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Peace Corps Prep Student Guide

The Peace Corps Prep program will prepare you for international development fieldwork and potential Peace Corps service. To accomplish this, you'll build four core competencies through interrelated coursework, hands-on experience, and professional development support.

These four competencies, or "learning objectives," are the following:

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  1. Training and experience in a work sector
  2. Foreign language skills
  3. Intercultural competence
  4. Professional and leadership development

This document explains each of these requirements in detail. Use this guide to map out your Peace Corps Prep course of study. In Particular, refer to this when completing your PC Prep application, where you'll need to document how you plan to fulfill each requirement. This guide aligns point-by-point with each section of the application!

Training and Experience in a Specific Work Sector

Leveraging concrete knowledge and skills is central to on-the-ground international development work. Through this PC Prep program, you will begin to build a professional specialty, which should serve your career well whether or not you become a Peace Corps Volunteer.

For PC Prep, you need to complete at least three courses that align with a specific work sector (they can but do not need to come from your academic major or minor). You also must accumulate a minimum of 50 hours of volunteer of work experience in that same sector, preferably in a teaching or outreach capacity.

If you intend to apply to the Peace Corps, the best way to assure that you will be a strong candidate is to identify the type of assignments in which you'd like to serve through this interactive tool, then review the positions' desired qualifications and build them up accordingly. In the process, you should fulfill these PC Prep experiential requirements.

There are six sectors in which Peace Corps Volunteers serve detailed below. Choose one sector to focus on then complete at least three courses and 50 hours of related experience in that sector.*

  • Working with businesses, organizations, or cooperatives in accounting, finance, microfinance, management, project management, budgeting, or marketing
  • Starting and running your own business or other entrepreneurial activity
  • Training others in computer literacy, maintenance, and repair
  • Website design or online marketing
  • Founding or leading a community or school-based organization

*Actual Peace Corps assignments are based on local needs, and thus may or may not align seamlessly with your qualifications. Flexibility is central to the Peace Corps experience.

Nearly two-thirds of Peace Corps Volunteers serve in Education or Health. Coursework and meaningful experience in one of these areas, especially teaching English as a second/foreign language , produce some of the strongest candidates.


Foreign Language Skills

Working across cultures often entails verbal and nonverbal language distinct from your own. Building foreign language skills is thus a second key component of the PC Prep curriculum.

PC Prep minimum course requirements align with those needed by applicants to the Peace Corps itself, which vary by linguistic region.

  • Latin America: Individuals wanting to serve in Spanish-speaking countries must apply with strong intermediate proficiency. This typically means completing two 200-level courses.*
  • West Africa:Individuals wanting to serve in French-speaking African countries should be proficient in French (or, in some cases, any Romance Language), usually through one 200-level course.
  • Everywhere else:The Peace Corps has no explicit language requirements for individuals applying to serve in most other countries. However, you will still likely learn and utilize another language during service, so it is only helpful to have taken at least one foreign language class.

*If you are a strong native speaker and want to serve in a country that speaks your same language, you can skip this requirement.

You will complete two intermediate level foreign languages courses. Languages available at Virginia State University include the following:

  • Arabic 212 and 213 Intermediate Arabic I and II
  • French 212 and 213 Intermediate French I and II
  • Spanish 212 and 213 Intermediate Spanish I and II

Students may also elect to fulfill the language requirement through intensive study of a foreign language in conjunction with a study abroad program or through proficiency testing available to native-speakers of a language.


Intercultural Competence

Engaging thoughtfully and fluidly across cultures begins with one’s own self-awareness. With this learning objective, you will deepen your cultural agility through a mix of three introspective courses in which you learn about others while reflecting upon your own self in relation to others. The goal is for you to build your capacity to shift perspective and behavior around relevant cultural differences.

Category 1: You will complete the Study Abroad Requirement

All program participants are required to participate in a credit-bearing service-oriented study abroad program for which the student must earn at least three (3) semester hours of credit.* Programs may be global internships, volunteer activities, or field research completed in partnership with a local community group, or any combination of these. Past global service programs have included opportunities for VSU students to assist in elementary schools in Costa Rica; volunteer in orphanages, participate in play therapy at a children’s hospital, and provide English language to young adults in Morocco; help build a school in Ghana, and work with troubled youth at a rehabilitation center in Belize.

  • IDUP 370
  • GLST 202/302/402

*Or any other 3-credit course completed in conjunction with a study abroad program

Extra course credits earned while serving abroad can satisfy any of the course requirements for the Peace Corps Prep program after the study abroad requirement has been documented.

Category 2: You will take at least 1 of these core courses

  • AGRI 295 Contemporary Global Studies
  • POLI 207 International Relations
  • POLI 205 Government and Politics of Developing Countries
  • SOCI 304 Race and Ethnic Relations

Category 3: And choose 1 additional elective from the above list or these below

IDUP 270  Introduction to Africana Studies
IDUP 470  Special Topics in Africana Studies
ENGL 314 Readings in Multi-cultural Literature
ENGL 411 Readings in African Literature
ENGL 412 Caribbean Literature
ENGL 322 Post-Colonial Literature
ENGL 354 Language in a Cross-Cultural Context
HLTH 343 Cultural Diversity in Health Counseling
HIST 325  Survey of Latin America
HIST 327  History of the Caribbean
HIST/IDIUP 271 Introduction to Islamic Civilization
HIST/IDUP 472  Special Topics in Islamic Studies
PHIL 314 Philosophy of Religion
SOCI 220 Black Social Thought
ECON 455 Comparative Economic Systems
GEOG 410 Geography of Developing Nations
MGMT 320 International Business
MGMT 408 International Marketing
POLI 204 Modern Africa
POLI 206 Government and Politics of China
POLI 412 The Political Economy Of Southern Africa

Prolonged intercultural experiences—such as studying or volunteering abroad, supporting new immigrants or refugees acculturate to the United States, or volunteering in diverse schools—would also strengthen your Peace Corps candidacy significantly. As a member of the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP) consortium, VSU is able to offer students affordable semester and year-abroad experiences.


Professional and Leadership Development

International development is a highly professional sector. It is difficult to break into and demands great initiative and leadership to advance professionally within the field. PC Prep requires three specific activities that will strengthen your candidacy for the Peace Corps

  1. Have your resume critiqued by someone in the VSU Career Services Center.
  2. Attend a workshop or class on interview skills at the VSU Career Services Center.
  3. Develop at least one significant leadership experience and be prepared to discuss it thoughtfully. For example, organizing a campus event, leading a work or volunteer project, or serving on the executive board of a student organization.

Several of the colleges offer courses designed to foster students’ professional and leadership development. Below are some examples. You should check with your department to see if formal or informal mentoring programs are available to majors.

COBU 111         Professional Enhancement/Career Development
COBU 211         Career Launch
HMGT 111         Professional Development
HMGT 211         Professional Development

Finally, Virginia State University’s academic organizations and honor societies offer ample opportunities for cultivating leaderships skills and career networking. These include campus chapters of national professional organizations as well as other serviceoriented organizations. These groups include the National Association of Black Accountants, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, the Association of Political Scientists, the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences, International Food Service Executives Association, the Student Education Association, and Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources & Related Sciences. The Student Government Association solicits annually interested candidates for student representatives in that governance body.

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