Volunteer Travel with Peace Corp Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet – Episode 458

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Hear about volunteer travel with the Peace Corps as the Amateur Traveler talks to Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet. Director Hessler-Radelet not only served in the Peace Corps herself in Western Samoa but 4 generations of her family have done so.

Learn why your picture of what a Peace Corps volunteer looks like may not be accurate. The oldest volunteer to date was 86 when she finished her assignment. Director Hessler-Radelet says “it is really important to us that we represent the rich diversity of our country so we are focusing very heavily right now on recruiting all Americans.” One of the more interesting groups that they are working with is recent immigrants.

Learn what the Peace Corps is doing to make it easier for volunteers to sign up and to choose a specific assignment. You don’t need any money, just a willingness to help.

I invited the Director to come on the Amateur Traveler after hearing some of her stories at the White House Travel Blogger’s Summit. Hear why the Peace Corps is good for developing nations, good for the USA and might be personally good for you.

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Show Notes

Peace Corps
The White House Wants You To Study Abroad (WHite House Travel Bloggers Summit)

Community

on Travel to Little Rock, Arkansas – Episode 450 Spencer commented “The guests on this episode were great! They were funny and charming. Made me want to move to Little Rock!”

Rollie in Sioux Falls, SD writes:

Hello Chris,

I just wanted to say I just found your show and I have downloaded 60 episodes that I may enjoy. ( I only have an 8 gb iphone). However, since listening to about 30, I started keeping track of the episodes in a spreadsheet as pound away on my accounting duties at work. It really breaks up the monotony and makes me dream about travel. Keep up the good work!

Transcript

Chris: Amateur Traveler, Episode 458. Today we’re very pleased, in the Amateur Traveler, to talk about volunteer travel with someone who knows a bit about it, the director of the Peace Corps.

Chris: This episode of Amateur Travelers is sponsored by DK Eyewitness Travel Guides. These colorful guide books are filled with great information and are one of my favorite guidebooks. I have 25 of them right here on my bookshelf. Learn more at dk.com.

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I am very pleased to welcome to the show Carrie Hessler-Radelet, who is the director of the Peace Corps. Thank you very much for coming and welcome to the show.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Well, thank you Chris. I’m delighted to be here with you.

Chris: We do shows on Amateur Traveler probably once every year or two about volunteer travel, and since we connected at the White House Travel Blogger Summit, it seemed like who else should we talk to in terms of volunteering, but someone, not only who is the director of the Peace Corps, but you also served in the Peace Corps yourself.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Absolutely.

Chris: Now, I have to say, I have a lot of preconceived notions. I have not been in the Peace Corps and I have this picture of you going in the Peace Corps right after college, as I understood, to West Samoa or Western Samoa.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: That’s right. Western Samoa.

Chris: And you’re sort of my quintessential Peace Corps volunteer. Blonde, right out of college, young, full of ideals, and you went and served in the Peace Corps. But I’m wrong, right, that that is not just what the Peace Corps is about?

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: No, that’s true because our volunteers range from age 20 to 80, for one thing. In fact, our oldest volunteer ever was 86 when she completed her service. So we really have programs for everyone, not just college graduates. And you don’t have to be blonde to join the Peace Corps, for sure. In fact, it’s really important to us that we represent the rich diversity of our country. So we’re focusing very heavily right now on recruiting all Americans, especially, I would say, we’re reaching out to groups we haven’t in the past reached out to as much. That’s a big part of it for us.

Chris: You mention that, and that was one of the things that came up at the White House Summit that we talked about, that the whole message coming out of the White House for that particular summit was, not just that you should study abroad because it’s good for you, but that you should study abroad because it’s good for the country. I wonder if you could expand on that a little bit, especially in light of – the Peace Corps obviously was the was founded with that in mind, but I think there’s a larger program in play right now.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Yeah, absolutely. Let me just start by saying that there are three goals of the Peace Corps. The first is a development goal, which is that we have to build the capacity in our communities so that they can achieve their own development goals. And that’s probably the goal that most people associate with Peace Corps, that volunteers are going over to help others. But we also have two other goals, and those are cross-cultural goals. Our second goal is to promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of people served. And then the third goal is to bring that knowledge and experience back home to educate our own people about the rest of the world.

