Why serving in the Peace Corps isn’t putting your career on hold

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Heather Mangan, center, served in Peace Corps Lesotho, from 2011-13.

I couldn’t do Peace Corps because I had student loans. I couldn’t do Peace Corps because it would break my mother’s heart to leave for two years. I couldn’t do Peace Corps because I was on a career path and volunteering would certainly disrupt my professional climb.

These are all reasons I justified not applying to the Peace Corps when I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from South Dakota State University in 2007. Instead, I took a reporting job at a small daily newspaper and began living the typical American life with bills, a time card, and not enough vacation time.

The whim to join the Peace Corps, which came to me one night while procrastinating on my French homework, didn’t perish after I entered the work force. Rather, it bloomed into a full life goal. All those reasons I had used to convince myself that Peace Corps wasn’t for me could no longer overcome this picture I had in my head of being at the end of my life and not having experienced the Peace Corps. That imagined regret motivated me to apply. Continue reading “Why serving in the Peace Corps isn’t putting your career on hold”

Chicago Native Begins Peace Corps Service in China

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Jessica Bustamante, 29, of Chicago, Illinois, has been accepted into the Peace Corps and will depart for China June 17 to begin training as a secondary education English teacher trainer. Bustamante will work at the community level to teach college-level students basic English writing and listening skills. She will provide her students with the necessary training needed to become primary and middle school teachers throughout the community.

“I was with my twin sister, Janette, when I received a notification of my acceptance,” said Bustamante. “My heart dropped suddenly, and the moment felt surreal as I told her that I had been invited to serve in China. A part of me still feels that way. We hugged each other, and I clearly remember Janette saying, ‘June 2016 is going to be here before you know it.’ Indeed, it’s here already.” Continue reading “Chicago Native Begins Peace Corps Service in China”

Grinnell College earns a spot on Peace Corps’ annual Top Schools list

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Justin Miller (center) graduated from Grinnell College in May 2012. He is currently serving as an education volunteer in Burkina Faso.

CHICAGO –Grinnell College has once again earned a spot on the Peace Corps’ annual Top Volunteer-Producing Colleges and Universities list, coming in at No. 23 among small universities, the agency announced today. Currently, eight Grinnell graduates are making a difference around the world as volunteers.

For the past four consecutive years, Grinnell has made it on the annual list. Since the agency was created in 1961, 375 alums have served overseas.

“The Peace Corps is a unique opportunity for college graduates to put their education into practice and become agents of change in communities around the world,” Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet said. “Today’s graduates understand the importance of intercultural understanding and are raising their hands in record numbers to take on the challenge of international service.” Continue reading “Grinnell College earns a spot on Peace Corps’ annual Top Schools list”

Facing challenges in Africa, volunteer embraced opportunity to be more conscious of his identity

David Goodloe served as an environment volunteer in Benin from 2004-05.
David Goodloe served as an environment volunteer in Benin from 2004-05.

As an African-American Peace Corps volunteer, David Goodloe had a lot of superficial notions about what going to Africa for the first time would mean. He imagined a vivid Hollywood-like scene: walking off the plane and being greeted with “Welcome home,” or “It’s so good to have you back.”

But upon arriving in Benin, Africa for his Peace Corps service, he quickly realized that the romanticized vision was not reality. Perhaps the hardest lesson Goodloe had to learn was that he didn’t fit in just because he shared the same skin tone as others in his village.   Continue reading “Facing challenges in Africa, volunteer embraced opportunity to be more conscious of his identity”

Peace Corps Holidays: Macedonia

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Because Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment, it allows volunteers to celebrate the holiday season in their host countries and participate in new traditions and customs, while also sharing their own. From now until January, we will highlight stories from Peace Corps volunteers who share their experiences spending the holidays overseas

Christopher Quintos will celebrate the holiday traditions of Macedonia, where he has extended his Peace Corps service beyond the standard 27-month commitment to continue serving as a community economic development volunteer. Below, Quintos, Chicago native, describes how he plans to celebrate the holidays in Macedonia and some of his favorite Macedonian traditions.

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Chicago native Christopher Quintos, far right, is pictured with youth in Macedonia, where he is a community economic volunteer.

“Last year, I contracted a cold that later turned into a five-week case of bronchitis/ sinus infection. Being sick and being away from home on Christmas for the first time ever made it a very difficult time for me. But this year, I will celebrate with other volunteers. Another Peace Corps volunteer who lives in my town is Jewish, and in the coming weeks I look forward to celebrating Hanukkah with him and other volunteers.” Continue reading “Peace Corps Holidays: Macedonia”

Chicago ranks No. 4 among Peace Corps’ Top Volunteer-Producing Metro Areas in 2015

Christopher Quintos, center, is a native of Chicago and currently serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Macedonia
Christopher Quintos, center, is a native of Chicago and currently serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Macedonia

CHICAGO – Chicago, including Naperville and Joliet, is among the top-ranked metro areas for producing Peace Corps volunteers in 2015. Today Peace Corps announced Chicagoland as the fourth highest-producing metro area, with 225 residents currently serving as volunteers worldwide.

Illinois also earned a spot on the Peace Corps Top States list, coming in sixth with 278 residents now in service.   Continue reading “Chicago ranks No. 4 among Peace Corps’ Top Volunteer-Producing Metro Areas in 2015”

University of Illinois Peace Corps recruiter brings his service to campus

Robert Sarwark (far right) was a Peace Corps volunteer in the Republic of Cape Verde from 2008-10. Now he is the on-campus recruiter at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (UIUC).
Robert Sarwark (far right) was a Peace Corps volunteer in the Republic of Cape Verde from  2008-10. Now he works as the on-campus recruiter at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).

Any current or returned Peace Corps volunteer can recite the three goals of Peace Corps: to share skills with people in the developing world, to teach those people about the U.S. and to teach people back home about people of those countries.

But for the on-campus Peace Corps recruiter Rob Sarwark, the final goal – the Third Goal – isn’t just an idea forgotten at the end of a conversation, or even at the end of his service. For Sarwark, and many other returned volunteers, the Third Goal is an idea worth upholding. Continue reading “University of Illinois Peace Corps recruiter brings his service to campus”