what should you do after Peace Corps?

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the true cost of graduate school after Peace Corps

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the first two articles in this series:

 

The Golden Rules of Grad School After Peace Corps

 

5 Reasons in Favor of Grad School After Peace Corps, and 4 Reasons Against It

 

Even if you have a full ride, graduate school can be costly.

School fees are the most obvious costs, but not the biggest ones. Don’t forget to include these crucial factors in your cost calculations.

 

1. lost income opportunity

How much could you be earning if you took a job today? Even a full ride with stipend likely won’t put anywhere near the amount of money in your bank account as a full-time job would. 

 

2. interest on student loans and other debts

Since you’re not earning what you could be, then you’re not paying off the debts that you could be.

 

3. lost compound interest opportunity

The earlier you start saving, the more time your money has to earn interest on interest. That means more, better, or earlier retirement. Without a job that offers retirement benefits or enough extra income to invest, you’re missing out on years of compound interest.

 

4. real-world experience

Most employers value experience over education. Many will accept a couple years of experience in place of a degree.  A lot will choose a more experienced candidate over a more educated candidate. A few years of grad school means less real-world experience.

 

5. lost promotions, raises, and incentives

The Millennial generation has shown a strong tendency to change jobs frequently, so employers are offering increasingly strong incentives for staying on the job more than a couple years. Grad school puts you a few years behind on those benefits.

 

6. out-of-pocket personal expenses

Even if your fees are covered, you may still be paying living expenses from savings, loans, or credit cards. Same goes for the cost of relocating for your grad program. Spending your savings means less compound interest. Going into debt means paying for accruing interest later on.

 

7. differences in cost of living

The cost of living in your potential job market may be markedly different from the cost of living at your potential school. 

 

8. taxes

Full-time students generally don’t earn enough to pay taxes. Account for your federal and state tax rates when you consider how much potential income you could be losing by attending graduate school.  

 

9. experiences you’re putting off

Graduate school can be a double-edged sword when it comes to cool new experiences. Lots of travel grants are only available to students. Your time is generally more flexible. On the other hand, student stipends (if you have one) don’t generally allow for European vacations. And if your grad work is demanding, you may not have time for a vacation anyway.

 

But don’t grad degree holders earn more over their lifetimes?

Yes, the lifetime earning potential of a graduate degree currently outweighs these drawbacks over the course of a career. However, that only works if you actually like the field enough to spend the rest of your career working in it. And Millennials–who generally value experience and growth over income and prestige–don’t tend to do that.

To boot, we expect that the longstanding trend of more education = more income will markedly taper off over the next 10 years as the number of degree holders meets or exceeds the number of jobs available for degree holders. 

so what does that mean for your career?

~ Stay tuned! ~

 

We’re Serious.

Returning Peace Corps Volunteers need more support. That’s why we’re proud to offer Transition Advising for Peace Corps affiliates, no matter how long it’s been since Peace Corps. Book a free call to learn how you can best support yourself or your Volunteer.

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What to do after Peace Corps Early Termination

What do early termination Peace Corps Volunteers need? Tons of support. Learn more here. 

If early termination sounds like the end of your world, check out How Early Termination Will Impact Your Life.

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*the writer wishes to remain anonymous

It’s already tough to figure out what you should do after Peace Corps.

What happens when you add early termination to the mix? 

If you haven’t already, check out What’s Early Termination from Peace Corps Like? and How Early Termination Will Impact Your Life

ETing is sometimes involuntary, which can be traumatizing for volunteers who have invested so much in their service. One volunteer’s* medical officer ETed her even after she had met health improvement requirements.This is her story.

“…Although my ET was a medical separation, it still imbued me with an immense amount of shame.”

“There was more than a hint of competition among some volunteers, be it for doing the most projects or living with the fewest amenities possible. In that environment, ETing was a mark of failure inevitably associated with being unable to cut it. Although my ET was a medical separation, not an administrative separation (used for those who broke regulation), it still imbued me with an immense amount of shame.  I suppose I shouldn’t let something that isn’t my fault affect me so deeply, but it did.

