Peace Corps Opportunities

USF is one of only 39 universities in the country that have a Peace Corps office on campus.

 

By Brandi Hollis

USF News

 

TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 25, 2013) – Interested in a unique travel abroad program that will immerse you in the culture where you are living? The Peace Corps may provide the answer.

 

The University of South Florida is one of only 39 universities in the U.S. that have a Peace Corps office on campus. This rare resource is part of USF World, and is one of the many services USF provides to encourage students to broaden their horizons through travel and service.

 

The USF Peace Corps office will host several informational discussions with returned Peace Corps volunteers and parents of Peace Corps volunteers during upcoming Peace Corps week from Feb. 27 to March 7.

 

Recently, volunteers came to speak to USF students about joining the Peace Corps and give tips to some students who had already started the application process.

 

The United States Peace Corps is a unique program that started in 1961 as a way for citizens to “serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries,” according to the Peace Corps website.

 

Christy Prouty, the USF Peace Corps recruiter, worked as a Community Health Volunteer in Uganda from 2010-2012. Prouty has a background in Environmental Engineering and went through USF’s Master’s International Program, spending one year on Master’s coursework and two years in Uganda.

 

“For me, it gave me a really great experience to see what my education could do on an international level,” said Prouty.

 

Peace Corps volunteers commit to two years of service in a foreign country while immersing themselves in the culture and community they are in. Volunteers serve in more than 70 countries around the world and work on myriad different projects where they are placed. They work in fields categorized as education, agriculture, youth and community development, environment, health and HIV/AIDS, and information and communication technology.

 

The volunteers that came to speak to students on campus all had different backgrounds and were sent on missions just as diverse as they were. But all the volunteers and their parents agreed that no matter where a volunteer was sent, there was a special relationship that volunteers formed with the people they met during their service.

 

Caroline Svatek, whose daughter Marlow is in Burkina Faso in Africa, said her daughter is working hard in her community but “is getting so much out of it.” She said now that her daughter has been there over a year, she calls Burkina Faso home and has missed her friends and neighbors on her brief holidays with family. Svatek understands her daughter’s feelings though.

 

“When you live somewhere for two years, that becomes your home. You can move from Tampa to Chicago and live in Chicago for two years, that’s your home,” said Svatek.

 

Other panel members echoed her statement. Ryan Schweitzer, who completed the USF Master’s International Program by going to the Dominican Republic with the Peace Corps said, “The key factor to happiness during your service is integrating into your community.”

 

Ebban Bell, who had only returned from Burkina Faso the night before, urged potential volunteers to be flexible if they volunteered and to “be willing to have that experience.” He said, “It’s a cultural exchange, that’s what makes Peace Corps unique. Yes, we have the goal of development, but you’re also there to learn about their culture.”

 

Bell talked about the knowledge and self-reliance he acquired through service with the Peace Corps. He said he is already considering what he wants to do for a career even though he hasn’t been back for a full day yet. Bell volunteered for the Peace Corps three months after graduating USF so he will be entering the job market for the first time, but he is not worried. The experiences he had as a volunteer, he said, have given him invaluable skills that will set him apart when looking for a career.

 

“Talking with connected people now, they are just so impressed with everything you’re able to do on such limited resources,” said Bell.

 

He said he learned how to conserve materials because his location made it imperative, but he also learned to speak fluent French and created business plans (in French) to help start a clothing business.

 

Other USF students are also realizing the potential of the Peace Corps. The 2013 Peace Corps statistics were released Feb.5 and USF ranks sixth in the southeast region with 27 current Peace Corps volunteers. Nationally, USF is ranked 62nd out of all colleges and universities.

 

USF offers a Master’s degree program through service with the Peace Corps and the Peace Corps offers many incentives to volunteers. The USF Peace Corps office is located in the Patel Center and can be reached at peacecorps@iac.usf.edu. A calendar of events for Peace Corps week can be found here.