said.
“I think a lot of people hear Peace Corps and think they won’t get paid, or ‘What would that do for my career?’” she said. “But the fact is you do get paid and you get incredible on-the-job training, you learn a language, get full medical care. The list of benefits just goes on and on.”
Four volunteers from IU also told personal stories from their overseas volunteering.
Josh Becker, a SPEA graduate student and Peace Corps volunteer, shared a singing tradition he learned in Fiji.
Becker is also a Coverdell Fellow. The fellowship is one of the unknown perks that come with Peace Corps — at IU, being a Fellow means being allowed to opt out of SPEA’s internship requirement, receiving a $6,000 stipend every academic year and receiving a six credit hour reduction from the regular 48-hour program.
Becker said there’s value in the lessons learned from living with people from different cultures and backgrounds.
“It always comes down to stories about the relationships you make while volunteering,” Becker said. “Peace Corps’ mission of sharing yourself as an American and learning about the community members you serve with is a big part of it. It’s a celebration of cross-cultural sharing.”
The finale of the event saw three volunteers receive their country placement.
Seniors Sarah Fleck, Corinne Reynolds and Vanessa Mendoza will go to Paraguay, Cameroon and Botswana, respectively.
Several attendees also have applied, but are still waiting for their placement. Senior Lila Raouf is one of them.
“I thought tonight was a good opportunity to hear other returned stories,” Raouf said. “I enjoyed being able to talk to my recruiters in person. She let me know my application is strong and that I shouldn’t worry about not getting in.”
Raouf said she hopes to be placed in the Middle East, preferably Jordan.
“The Peace Corps is important for a lot of reasons,“ Raouf said. “It engages in the local community rather than going somewhere and forcing your opinions on people, because that usually doesn’t work.”
And to encourage more volunteers to sign up, the Peace Corps is in the process of changing the application process. Now, filling out the application will only take one hour instead of up to eight, effective July 1.
With the new process, applicants will also have more say in where they are placed.
“We have a new interactive map that shows open positions before students apply,” Public Affairs Coordinator Jessica Mayle said. “It’s going to increase the applicant responsibility to choose which positions to apply for.”
Lowman said making the choice to volunteer empowers people to have a guaranteed affect on the world.
“When you graduate, you can make a salary or you can make a difference,” Lowman said. “If you join the Peace Corps, you make a
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