 

   Health Challenges

 Throughout my six months of service, I had almost nonstop stomach issues that made eating painful.  I wasn’t sure of the source, and nothing I tried seemed to make it better. I doubted it was the stress of being in a foreign country; I’d previously lived in China, central Africa, and South America without issue.  But suddenly, eating anything more than a few bites made me feel ill. I continued with my daily activities, but felt discomfort or pain multiple times a day, and started losing weight. 

 

The Medical Office

I was in very regular communication with one of the Peace Corps nurses, who was extremely kind to me and had me come to the capital for various medical tests, none of which revealed anything conclusive. I started working with another medical officer when she took a leave, and he took over arranging appointments and follow-ups for me. At one point, though, he suggested that the whole thing was a recurrence of anorexia, which I’d had eight or so years prior. I insisted that it wasn’t, as I had been doing everything I could that the medical officers and nurses said I should do in order to gain back weight. I didn’t want to lose weight.

Eventually, I was told that if I could achieve a certain weight in a month, I could stay. I considered this seriously.  I could be in pain for a month, I figured, and not disappoint all the kids I had been working with at the school. Or I could have less pain but have to go home. I decided on the former.

 

The Decision

At the end of the month, I had met the weight gain goal the medical office had set for me. Nevertheless, the nurse and medical officer decided that I should go home anyway. Everything happened very quickly. One day they informed me of their decision, and the next day I was traveling back to my village to pack. I only had one night in the village, so I was only able to say goodbye to the principal of the school and to my homestay family. The next day, I was on a plane.

 

Life After Early Termination

I don’t typically like to broadcast my negative experiences, or even label an experience as a bad one. But the whirlwind of those months, and especially those last few days, is something I rarely wish revisit, even now, five years later.  I felt tremendously appreciative of how many staff members put so much time, energy, and heart into helping me. But at the same time, I kept thinking of all the kids whom I felt I had failed. I had told them what we’d be doing the following semester. They wrote me get-well notes. And then I wasn’t there for them, without explanation. Their faces stayed in my head for a long, long time. My thoughts of them eventually decreased from every day, to weekly, to monthly. But I doubt they will ever disappear.

 

Advice to Others

It’s really hard not to feel guilt or shame, but, unless you break the rules, shit happens that is oftentimes it’s no one’s fault.  It doesn’t say anything about you as a person, or mean that you can’t do x, y, and z in the future. It’s important not to make it bigger than it is.”

 

We’re Serious.

ET Volunteers need more support. That’s why we’re proud to offer Transition Advising to all Peace Corps affiliates, no matter how long it’s been since Peace Corps.

What is early termination from Peace Corps like, and how will it affect your life after Peace Corps? 


 Seems like Peace Corps Volunteers can talk about anything. Wriggling parasites, rotten food, the ugliest of bodily functions–nothing is too raunchy for these ironclad stomachs. But utter these two little words and faces blanch: early termination.  

As taboo as the topic can feel in Peace Corps circles, early termination is very common. In fact, more than 1 in 10 volunteers’ service ends early.

There are  myriad reasons  for early termination, but no matter what, it is always unexpected, painful, and isolating for the Volunteer. 

That’s because Volunteers have invested hugely in their service. They’ve expected significant personal and career growth upon completing their service.  So it’s no wonder an early end feels like the biggest failure ever.

So how does early termination impact the rest of your life?


1. You’ll miss the experiences you would have had in your community.

3. If your training + service was less than 12 months, you resigned, or you were administratively separated, then you aren’t be eligible for non-competitive eligibility status on job applications with the US government.

4. If you resigned or were administratively separated, then you aren’t eligible for the Coverdell fellowship program.

 

THAT’S IT.