It’s that goal that I think perhaps is least considered, and perhaps most important right now, since we live in an increasingly inter-connected complex world, where you just have to look at any newspaper above the fold to know that what happens on the other side of the world can have a dramatic impact here in our country. We need Americans who can speak other languages, understand and appreciate other cultures, manage multicultural teams, and just really be engaged in a global debate. Those Americans are going to lead the future. So we think Peace Corps is a great way to get those skills, and it’s important for our country because we need those people.

Chris: Well, important for the country that way, but also important in terms of the bridges we’re making. You told a story at the White House Summit about a young couple that went to Malawi, Vick and his wife, whose name escapes me at the moment-

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Adrienne.

Chris: I wonder if you could share that with us.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Sure, it’s a great story. It’s one of my favorites. It really speaks to the fact that you can never really tell what your impact will be. Also it’s not necessarily what you do or say, but really how you live your life. Vick and Adrienne are a young couple. They lived in Malawi. They lived in a village. Vick was a high school teacher, and Adrienne was a health volunteer. They lived in a mud hut – that might be what you think of, when you think Peace Corps service – in the middle of a small village. Every day they could get up and go off to the school, and Adrienne would go off to the health center. They had a modern American relationship. For example, Vick would help Adrienne with washing the clothes or shopping in the market. They would do that together. Adrienne would help mend fences, and Vick would wash dishes after dinner. Then in the weekends they would explore the village. They would ride their bike all over the place. They really enjoyed being together, and also developing strong relationships with members of their community.

So at the end of their service – volunteers serve for two years – they were getting ready to leave, when they had a knock on the door. It was one of Vick’s students, a young man who was actually quite quiet. Vick was a little surprised to see him. But what this young man said to him really was profound. This is what he said. He said, “Mister Vick, I’ve seen the way that you treat your wife, how you treat her with such love and respect, how you have so much fun together. I just want you to know that when I grow up, I’m going to treat my wife like you treat yours.” So I don’t know if Vick was a great math teacher, I don’t know if this young man now knows a lot more about isosceles triangles, but I do know that his future wife will be really happy that Vick was his teacher. I think it speaks to be role that volunteers can play, that they are showing that Americans are concerned about human rights and individual rights, that they demonstrate the generosity of the American people, and the fact that Americans are interested in learning from others, and that it’s not all about us imparting great wisdom to the rest of the world, but rather that we’re there to live among other people, and just by being there our values are communicated.

Chris: I’m want to take you back a little bit to when you joined the Peace Corps.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Great.

Chris: I’m assuming you had some expectations and some expectations that were accurate, and that played out the way you thought they would, and some surprises in that experience.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Yeah.

Chris: So what led you to Peace Corps, first of all?

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: I come from a Peace Corps family, and my family is a little unusual in that we are a four generation Peace Corps family.

Chris: Which I had trouble trying to figure out the math there because somebody is not fitting into my mold of who I think Peace Corps is as we talked about earlier because this Peace Corps has been in existence for 54 years, if I got the math right there?

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: That’s right.
.
Chris: 1961?

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Exactly.

Chris: President Kennedy?

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Yes. So clearly, I’m not the youngest one. But the first one was my aunt. She was a young woman right out of college, in 1964, she joined Peace Corp. So it’s from 1964 to 1966. She was inspired by Kennedy as were many in that era, and joined Peace Corps and served in Turkey as an orphanage worker. My grandparents, her parents, went to visit her while she was in Turkey, and were so inspired by what they saw that when they retired at age 68, they joined the Peace Corps. So that was in the early 1970s, and they served in Malaysia. They taught at a University in Epal, Malaysia.

Chris: Were your parents university teachers before that, I assume?

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: My grandmother had been a guidance counselor in a high school setting, and my grandfather was a research chemist at General Motors. In fact, I’ll brag on my grandpa for just one moment. He was the first person to document the adverse health effects of air pollution.

Chris: Oh, wow. Okay.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: He was a remarkable man. But a chemist, really. He did mostly lab work. But he taught chemistry in college, and my grandmother taught guidance counseling. My aunt was the first – she was really the second generation, my grandparents, the oldest generation, and then I came in at third. So when we joined, my husband and I served together in Western Samoa. We were the first actually, at the time, three generation Peace Corps family.

Chris: Oh, really? Interesting.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Yeah. We served in Western Samoa. My husband actually was a trained high school math teacher and I went in as an English teacher, but ended up teaching a lot of subjects. In fact, between the two of us, we taught every single subject in the whole school. I taught English, History, Geography, Social Studies, PE and Music of all things. I’m practically tone deaf, but I was teaching Music. I can tell you more stories about Peace Corps. I’d be delighted to do that about my own experience, but then just to finish this vein, my nephew, that’s the fourth and last generation-

Chris: So far, at least.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: – yes, so far,hat’s right, served in Mozambique. He was an HIV-AIDS volunteer, health volunteer who did a lot of work with people living with HIV. Then my cousin also served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand. So he would have been in the same generation as I was. All together, four generations and six members of our family.

