Peace Corps: A Career Conversation with Harrison Welshimer

What motivated you to join the Peace Corps?
I’ve always wanted to be an international citizen, but it wasn’t until my friend joined the Peace Corps and served in Nepal that I learned about the Peace Corps. When we had a video call a year into her Peace Corps service, her host family entered the camera and asked who she was speaking to. She immediately switched from speaking English to speaking Nepalese while she explained who I was and how she knew me. It was a remarkable moment and I think I applied to the Peace Corps within a week!

How does Peace Corps convey to employees a sense of belonging?
Peace Corps service is hard. You leave behind your family and friends for two years and three months. You are likely leaving for countries and communities you’ve not lived in before. However, I met other volunteers from all over the United States with every background imaginable. We were all there to pursue the mission of promoting peace by building friendships. The bonds we made were immediate and long lasting.

In what ways has Peace Corps supported your professional development and growth?
While you’re a Peace Corps Volunteer, you’ll have the opportunity to pursue a primary job in Education, Health, Agriculture, Environment, Community Economic Development, or Youth in Development. What’s also great is that while you may have a primary job in Education like I did, you could have a secondary project that’s environmental in nature. Peace Corps provided three months of up-front training so I was prepared to excel in the classroom, but they also supported my Cambodian school’s efforts to implement a plastic waste management program.

How do you know that you’re making a difference/having an impact with the work that you do?
It’s not always easy. It’s important to understand that as a Peace Corps Volunteer, you’ve been invited to an amazing community that wants your assistance with solving complex social and environmental issues. Two years is not enough to solve these problems. However, it is long enough to work together and achieve progress. It’s also important to understand that other volunteers will follow in your footsteps. They’ll take up where you left off and the cycle of progress continues.

What makes you proud to represent Peace Corps?
I love representing a government agency with the storied tradition that Peace Corps has. It’s really like joining a family and legacy. Peace Corps’ primary mission of promoting peace and building friendships around the world requires a person to be open, curious, and compassionate. The types of people who join Peace Corps as volunteers and those who work for the agency in support of the volunteers embody these traits. They’re the best kinds of people you could ask to work with.

In thinking about emerging young professionals, what advice would you share to those seeking their first opportunities?
There are a lot of jobs out there. When you’re first starting out, most of them aren’t going to be the most fun. So, you do have to take the best option and just get to work. With a lot of diligence and hard work, you’ll be offered better and better jobs as the years go by. However, another option is to join the Peace Corps and that decision could set you on an international career path you never knew existed. That’s been my experience thus far and I can’t wait to see where I end up.

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