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Kittie Helmick ’15 spoke to stu­dents Wednesday afternoon about oppor­tu­nities with the Peace Corps. Eliz­abeth Bachmann | Col­legian

Peace Corps vol­unteer Kittie Helmick ’15, who is teaching English in the South African village Kwazulu-Natal, spoke to stu­dents this week about the process of joining the Peace Corps.

Helmick is 9 months into a 27-month tour in South Africa, and she said she is finally beginning to reap the rewards of her work.

“It took us from January to March to learn how to com­mu­nicate with each other,” Helmick said.

Now her stu­dents are able to begin simple projects in English. They just fin­ished making their own per­sonal American cal­endars.

Helmick said the progress she is seeing extremely rewarding.

“You are pri­marily working with local people and helping them develop their resources,” Helmick said.

Career Ser­vices orga­nized Helmick’s visit to create an oppor­tunity for stu­dents to learn about the Peace Corps, the advantage of par­tic­i­pating in the program, and tips for applying.

Helmick laid out the appli­cation process for inter­ested stu­dents. She explained that, while accep­tance is com­pet­itive, Hillsdale stu­dents are great can­di­dates. The Peace Corps pri­marily searches for certain kinds of people and doesn’t require prior expe­rience.  

“They are mainly looking for a type of person who is resourceful, enjoys learning, is ready to pick up a new lan­guage, and enjoys a new culture,” Helmick said.

Helmick assured inter­ested stu­dents that the orga­ni­zation “gives you the tools to prosper, but it is up to you to use them.”

Vol­un­teers can expect around six months of training, including lan­guage training, safety training, and job spe­cific training, before they begin to engage in their work.

She also said the Peace Corps, perhaps due to crit­icism in the past few years, has cracked down on their safety pro­ce­dures.

“Peace Corps puts a ton of emphasis on security. They have a ded­i­cated security team who are on call,” Helmick said. “If you report an incident they take it very seri­ously. They have really doubled down efforts on dealing with inci­dents.”

Helmick responded to some student ques­tions about the eco­nomics of the service with the Peace Corps, explaining that the greatest financial burden was at the front end. Vol­un­teers have to pay for most of their own vac­cines and medical prepa­ra­tions; however, once training begins, they are pro­vided a place to live, a stipend for living expenses, and the orga­ni­zation also sets aside a fixed sum every month that vol­un­teers receive upon leaving the program. This gives them time to acclimate to life in America while searching for a job.

Freshman Sebrena Geier has been inter­ested in the Peace Corps since ele­mentary school and said Helmick’s talk was helpful in her dis­cernment.

“I’m glad that she answered a lot of the financial ques­tions and made herself very open to contact in the future,” Geier said. “It was also inter­esting to hear what her chal­lenges have been and how the Peace Corps has addressed them.”

Senior Suzanne deTar decided to attend the pre­sen­tation because she will be embarking on her own tour with the Peace Corps this June to Sierra Leone in West Africa, where she will teach general science in sec­ondary schools.

“I loved hearing Helmick speak because I hon­estly have no idea what I am getting into,” she said. Hearing that she also didn’t, but that she has adjusted and is doing well and has figured out her cur­riculum helped me to chill out a little bit.”