Post-graduation: Who should join the Peace Corps?

Assistant Director of International Programs Karen Gardenier and Peace Corps Representative Joel McClurg discuss their experience in the peace corps in their office in Laurel Hall. Both Gardenier and McClurg have served in the Peace Corps
Assistant Director of International Programs Karen Gardenier and Peace Corps Representative Joel McClurg discuss their experience in the peace corps in their office in Laurel Hall. Both Gardenier and McClurg have served in the Peace Corps

Graduating students often engage in serious reflection as the end of their current educational program comes to a close. Where do I apply for jobs? Do I want to start a graduate program? Travel the world? One option students have taken for over 50 years is a 27 month volunteer position with the Peace Corps.

Erica Wrona, a former Peace Corp volunteer and current Peace Corps Campus Representative for CSU, views the Peace Corps as a fulfilling option for those looking to make an impactful difference in their own lives and the lives of others.

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“Our slogan is, ‘The toughest job you’ll ever love,’” Wrona said.

The “job” description is a 27 month trip to one of 65 host countries, with three goals in mind. The first is to bring trained personnel to needy countries, then to bring American culture to these peoples and to bring their culture back to America.

Wrona spent nearly three years in Peru, following that trip with another to Panama shortly after. Between her personal experience and shared accounts, she has seen the lessons the Peace Corps can bring to the volunteers.

“I see mostly positive changes in individuals who come back, who gain increased tolerance and perspective of other cultures,” Wrona said.

Jennifer Krafchick, human development and family studies professor here, is also an advocate for student involvement in the Peace Corps, in part due to her own positive experience serving in the Solomon Islands. The natives in their village took in Krafchick and her husband Dave with gusto.

“They love Americans,” Krafchick said, “We taught them how to create your own business and how to make it financially viable — we taught science and math.”

The Peace Corps membership in 2013 experienced a sharp drop. From 2005-2012, the average of each year’s median number of volunteers for large universities was 67 people. That number dropped to 54 in 2013, a decline visible across the board for large universities last year.

The Peace Corps is not for everyone and it carries some risks. In 2011, a report was released which revealed in 2009, there were 221 reported rapes and over 1,000 reported sexual assaults by women serving overseas in the Peace Corps, a number of which were buried or ignored by Peace Corp officers.

Since then, the Peace Corps has made many public promises to improve the safety of its operatives and the response to any attacks that may occur.

Ultimately, the organization provides unique opportunities to like-minded people who want to see the world and grow in their understanding of that world — that seems like a pursuit worth following.

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Collegian Editor at Large Zack Burley can be reached at community@collegian.com.