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Thread: Peace Corps to begin a career?

  1. #1
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    Peace Corps to begin a career?

    Hi everyone,

    I am in the process of applying to Grad schools and I am interested in UW Madison's "Masters International Program" that combines a MUP degree with a 2 year Peace Corps service.

    I'm wondering if anyone has anything to say about planners begining their careers in the Peace Corps (most likely Economic Development related work) and the types of opportunities available after... Has anybody done anything like this or hired / worked with others who have?

    Thanks!
    Adam

  2. #2
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    I didn't start my career in the Peace Corps, but I did do something similar. I spent a year working as an AmeriCorps volunteer/de facto staff member at a community development corporation. It's certainly worked out well for me, and the UW Madison program sounds excellent - I didn't know a program combining a planning degree with volunteer service existed.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    I started my planning career in a developing country (Botswana) where there were zillions of Peace Corps (I didn't qualify for PC not being American). This was in the 1970s. My observation was that quite a few PC planners went on to fairly good jobs, some decided to do more graduate work on development studies, etc. I also observed that at the time there seemed to be a mis-match between the skills or career intentions of the volunteer and the assignment they were given. I know of one Greek major who was assigned to rehabilitate a broken down irrigation system, for example. I suspect that this type of thing is less common, and if the University is involved in the placement, you should be in for a very mind expanding assignment. You are quite likely to have to take on responsibilities you wouldn't get in 15 years back home. Challenging, and enormously worth while. It will make you think about a lot of the planning systems, values, etc back home when you're through - you'll see them with completely new eyes.

  4. #4
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    Thanks for your replies MacheteJames and Monamogolo!

    I'm really hoping to begin a career on an International level...(Monamogolo, you've got what sounds like my dream job or dream life even...I would love to hear more about your last 30 years) ...does anyone else have any thoughts?

    Ideally, I would like to use the Peace Corps to springboard into other international opportunities...but I'm still curious...how do hiring managers of a US city (ie. Minneapolis) view this 3rd world experience in lieu of the typical job (whatever that may be) one may have for the 2 years after the Grad program?

  5. #5
    Cyburbian time+space's avatar
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    I work for a non-profit coalition of CDCs. Like Machete, I started out as an AmeriCorps VISTA and got hired right after my one year of service to work in policy. We've had VISTAs who, after their term has ended, continued successfully in planning and public policy careers. Our Executive Director started out as Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines in the early 1980s and afterwards became an organizer and director of various CDCs in Chicago.

    You grad program sounds great and like Monamogolo said, combining an international service experience with your studies would certainly give you a unique perspective as a future planning professional.

    Best of Luck!

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Value of overseas experience for getting a job back home

    My experience has not been normal, so I have a hard time judging. I came to Sweden at the end of the 1980s at the request of a government authority, specifically because of my international experience ... and specifically to export Swedish know-how in the planning and resource management sphere. I have never had difficulties getting assignments (or jobs) working for Swedish companies abroad. But Swedish municipalities want true blue-and-yellow Swedes, not people with loads of international experience that might challenge local ways of doing things, or otherwise rock the boat.

    I once proposed a planning course for foreign architect/planners coming to Sweden, that would provide them with all the right background for meeting municipal needs (and objections). It was my Swedish colleagues who asked to attend the course... they thought it would give them things they never got in their own schools!

    I don't know how it is in North America. I have the impression that Canada is more receptive to those with international experience than Sweden is, but I don't know. Maybe other readers can give a better answer.

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