Skip to main content
US Flag An official website of the United States government

Connect with the Peace Corps

If you're ready for something bigger, we have a place where you belong.

Follow us

Apply to the Peace Corps

The application process begins by selecting a service model and finding an open position.

Peace Corps Volunteer
2 years, 3 months
Log in/check status
Peace Corps Response
Up to 12 months
Log in/check status
Virtual Service Pilot
3-6 months
Log in/check status

Let us help you find the right position.

If you are flexible in where you serve for the two-year Peace Corps Volunteer program, our experts can match you with a position and country based on your experience and preferences.

Serve where you’re needed most

Returned Volunteer Profile

Sharon T.

“Teaching without the use of technology was a tremendous challenge at the start of service … My cell phone, a small Bluetooth speaker, and WhatsApp eventually became my most important technology tools!”

Sharon T PCR headshot

1. What got you interested in the Peace Corps, specifically the Response program?

Serving in the Peace Corps had been on my bucket list since college. In fact, I applied in 1990 but was not selected. In 2021, I saw a social media post promoting Peace Corps Response featuring a photo of a woman who looked to be my age, carrying a stalk of bananas. I had to click. Once I learned that there were short-term opportunities for professionals my age, I felt compelled to apply. Seven months later I found myself being sworn in as the 4000th Response Volunteer, on a one-year assignment in the Andean region of Colombia.

2.  What was your role, and what project(s) did you work on? 

As an education specialist, my primary role was to support English teachers by introducing new methods and strategies for teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL).

I supported English teachers and adult learners at Colombia’s national training service (SENA) through professional development training and classroom demonstrations. I also supported English teachers at three public secondary schools near my site with weekly classroom visits and demonstrations.

In collaboration with a counterpart, I facilitated and led an English conversation club at the library in my community. I prepared visual presentations and interactive activities to lead discussions on topics ranging from poetry to pop culture. We started as a group of six and quickly tripled in size. This group became my “tribe” and helped me make connections in my community.

The project that had the most reach and lasting impact were radio programs produced in collaboration with Colombia’s National Ministry of Education. I served as an English language coach, editor, and advisor in producing the third season of ECO Kids and ECO Teens, educational radio programs broadcast on more than 150 Colombian radio stations to promote learning English to primary and secondary students.

Sharon T in a Colombian classroom.
Sharon introduced new methods and strategies for teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) in Colombia.

3. How did you leverage your previous professional experience and skills?

As a Spanish teacher and professional development trainer in the U.S., I am a proponent for acquisition-driven language instruction (ADI) that focuses on authentic communication through speaking, listening, reading and storytelling in the target language. In contrast to ADI, traditional audiolingual instruction focuses more on memorization and explicit grammar instruction. My experience using ADI with Spanish in the American classroom provided me with the skills and confidence to introduce ADI to English teachers in Colombia.

A highlight of my service was a pen pal project connecting middle and high school students in Colombia with students in my Florida hometown. With the support of my professional network in the U.S., I made connections between foreign language teachers in both countries to facilitate the exchange between Colombian students learning English and American students learning Spanish. Students exchanged letters in English and Spanish, sharing about their favorite video games, family traditions, sports, and more. In an era when text messaging and emails commonly replace handwritten letters, I was surprised to see how excited students were to write and decorate letters for their pen pals and to receive colorful handwritten responses adorned with stickers and illustrations.

Sharon T facilitated a pen pal project in Colombia.
Sharon facilitated a pen pal project between American and Colombian students..

4. How did your collaborative work with your community create lasting impact for the community you served?

The teachers I supported through classroom visits and demonstrations adopted many of the ADI strategies I shared during my service. They now create classroom “word walls” that highlight important and frequently used words and use collaborative strategies that provide opportunities for students to converse in English. They now use technology to provide engaging content that helps students connect with each other in English. Most public schools in Colombia do not have Wi-Fi or internet connections in the classrooms, but many have small television monitors that are rarely used. Using cell phones and Bluetooth technology, teachers now use their monitors for presentations and interactive games. And students create video and photo essays that they narrate in English.

In the community where I lived, the English conversation club for adults that I co-facilitated at the library continues to meet. Another Peace Corps Volunteer now supports the group.

5. How did the skills you developed as a Response Volunteer enrich your professional development?

My Peace Corps service taught me how to be more resourceful, more innovative in solving problems, and more patient in creating solutions through trial and error. I had to shift my focus from meeting preconceived learning goals to identifying and exploring learning opportunities and possibilities. The constant schedule changes, class cancellations, and diverse learning challenges taught me how to adjust the pace of instruction and the content I used to meet the needs and interests of my students. I celebrated every learning success, regardless of whether it was on a checklist.

Conducting professional development and presenting in my second language (Spanish) forced me to slow down, listen with intent, and become a more effective trainer.

Sharon T teacher training in Colombia
Sharon conducted teacher trainings in Colombia.

6. What strategies did you use to meet the challenges you encountered?

Living in a rural community, some of the greatest challenges I encountered were transportation and technology. Traveling unpaved mountain roads to teach in a classroom just 17 miles from my town involved a 2-hour commute each way. I spent many hours on buses or waiting for buses. I used this time to engage in conversations with people from my community and to simply observe social exchanges and interaction. Bus travel is one of the best ways to learn social cues and integrate into a new culture!

Teaching without the use of technology was a tremendous challenge at the start of service. I had to find creative ways to present visually with little more than a whiteboard and markers. My cell phone, a small Bluetooth speaker, and WhatsApp eventually became my most important technology tools! I used them to share learning resources and lesson plans, and to stay connected with the teachers I supported.

7. What benefits did you gain from serving?

Serving in Colombia allowed me to experience second language learning from the perspective of my students in the U.S., as Spanish is my second language. Participating in group conversations requires listening with concentration and intent. My proficiency level in Spanish improved tremendously, but more importantly, I developed more empathy and appreciation for language learners.

Teaching English as a foreign language in a Spanish-speaking country provided me with a unique opportunity to use acquisition-driven instruction (ADI) in teaching adults. This experience confirms my commitment to this technique and has helped me to become a more effective language teacher and trainer.

8. What would you say to someone considering Peace Corps Response?

There is an old campaign promoting the Peace Corps as “the toughest job you’ll ever love.” I think those six words may be the most succinct and accurate description of Peace Corps service. Whatever ideas a Volunteer may have going into service will be replaced by unique challenges and rewards that far surpass expectations. My Peace Corps experience provided opportunities for professional and personal growth that have forever changed my perspective on my own culture and my role in promoting a better understanding of Americans abroad, while promoting a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

Finally, Peace Corps selection is competitive. The application and clearance process require time, persistence, and patience. I was not selected for service the first time I applied. But I am so thankful I applied again 30 years later. My best advice to someone considering Peace Corps Response is simply to apply. The experience is transformative.