Chris: So you went in more inspired by your family’s experience than Kennedy’s speech because this was a few years after?

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Yeah, that’s right.

Chris: What surprised you?

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: One thing, I’ve never admitted this to anyone, so I can’t even believe I’m about to admit this to you, but when I was imagining my life in Western Samoa, we got our packet and it said, “Congratulations. You’re going to be teaching in Western Samoa.” So I kind of imagined Gillian’s Island, frankly, only much larger. I sort of thought, “Oh, goody, I’m going to have a horse, and I’m going to ride my horse on the beach,” which of course is craziness because it’s volcanic rock. I barely saw a horse the whole time I was there. It surprised me how strong the relationships I developed with my host family. My host family was absolutely pivotal to my experience, and that is the case of many people. And really it was my host family that changed my life. So those relationships, the strength of the relationships that I developed during Peace Corps, which are truly life-long and life-changing, that element really surprised me.

Chris: Now, you talked about getting the envelope. Of course, this all happened in the mail at the time.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Yeah, absolutely.

Chris: And as I understand the process at that time, you had no idea where you were going to go.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Exactly.

Chris: You didn’t really even know whether you would be accepted, and that was something like an eight-month process, do I have that right? From the time you applied until you heard where you were going to go?

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: It was about eight months until I heard where I was going to go. It was more than a year before we actually departed.

Chris: That whole process has changed more recently. I wonder if you could talk about some of the different changes that are taking place in terms of – because I think that’s what people think of when they think of the Peace Corps. They knew somebody who served maybe and they’ve heard about this process, but it’s not the same. First of all, you’re not going to be waiting for the envelope. You’re going to get an e-mail, I suspect, long before that.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Absolutely. That’s right. There are three major changes that we made to our whole application selection process. It’s basically designed to make Peace Corps simpler, faster, and more personalized. People now are used to having information at their fingertips. They want choice. That’s what our changes are designed to do. So the first is choice. Applicants can now choose specific programs and countries to which they can apply. They can choose a program that best suits their personal and professional goals.

Chris: Now, can they request a horse and a beach?

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: They can request the beach but not the horse.

Chris: There are some limitations, but okay.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Although maybe they’ll get a horse when they’re there. I would like to say that a lot of volunteers get dogs and cats. The second is a shorter application process. It used to be a massively complex application process. And even in recent years, it’s still that massive and complex. It used to be more than 60 printed pages, and it used to take more than 8 hours to complete a Peace Corps application. Now it’s a short online application that takes about an hour.

Chris: What’s the key piece of information you’re looking for? Let’s say you, as if you were personally going through every application? That may not be the case, but you or your people who report to you, what are they really looking for in that application?

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: The most important factor in a successful volunteer is really be open-minded, motivated to serve, and a commitment to developing relationships, open relationships with others. So they’re really interpersonal and value-based qualities that we’re looking for, because these are people who are going to be living and working in another country for two years. They’re going to be learning another language, eating food that is just like the people in their community. They’re going to be having a lifestyle that’s very different from the life they have in the United States. They need to be resilient, they need to be flexible, and they really need to be committed to the service, because it’s a pretty intense experience that is going to be very tough at times. So we need people that are highly motivated.

Chris: Have you talked to anybody out of joining the Peace Corps?

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Plenty of people.

Chris: And why? Without naming names, describe somebody who this isn’t the right program for them.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: If you have very specific and not very flexible goals that aren’t consistent or compatible with what we do, that will probably not work well. For example, if you are a neurobiologist and you wanted to do research in Kenya, we would not be your program. Also if we feel that people are rigid in the way they work or they have very-

Chris: The way to do things is my way.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Right. Exactly. Or if we see someone, unfortunately, that seems to not be very open to others, or who may even be bigoted for example, I mean, our whole premise is that the human family is a beautiful human family, and that we want people who are accepting, not only accept, but appreciate and really genuinely love other people for their differences, celebrate the differences. So if we see someone who’s just really very narrow in their perspective about the right way to live or what’s acceptable and what’s not, we would counsel them against Peace Corps.

