December 28, 2010

How Mount Allison Helped Me Decide to Apply to the Peace Corps Master's International (PCMI) Program

In my last post I listed the major reasons I have found that Mount Allison provided me the great base of support and experience needed to be prepared for graduate studies. I now turn to how this relates to my decision to apply to the Peace Corps Master's International Program.

During the long drive from Squamish, British Columbia to Libertyville, Illinois I took between my Junior (grade 11) and Senior (grade 12) years in high school I've been thinking fairly seriously about joining the Peace Corps. It was encouraging when President Obama expanded the program (although it hasn't reached the levels of enrollment he had proposed). Over this past summer I had the chance to reconnect with an old manager and mentor I had years before. We discussed future plans and in a flow of consciousness moment I talked about what I wanted to do with my life in a holistic way. I talked of being somewhat disaffected by the idea of making just 'making a living' and wanted to make a difference. Although I had not done very much research into the area (outside of classwork) at the time I said that I wanted to do something that would make a sustainable contribution to developing countries.

I had heard of sustainable development in Dr. Frank Strain's ECON 3501: Economic Growth and Technological Change (a requirement for all International Relations majors at Mount Allison) but had not put a lot of thought into it since then. When I was forced to thinking of what Mount Allison meant for me and my future I realized that he helped give me the idea of what all these classes meant.

Last year, as part of Mount Allison's Year of International Engagement at Mount Allison, co-founder Jessica Jackley came to Mount Allison to speak about micro-financing. She came to our class to speak about her work with Kiva. It was an interesting talk and the perhaps the first time I had heard directly from someone who was working in development. 

In just over a year, Mount Allison's Kiva team's 58 members have lent $6,900 to worthwhile causes. Although a...financially impaired college student I was was able to make my first loan with a christmas gift to an entrepreneur in El Salvador.

I had always been interested in being engaged in local and international issues. In high school I led my school's Amnesty International group and organized a film festival on spotlighting different issues of concern, including input from a first nations group discussing the disappearance of native women across Canada and specifically on the "Highway of Tears" in Northern British Columbia.

I have for a while known I've wanted to work with an NGO and went about looking at different routes I could take to do that and eventually seemed as though earning a Master's degree in Public Administration (MPA) would be the most efficient route. I wanted to also include Peace Corps service and found that the Peace Corps has partnered with a number of schools throughout the US to provide graduate students a way to incorporate Peace Corps service in their studies.

In the fall I will be applying to a number of schools throughout North America. I believe that my increased interest and qualification for graduate level work in general and Peace Corps service in particular is due in large part to being able to be involved in campus groups and have a solid working relationship with professors, which is not the case with many other schools in North America.

Because I won't be applying to Graduate school and the Peace Corps for a number of months, I will post sporadically on the topics I promised earlier, those being:

    • the Peace Corps application process 
    • preparing to take the GRE,
    • thoughts about graduate school
    • and moving back to the United States (going home 2.0?)

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