PeaceCorps and Missions
June 14, 2004 7:56 PM   Subscribe

I'm graduating next May with a degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. I have NO desire to go to grad school right now and am consequently considering joining the Peace Corps or something of the equivalent upon graduation. Does anyone have any experience in Peace/AmeriCorps or any experience in lengthy mission trips through other resources? Do any of these degrees allow me to offer what I've learned in my field?
The longest I've been on a mission trip is a month and I thoroughly enjoyed it. However, I would prefer an organization where I work with a set team and get to know the people beforehand (I've had bad experiences otherwise).
posted by jmd82 to Work & Money (5 answers total)
My cousin worked for the Peace Corps in the seychelles for I think two years, and now easily 10 years later still regards it as among the best experiences of his life. I've also talked with people who've worked for NGOs in eastern europe (st. petersburg and baku, specifically) who also had very positive experiences. They felt they were doing something good and useful, and also getting to experience an entirely different culture, and also learning useful skills (some specific, and some general, eg, how to improvise, take charge of a situation, work out a good compromise, communicate well, etc).

If you want to employ particular skills you might try asking someone in your dept about it. Are you planning on med school? Obviously doctors are useful in developing nations. I don't know specifically what a molecular biologist would do that couldn't be done in new jersey and then shipped over later... But if you're up for Americorps, maybe you should contact them and find out if they can make use of your advanced knowledge. They don't list biology on their skillset page of the application though. Although there was an ecology position on this page that needed biology people, that's probably not biochemistry & molecular biology.
posted by mdn at 8:09 PM on June 14, 2004

I don't really plan on going to Med School. My original plan was just to get a job and the hell outa' GA but am now seeing what my options are. The use of my degree is not really necessary- just moreso of an added bonus than anything else.
posted by jmd82 at 8:22 PM on June 14, 2004

the Peace Corps has local events and regional offices...maybe you could pick the brains of people that have done it?
posted by amberglow at 8:32 PM on June 14, 2004

No help here, but congraduations!
posted by scarabic at 9:50 PM on June 14, 2004

I second amberglow's recommendation of checking out the local Peace Corps office or, better yet, the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer group. The Peace Corps organization can be sort of "rah rah" in recruitment-type ways, and talking to real RPCV is a good way to figure out if it's right for you. They're a close knit bunch, the RPCVers in Vermont regularly get together and swap stories and hang out.

I've had good friends who were in the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone, Ghana and I've visited a friend of mine for a few weeks when he was in the Peace Corps in Guatemala. All of them created lasting friendships with other Peace Corps people and did really useful work in their communities [in education, water treatment and local political type stuff]. That said, the Peace Corps requires a lot in terms of reporting [they want you to file reports about who you spoke to, who the "leaders" of your community are, offical and unofficial, what you've been doing, what you're going to be doing etc] which requires a certain type of mindset; it's definitely a government job. And, while there's some institutional support, PCVs often make their own way in their communities, finding housing, finding their way around, initiating programs, etc. Again, this is not at all problematic, but it requires a level of self-motivation and self-reliance that you should have if you go this route. They also provide good medical care [relatively speaking] language training and a lot in the way of administrative support. You may need to lobby to be placed somewhere where your skillset is particularly useful, and where you would use it, but if you're somewhat of a self-starter, this should be no major issue.
posted by jessamyn at 6:09 AM on June 15, 2004

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