Chris: Okay. And then you said there was a third change that you’ve also implemented.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Yes, there is sort of more transparency in the process. So now if someone applies for Peace Corps service, they know that if they apply by February 15th, that by, let’s say, May 15th they’re going to know that they’ve been invited to the program that they applied to, and they know that they’re going to then leave by September 15th. I’m making those dates up.

Chris: Sure.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: But basically apply by, know by, leave by deadlines. So it makes the process more like a college application process or a job that you can plan your life around those deadlines.

Chris: And you mentioned college application. One of the other things that we were talking about in Washington, or that you were talking about as I was listening was “Change is also in some of the financial support, and if I am coming out of college, deferment of loans, and things like that.” Can you describe some of what’s going on there?

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Anyone who has a federal student loan can get that deferred. So that’s a fairly substantial help to many college students. We’re also trying to see if we can get some of the commercial loans to accept the same terms as the federal loans, but that has not happened yet, let me just say that. There’s also another program, the Federal Student Loan Forgiveness program, which if someone signs up for Peace Corps service, then they follow that with a government career, and that’s also state local government, you make your payments to loans that are based on the salary that you make. So as a Peace Corp volunteer making a living allowance that is similar to the community in which you’re serving, your contribution would be essentially zero during your Peace Corp service. And then, let’s say you go back into public service, the amount that you pay would be based on how much you earn. After 10 years, whatever is remaining in your loan balance would be forgiven. You can learn more about that on our website. Our website has complete information about this, much more information than I know, frankly.

Chris: And if people can’t figure out how to get the Peace Corps website, we’ll put a link in the show notes, but it’s a smart crowd, so I suspect they’ll figure that out.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Excellent. Basically, Google Peace Corp, and you got it. But it’s www.peacecorps.gov.

Chris: Then also, when I get out, there’s a resettlement bonus? Isn’t that what-

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Right. We call it re-adjustment allowance. It’s approximately 8000, if you still have regular 27 months. So I said earlier it’s a two year commitment. It’s actually two years of volunteer service but a three months training prior to that, so a total time of 27 months. And for every month you earn approximately $300, and at the end of 27 months you get $8000, which you can use to buy a car or go to graduate school, or you can do what I did then. Basically, I backpacked around the world for six months and blew every single penny.

Chris: Which we certainly appreciate here at our travel show.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Exactly. A lot of volunteers like to do that.

Chris: Now, when you went to the Peace Corps, my picture is they gave you a language book and a plane ticket or perhaps parachuted you in, and then came and picked up 27 months later. That may not be an accurate picture.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: No, that’s not an accurate picture. I think that might have been the way it was in the very early days, but by the time I got there it was fairly well established. It’s more or less the way it is now, and that is that you go in as a group of other people, Peace Corps volunteers who are going to serve in your country, and you have a pre-service training. That training takes place in the country. Now, when I was a volunteer, there were 25 of us, all living in one gigantic gymnasium at a high school for three months. That was really lovely, but we no longer do that. Now we have community based training, and volunteers go off to communities where they are learning language, and culture, and then a technical skill. We always train them in whatever they will be doing as a volunteer. That lasts three months, and then you go off to your community.

Chris: When you say technical training, we’re not just teaching English, we’re not just teaching math. So what kind of technical training for instance might a Peace Corps volunteer get these days?

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Sure. So we have six sectors. Our largest sector is education, but we also have health, environment, agriculture, community economic development – sort of like small business, and then youth development. So depending on what your assignment is, you would be trained in those methodologies. So for example, I’ve mentioned to you that I was a teacher. I taught English. Well, my background, my college degree was in political science and economics, so I didn’t really know very much about being an English teacher. But Peace Corps has a very rigorous training program that included, in my case, teacher training. So that’s what the three-month training is designed to do, is to give you the language, and the cross-cultural, and the technical skills that you need to be successful in your job.

Chris: If you want to picture some of the best Peace Corps volunteers that you’ve run across, who would you describe?

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: There’re so many phenomenal volunteers, and every single one of them is different. I’d love to tell you about a guy named Dwayne Matthews. He is a young volunteer that I met. Actually, he also is in Malawi, but he grew up in RCDC [SP]. I believe he was the first person in his family to attend college. He attended university and heard about Peace Corps from a professor. So he was assigned to be a health volunteer in Malawi. He went off there, and what he brought with him was, first of all, just a passion for other people. He was a health volunteer, and what he did is he thought it was so important to engage young men in health because in many parts of the world, as in the United States, I would say, young men engage with the health system far less than young women. We also know that in many traditional societies it’s the men who make decisions about health, even their wives’ health or their children’s health.

