Hannah Borowski eagerly clicked on the “apply” button on the Peace Corps website. She wanted to volunteer in a remote community in Ukraine as an English teacher, knowing it could change her life forever.
“I mean I’ve been preparing for the Peace Corps for a long time. I have been teaching English here in the university,” Borowski, a senior studying political science and global studies, said. “I have been trying to strengthen my resume for the kind of work I want to do.”
The Peace Corps is an independent agency within the executive branch of the United States government. The Ohio University chapter of the organization was founded by Borowski and Bobby Sunderhaus during the 2015-16 academic year.
The Peace Corps requires volunteers to serve abroad for a full term of 27 months. In the duration of their missions, each volunteer is provided with housing and a daily living stipend.
Annie Chester, a 2017 alumna who studied global studies and world religions, said volunteers are paid just enough to be able to sustain a lifestyle similar to those living in their areas of service.
The application process is free, according to the Peace Corps website. After two years of service, the organization provides each volunteer with $8,000 to help with the transition back to the U.S.
Aspiring volunteers have to fill out an online application that is available on the organization’s website. Each year, the Peace Corps offers more than 60 locations for volunteers to choose from. Catherine Cutcher, the assistant director for OU’s global studies program, said while filling out the application, applicants have to choose three locations and upon selection, the organization recruiters assign them to one of their prefered locations.
Volunteers can serve under six departments, with education and health being two of the most popular categories.
Chester, who is interested in food security, applied to be a volunteer under the agriculture department. She said the nuanced application process of the organization helps people focus and work on issues they actually care about.
The volunteers are required to go through a training process. The pre-service training equips the volunteers with various technical, linguistic and cross-cultural skills, among others. Integrating into their respective societies is one of the core competencies, and Cutcher said the Peace Corps pre-service training is rigorous in instilling such skills in the volunteers.
Strict safety and security regulations are employed by the government while recruiting the volunteers. Chester said she was initially accepted to serve in Senegal, but due to a recently detected health complication, she was deferred.
“Different locations have different health and safety checks,” Chester said. “Senegal just wasn’t suitable for my condition, but I can still serve in a different location.”
Cutcher said the Center of International Studies is working on a proposal to introduce a Peace Corps Prep certificate course at OU. Once approved, the program would require interested students to take a few global studies and language classes, and obtain volunteer credits as well.
“It will give them a leg up in the race,” Cutcher said, referring to the intense peace corps volunteer selection process.
The program currently has 7,213 volunteers from throughout the U.S. serving in various locations abroad. The average age of a volunteer is 28.
Cutcher said the organization encourages the volunteers to completely assimilate into the neighborhoods and work as a catalyst to catapult the society into self-sufficiency.
The programs are constructed in such a way that the societies aren’t dependent on the volunteer, but they use the volunteer as a resource to better serve themselves in the duration of service.
“The organization is designed to create friendship and direct diplomacy between the citizens of the U.S. and citizens of other countries,” Cutcher said.