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Jenny Gibson picks Peace Corps over paycheck
Jenny Gibson picks Peace Corps over paycheck
Some pick Peace Corps over paycheck
February 18, 2004
Jenny Gipson isn't wondering where she'll be able to get a job after graduation. She's wondering what country in Africa she'll be stationed in.
Gipson is one of about 500 Chico State students who will have the Peace Corps waiting for them after graduation.
Her interest in the Peace Corps began when she saw a student walking around with a brochure for the program. She went to talk to the campus representative and decided she was going to go for it.
"I always thought it would be cool," she said. "I'm in the credential program right now, so I thought this would be a good way to see if I really want to teach."
Since Gipson has her bachelor's in English, her job will be teaching English.
Joining the Peace Corps doesn't cost anything. The program handles airfare and pays a salary, which is adjusted to the cost of living in the country you are serving in. After completing your service, you get around $6,000 to readjust to living in America.
The application process began for Gipson at the beginning of fall semester. She first filled out an application, which is available from either the Web site or the office, which is located at 25 Main St., Suite 204.
After interviewing with the campus representative, who nominated her to the San Francisco regional office, she has to fill out more paperwork, get a physical and have medical and dental work done. The whole application process takes between six and nine months.
Justin Spence, the Peace Corps' campus representative for Chico State, said there are about 22 Chico State alumni currently serving.
There are many different fields of work in the Peace Corps, including education, health, business, environment and information technology.
"The program is designed based on skill level," Spence said. "We're looking for people with people skills, volunteer experience and work skills. We don't want it to be the first time you've ever touched dirt."
The two-year journey begins for Gipson in October. She doesn't know which country she'll be in, just that it's somewhere in Africa. She said she's definitely a little bit scared.
"It's a huge thing. I've talked to a bunch of people who have gone before," Gipson said. "They say it's a huge culture shock and a huge language barrier. There's a good chance I'll be in a small village. The nearest person who speaks English might be a three-day canoe ride away."
Although Gipson said her parents are a little skeptical for her to go, she is sure that she won't be placed in a dangerous environment.
"They won't place you anywhere hostile," she said. "The communities have asked for someone to come in to help them, so it's not like I won't be welcome."
Upon arriving in Africa, she and other Peace Corps officers will go through a 10- to 12-week training program where they will take intensive language classes and learn how to adjust to the new culture.
"The people I have talked to all say it's like nothing you'll ever see," Gipson said. "They say it's a really great experience to gain new perspectives and see how other cultures live."
The Peace Corps is an organization that was started in 1960. According to the Web site, www.peacecorps.gov, the idea was "for students to live and work in developing countries to serve their countries in the cause of peace." The program has now expanded to 71 countries around the world.
Spence said the Peace Corps is a good way for someone interested in international relations to get their foot in the door, since a lot of companies are looking for people with experience.
Spence served in the Peace Corps in Eritrea, a country in East Africa, and also in the Salomon Islands in the South Pacific where he taught school.
"They didn't have the chance to go to school because of the way they grew up," Spence said.
One thing Spence said he will never forget is the time he went with one of his students to his home.
"When I got out to his village, it was the real deal. There were huts with mud walls and stick roofs," Spence said. "They lead a hard existence. There aren't a lot of resources, but they were so generous and welcome."
Spence said they even killed a goat in his honor.
Joining the Peace Corps doesn't mean a person will be giving up two years of their life, Spence said. He said that it's very personally rewarding, and not a self-sacrifice.
"It was an absolutely fantastic experience," Spence said. "I gained so much more than I gave."
Julie Robertson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org