So Dwayne got over to Malawi and he really believed that he needed to engage young men so that they could just really be leaders related to healthy lifestyles. Of course, HIV-AIDS is a big problem there. What he did is he brought his love and passion for hip-hop and graffiti art with him, and he used hip-hop and graffiti art as a way for young men to be able to develop inspiring messages about HIV-AIDS, and healthy lifestyles, and being good male role models. He has organized over 200 young men into these performance troops that go all over Malawi and give public – they do plays, they do musical presentations, they do dramatic readings, they’re a phenomenal force for change. Not only are they educating whole communities – young and old, men and women – about HIV-AIDS and healthy lifestyles, but they’re also influencing their peers. That is so important because we really know that in order for personal change to take place, you’ve got to hear it from people that you trust, and these young men have been incredible agents of change in their communities. They did it because Dwayne brought his passion with him, his love of people, and his interest in communication, through hip-hop in this case, to Malawi. So that’s just an example.

Chris: As we have a variety of ages, a variety of people listening, I wonder if you would tell us the least likely Peace Corps volunteer that you’ve known.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: First of all, you asked me earlier about what was surprising to me. One of the other most surprising facts was, I really thought everyone would be kind of like me. I was a little bit of a crunchy person. You know in the 80s, you know Birkenstocks, and what have you. I assumed that all Peace Corps volunteers were going to be kind of like me. But in fact, what I found is that, that is not the case. A young volunteer that I met, he might have a business background, he was very buttoned up. I mean, he was wearing his polo shirts and we were wearing our flip-flops, and I thought, “Oh, this guy will never make it.” And he was a phenomenal volunteer. First of all, he introduced some rigor into our program. He was a very rigorous thinker. But I also saw what a great example and role model he was, especially, I think, for young men, that you could have a life in business and still care about other people. And that’s, I think, one thing, a message that I really needed to hear, and I think that others needed to hear as well. He’s gone on to be a very successful businessman, and he’s an incredible philanthropist.

Chris: If there’s some group or a person out there who you would most like to interest in the Peace Corps, who would it be? What skills, or what group, or who do you need more of?

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: I think one of the most interesting groups that we have applying now are recent arrivals.

Chris: interesting.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: So people who are new Americans. One person that I’m thinking of is a guy by the name of Peter Ter, who was one of those “Sudanese Lost Boys,” and I’m putting that in quotes. That’s what they’re called in that news. Peter grew up in South Sudan. When he was about three years old, his community was raided by the Janjaweed, and his father was killed. He was separated from his mother and the rest of his family, and he ended up wandering with a group of boys for 10 years, literally, wandering between Ethiopia and Southern Sudan. And finally, I believe if I’m getting the story right, when he was in his early teens, he got to Kenya where he was at a UN refugee camp. It was there that he learned to read and write.

He was clearly very bright and highly motivated, and he came to the attention of the refugee workers. So years later, he really doesn’t know how old he is, but when he was approximately 21, he was selected to be resettled in the United States, and he was sent to Florida. There he was placed with a family. The family was just incredibly loving and supportive. Peter, now at age 21, had no formal education apart from classes in the UN refugee camp. So he started to study on his own after work to get a GED. The way he did this is he would go into local bookstores and he would get a GED preparation book. He would sit down in an armchair and read it and do the little exercises himself, but he couldn’t even afford to buy the book. He did that for about a year, and he prepped himself up for the GED and he passed. He got a full ride, actually. I think the local paper did a story about him. He got a full ride to the University of Florida.

He graduated from the University of Florida with honors. And it was there that he met a professor who had served as a Peace Corps volunteer. Peter felt really strongly that he wanted to give back to the United States, and he wanted to do something to help others. He was considering military service, and this professor said to him, “Well, why don’t you consider Peace Corps?” So he looked in the Peace Corps and he thought, “That would be great. I’d love to be a Peace Corps volunteer.” So he applied to the Peace Corps. The only thing he said when he applied, I am told, is that he wanted to serve in a Muslim country. Our recruiter asked him, “Why is that?” And he said, “Well, it’s because the Janjaweed who killed my family, practice the Islamic faith, and I do not want to hate Muslims. I want to learn to love Muslims. So please place me in a Muslim country.” So he was placed in Azerbaijan. It may not be the first place you think of, but it is an Islamic country.

