1. You’ll help individuals, but you won’t change the world.
Be realistic about what you can accomplish. While you will make a difference in the lives of the individuals you work with, you won’t be able to solve all of the problems of the community.
2. You will come face-to-face with severe poverty — and you won’t be able to always help.
The people you will work with are poor and while you are there they might go hungry, suffer from debilitating diseases, or be unable to pay for their kids’ education. You will have to come to terms with the reality that you have a reliable stipend and (as an American) have access to luxuries that shouldn’t be taken for granted.
3. Programs vary from country to country.
Depending on how long the Peace Corps has been running in a country, you will experience a different level of organization when it comes to training, on-the-ground support, and in-country connections.
4. You will have plenty of free time.
Bring along books, an instrument, and other entertainment so you don’t get bored.
5. Two years is a long time to be away from home.
Joining the Peace Corps is probably not the best way to leave home for the first time. If you aren’t ready to be away from your friends and family for an extended time, try doing a shorter volunteer project.
6. You’re not supposed to come back with savings.
People don’t join the Peace Corps to make money. Expect to live simply and return home with no more than when you left.
7. You’ll feel out of touch with the modern world.
Chances are that you will not have electricity or running water. There will be limited internet access and cellphone coverage.
8. You’ll stand out.
When you first arrive, expect to be gawked at a lot. You will look different, act different, and speak strangely. While the Peace Corps does offer support, it’s normal to feel some psychological stress.
9. It’s not an easy job.
Don’t join the Peace Corps because you have nothing better to do. Volunteers are tested physically, emotionally, and psychologically, and this experience is certainly not for the faint of heart.
10. You’ll hate it, and you’ll love it.
Though you’ll probably have moments when you’re wondering what you got yourself into, at the end of your stay, you’ll return with great friends and amazing memories.
Clara is a Politics major at Princeton University focusing on international relations and global health. She is originally from Ashland, Oregon but loves traveling whenever she can. Clara is currently an intern for CATALYST.