Is AmeriCorps a good lead-in for Peace Corps?
November 10, 2009 2:03 PM   Subscribe

(Inter)national service filter: Does an AmeriCorps stint make you a more attractive Peace Corps candidate? If what I really want to do is Peace Corps, would NCCC help me get there or be valuable of itself?

Peace Corps fits into my goals, background, most intimate dreams and desires, etc. However, the application process is very long and I still don't have all of the skills to make myself a competitive applicant (I have a BA, limited experience with agriculture, team service project experience, etc., general savviness, motivation, international experience and language, but nothing like long-term business planning experience or forestry or ___). NCCC sounds like the kind of thing I enjoy doing --working on a team to do active projects-- and it would give me concrete skills in things like disaster response. Would that make me a way more attractive Peace Corps candidate (and is it realistic to go through the PC application process while serving the 10 months in NCCC)? Should I apply for VISTA programs instead? Hold out for the Peace Corps? (Go to grad school? Okay, that's a separate question.)

If you're familiar with NCCC, is it actually a good choice for someone who enjoys thinking and analyzing as well as getting down and dirty? The admission requirements seem sort of low and the interview felt more like advertising than screening.
posted by ramenopres to Work & Money (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Notes on the Peace Corps application...

1) Do you have recent volunteering experience? If not, get it now. You will need a recommendation from a volunteer supervisor, and it will be the most important one in their mind.

2) I'm unsure as to what type of program you are hoping for in the Peace Corps, but your placement officer that you are assigned to will classify you into job categories based on the skill sets you tell them about. You may have enough experience for the agriculture program as is. "Team service project experience" is a little vague, so I can't comment on specifics, but you may also be eligible for some kind of youth-development program that many countries have. If not those two things, you will most likely be placed as an English Language instructor. You should way the options of whether or not that is appealing to you.

If after reading this you feel like Peace Corps may not be a good fit, or a good fit right now, apply for NCCC, and maybe an after that you can put in an app for the Peace Corps (and in the intervening time you will have gained more forestry/ecology experience).

Good luck! The Peace Corps application is long, but it is their major weeding out method. If you fill it out, follow up and stick to it, you have gone a long way in proving yourself to them.
posted by piratebowling at 2:22 PM on November 10, 2009

NCCC is a great way to gain service experience, see the country, hang out with cool people, and help out other cool people. Friends who have done it have always enjoyed it, and many have gone on to do other service programs through Americorps.

VISTA is more geared towards the nonprofit administration side of things, for the most part you wont be getting dirty or be in the field with the population you are serving. However, it is designed for people looking to get involved, often right out of college, and earn a small stipend while getting valuable experience.

I'm not sure what type of breadth of experience Peace Corps looks for, but I have trouble believing that any Americorps service could not help your application.

However, I also would not approach the Americorps project simply as a step on the road to something else; treat it as an unique experience and really get involved and active in the nonprofit community.
posted by Think_Long at 2:23 PM on November 10, 2009

There's also the third type of AmeriCorps, "State/National" (I just completed a year doing science education in a state/national ACprogram), Those are different from VISTA in that the programs, while also usually based with a nonprofit group, are specifially oriented toward direct service, like NCCC. State/National programs are also more likely to involve working with a corps of ACs, rather than solo like many VISTA program. There was a certain amount of fluidity between the type of work that VISTA and non-VISTA members did in my city, but if working with a team and getting your hands dirty are things you like then you might find more that interests you on the State/National side.

My only knowledge of NCCC is second hand - a friend who was doing a year with them had a terrible time with out-of-town interviews: you have to complete your hours total within the term of service, and traveling from some of the remote-ish sites she happened to be placed at to attend interviews was time-consuming and problematic - essentially she ran out of the 'paid vacation days' planned into her calendar and there's not really such a thing as unpaid vacation time in AmeriCorps - you have a stipend and thus just need to make up your hours somehow. Not sure what the peace corps application process involves, but it might be a point to consider.
posted by heyforfour at 3:55 PM on November 10, 2009

I don't think Peace Corps is really as competitive as you're thinking, unless you're very specific about the program types that you would accept. I was offered a posting as a senior in college, with not much volunteer experience, and fairly menial summer job experience. If you've got some experience relevant to the type of project you want, and have good references, people who will verify you are extremely dependable, flexible, etc., you should be able to get in, I think.
posted by bluejayk at 7:08 PM on November 10, 2009

As someone serving in the NCCC:

We do plenty of thinking and analyzing before getting down and dirty. Even in the field, we encounter logistical questions, physics/ chemistry questions, schedule questions. And before we even think about getting in those sexy 15-passenger vans, we figure out how to project sponsor fits in the community, why our service is important, more schedule stuff, food allotment, team roles, physical training, etc, and try to predict and mitigate as many issues as possible.

If you like problem-solving AND direct service, NCCC is probably a good choice.

My understanding is that the application process is more selective than you might think, although applicants help out by being self-selecting. That said, the program isn't about prestige; it's about service and teamwork.

If you're already feeling like you're over-qualified to serve, NCCC is a very, very bad choice.

As for the Peace Corps, the office staff is great about getting application information and helping people through every step. Plenty of people here have already served in the Peace Corps or plan to in the future. For what it's worth, the office is also great about helping out with grad school apps, college apps, job apps, etc.

Feel free to ask me any other questions you have about NCCC/ Americorps.
posted by thewestinggame at 8:52 PM on November 10, 2009

Response by poster: 1) Do you have recent volunteering experience?

2) ...You should way the options of whether or not that is appealing to you. / If after reading this you feel like Peace Corps may not be a good fit, or a good fit right now...

From what I've heard, they are now placing for 2011, and there's that intervening time to consider.

The comments on NCCC are illustrative; any more input on that front would be helpful.

ThinkLong: NCCC is a great way to gain service experience... [VISTA] is designed for people looking to get involved, often right out of college, and earn a small stipend while getting valuable experience.

Which provides better experience?
... for community development
... for international development
... for work in the international aid industry
... for non-profit management
... for something else in the non-profit sector
... for a corporate career
... for managing teams and projects
Can you differentiate the two kinds of experience at all?
posted by ramenopres at 11:05 PM on November 10, 2009

From what I've heard, they are now placing for 2011, and there's that intervening time to consider.

Don't take that at face value. Their time tables sometimes are much quicker than they anticipate, as people will sometimes drop out of or refuse a placement, and they need to fill the slots. The position I ultimately took gave me less than five weeks notice for me to pack up my whole life and move to the opposite side of the world.
posted by piratebowling at 9:01 AM on November 12, 2009

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