Chris: Sure.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: It’s a lovely country. So he went there, and he served there, actually, he served for three years. So he extended for a third year. He had an incredible experience. He was a phenomenal volunteer, and he was absolutely beloved by his community. He was the first black person they had ever seen in his community. But what he also said is, “I’ve discovered that the color of your skin is just such a tiny thing, and that really, it’s the human heart where you discover it’s the human heart that draws us together.” He went on to grad school, and now he is serving our country as a member of our foreign service. It’s just a wonderful story. We love to have recent arrivals come. They bring so much richness to our volunteer service, and also very much represent the diversity of our country. We are a country of immigrants. So Peter is one of my favorite return volunteers.

Chris: Excellent. I’m not sure everybody outside the US realizes that. Even we had a Turkish exchange student who didn’t like the fact that our high school didn’t look like his picture of what Americans looked like, because we live in a neighborhood that’s 80% Chinese.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Exactly. We get that all the time. I mean, you started the conversation saying that I sort of, perhaps look like most people would have thought a Peace Corps volunteer looks like. It’s very hard sometimes for our volunteers who are diverse because people do think of Americans as being Caucasian, blonde hair, blue eyed. We really feel that one of our most important goals, let’s say, is to communicate the fact that we are a multicultural nation, and that virtually every country is represented among our citizenry.

Chris: One last thing you would like to leave people with, about the Peace Corps.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Peace Corps is really an opportunity to grow in so many ways. It’s not easy, it’s not glamorous, it’s very tough. But it is an absolutely life-changing experience to step inside someone else’s shoes. I believe that there is no more powerful way to grow professionally. I also believe that for a nation, Peace Corps service is really important. We need to be able to have Americans who can relate well to the rest of the world. Right now modern media culture doesn’t necessarily show a very positive view of the United States. And what we offer is arms outstretched instead of a clenched fist. So I hope people will take a look at Peace Corps. If they’re interested in having an immersion experience in another culture.

Chris: We have a set of typical questions we ask. We’re usually talking about destinations. Destinations like Azerbaijan. We have done a show on Azerbaijan.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Great.

Chris: I’m going to adapt them here a little bit for you. One thing that makes you laugh and say, “Only in the Peace Corps.”

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: The amount of time we spend talking about bodily functions, or what we eat. We spend an inordinate amount of time talking about food, mostly crazy food.

Chris: This is what, when Peace Corps volunteers get together?

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Exactly. When Peace Corps volunteers get together, they either talk about bodily functions or they talk about the crazy food that they’re eating, raw sea slugs, or parakeets, or goat eyes, or even worse.

Chris: Finish this sentence. You really know you’re in the Peace Corps when what?

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: When you start dreaming in another language.

Chris: Excellent. And if you had to summarize the Peace Corps in just three words, what three words would you use?

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Life-changing experience.

Chris: Excellent. Our guest, again, has been Carrie Hessler-Radelet. Thank you so much for coming on and sharing with us your love that brought you back to the Peace Corps after. We didn’t mention your trajectory, but you were at the Peace Corps as a volunteer, and then went off and did a career, and then came back to the Peace Corps. So you haven’t been there the whole time.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet: That’s right. Well, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.

Chris: News of the community this week, we heard from former guest, Spencer Kuan, who commented after listening to the “Little Rock” episode, that “The guests on this episode were great. They were funny and charming, and they made me want to move to Little Rock.” We were only trying to make you want to visit Little Rock. I feel we may have over-achieved in this specific case. We heard from Molly [SP] in Sioux Falls, who said, “I just wanted to say I found your show, and I have downloaded 60 episodes that I may enjoy. However, since listening to about 30, I started keeping track of the episodes in a spreadsheet. As I pound away on my accounting duties at work, it really breaks up the monotony and makes me dream about travel. Keep up the good work.”Thanks so much, really.

With that, we’re going to end this episode of the Amateur Traveler. If you have any questions, send an e-mail to hoste at amateurtraveler.com or better yet, leave a comment on this episode at amateurtraveler.com.  You can follow me @chris2x, and as always, thanks so much for listening.

Transcription sponsored by JayWay Travel, specialists in Central & Eastern Europe custom tours.

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by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast, and a co-host for This Week in Travel podcast.

One Response to “Volunteer Travel with Peace Corp Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet – Episode 458”

PeaceCorps

Says:

RT @PeaceCorpsDir: You really know you’re in the @PeaceCorps when you start dreaming in another language. http://t.co/5bKVlPBxts

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