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Peace Corps Alternatives

Peace Corps Ecuador - Photo by Peace Corps Volunteer Carol Tumaylle.

For students thinking about joining Peace Corps after college, or for people not quite ready for the full two year Peace Corps experience, there are a number of Peace Corps alternatives. By participating in programs similar to Peace Corps you can gain valuable experience and see if Peace Corps is right for you.

It will take some thinking on your part. The Peace Corps has the experience and resources to take amazing care of its volunteers. Programs similar to Peace Corps may not and it's largely up to you to figure which one is best for your situation.

Many programs similar to Peace Corps are run through universities and non-profit organizations that are very respectable and can deliver what they promise. It's even likely that they have former Peace Corps Volunteers on staff. But you need to be very careful and do your research. There are also a lot of programs that are poorly run or even just out to get your money.

Questions to Ask Yourself
A few things to think about when considering Peace Corps alternatives:

  • How long do you want to volunteer for? A few weeks, months, or longer?
  • What skills do you have and what do you want to do?
  • Are there any language requirements?
  • How much will it cost? Even though you'll be volunteering there will likely be significant expenses involved.
  • Most often you need to come up with the money yourself. And in general it's not cheap.
  • Is airfare, food, lodging, medical, etc. covered in the cost?

Take your time and really do your research. If you can't get specific answers to your questions that may mean there is a problem with that particular program.

Read How Programs like the Peace Corps Influenced these Volunteers

Programs like Peace Corps at Universities and Colleges

Peace Corps Mali - Photo by Shawn Davis You university or college will probably have a semester abroad program or even shorter overseas experiences. While many will be in more developed nations, some will have programs similar to the Peace Corps that might meet your needs.

There are a few benefits to going through a university or college. First, you can earn college credit for these programs. Second, it's likely that they'll have a safe, well thought out program. Finally, you can easily find other students who went through the program and hear about their experiences.

If your university doesn't have a program similar to Peace Corps they may have agreements with other universities that do. A big plus is that when you get out of college you'll be very competitive in the application process to become an actual Peace Corps Volunteer.

Finding Reliable Information on Peace Corps Alternatives
House in Sri Lanka - Photo by Peace Corps Volunteer Cori Welbourn
It may make sense to start by searching the web for terms like "Peace Corps Alternatives" or "Overseas Volunteer Programs". See if you can find programs like the Peace Corps that match your interests. Then search the web for people who have volunteered through these programs and read what they have to say. They are often blogs and posts to forums about their experiences with volunteer organizations. Look for trends in what is written and keep a list of what you've learned.

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Volunteering Domestically
Finally, one Peace Corps alternative you may want to consider is volunteering in your local community. You'll gain new skills, meet lots of interesting people (probably even some returned Peace Corps Volunteers), and get a better sense of what you might do overseas. Americorps is a good example. is also a good place to start. They also have useful information on volunteering abroad. These experiences also make valuable additions to your Peace Corps application.

If you have the work experience you might also consider working at Peace Corps HQ or at a regional office here in the U.S.

As a former Peace Corps Volunteer, I hope these experiences will lead you to Peace Corps Service in the future.

Photo by Mary Akers.  Photo by Shawn Davis.

© The Peace Gallery. The Peace Gallery is not part of the U.S. Peace Corps, which is a federal agency.