You’re probably feeling like Volunteers who ET have to live with the shameful blemish of their Peace Corps service hidden from the world forever. But that’s simply not the case.

Actually, the vast majority of people–including US government employees–don’t have the foggiest idea what “normal” Peace Corps service is, much less how yours may have been different. The few people that might notice your service dates are other Returned Volunteers. Fortunately, they also understand the complexities of service terms, and at most are thinking your shorter service must mean you have a fascinating story.

 

Let’s imagine your resume says Peace Corps 2017-18.


This could mean:

  • You served in Peace Corps Response.
  • All volunteers in your country dramatically evacuated in perilous 007-esque circumstances.
  • You contracted a little-known jungle disease.
  • You served 2 years, from January 2017- December 2018.

The point is, what looks to you like a terrible admittance to failure blaring from your resume doesn’t actually mean anything to anyone at all.

 

Here’s what will stay the same whether you ET or not:


  1. You experienced life-altering, mind-opening things.
  2. You met people and saw places you’ll never forget.
  3. You’ll get all the social and career prestige of being a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer.
  4. You feel totally accepted in Peace Corps crowds.
  5. Peace Corps appears on your resume.
  6. You have the character traits and work ethic of a Peace Corps Volunteer.
  7. Your Peace Corps service impresses potential employers. 
  8. You’re proud to be a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer.

 

Early termination is emotionally tumultuous. Fortunately, the emotions are  the worst part of ETing. Be sure to process your emotions in a health way. Then you’ll regain your perspective on all the amazing people, places, moments, smiles, connections, and lessons that truly define your Peace Corps experience. Early termination will become a small detail barely worth mentioning. And you’ll still be a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer.

What to do after Peace Corps Early Termination

What do early termination Peace Corps Volunteers need? Tons of support. Learn more here.

If early termination sounds like the end of your world, check out How Early Termination Will Impact Your Life.

Wondering what to do after Peace Corps? Check out our services exclusively for Peace Corps Volunteers. We subsidize services for Peace Corps folk, and your first session is free!

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What is early termination from Peace Corps like?

The words every Peace Corps Volunteer fears–early termination. It can feel like a taboo topic in Peace Corps circles, but in fact it happens to more than 1 in 10 volunteers, and it’s usually not because of anything the Volunteer has done. 

There’s four big categories of early terminations. They can all happen any time between when you start training and your official end of service, also called Close of Service. They’re summarized below, and you can sift through the official details here

 

Resignation

You voluntarily leave Peace Corps. 

  • Similar to quitting a job.
  • Tough because it’s an incredibly person decision and you’ve already invested a lot.
  • Easy because it’s completely up to you.

Interrupted Service

The Country Director decides you are unable to continue your particular assignment, but you are eligible to continue as a Volunteer and get a new assignment. This encompasses myriad circumstances, but most often takes the form of instability in country that makes it unsafe for Volunteers. This happens more often than you might expect. Typically each volunteer has the option to continue their service in another country or officially close their service, depending on how long they’ve been serving.

  • Similar to getting reassigned.
  • Tough because it can unexpectedly rip you away from your loved ones and belongings in country.
  • Easy because you’ll very likely have other volunteers to process the experience with. 

Medical Separation

Peace Corps determines it is unable to accommodate or resolve your medical condition.

  • Similar to getting laid off.
  • Tough because it’s not under your control, and you’re generally going it alone.
  • Easy because you don’t have to make the decision, and it’s often a relatively straightforward explanation for loved ones to understand.

Administrative Separation

This is arguably the messiest ET. The Country Director decides to end your service because of poor conduct or violation of Peace Corps policy. Drug use, breaking local law, and riding motorbikes or motorcycles are common reasons. You’ll have the option to resign before administrative separation.

  • Similar to getting fired.
  • Tough because it’s mostly up to your Country Director and you’ll probably go through it alone.
  • Easy because there are very clear ways to avoid it. 

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