FAQs about the Peace Corps Master's International TESOL Program

What kinds of financial aid packages are available while pursuing the MATESOL degree via the PCMI Program? Are there any graduate research or teaching assistant positions?

There are many scholarships, work-study positions, and graduate assistantships at MIIS. In addition, a large proportion of the students who are U.S. citizens have some kind of financial aid. Please check out the MIIS website for complete information. The tuition is typical of private schools. (Please check the website for the actual amount.) Also, since MIIS does not have doctoral programs, students who apply for scholarships or graduate assistantships here are not competing with PhD candidates.

In your final semester of study, you will receive a half tuition PCMI scholarship in lieu of any merit scholarship you began your studies with. In addition, if you have a Perkins Loan that disbursed prior to your Peace Corps Service, you may be eligible for up to 30% cancellation of these loans funds based on 27 months of Peace Corps service. For more information, direct your questions to finaid@miis.edu. To read about various scholarships and grant money available outside of the Monterey Institute, please read the Outside Scholarships document.

How can I get my medical and dental exams done without spending a lot of money?

When scheduling your medical exams, be sure to check your health insurance policy as it may cover routine exams for job/internship purposes (including for Peace Corps).

For the dental portion of the medical clearance process, there are dentists who provide the dental examination and accompanying x-rays free of charge for Peace Corps applicants. A list of participating providers is found on this website.

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What kinds of funding are available for Peace Corps projects?

Project funding is available through the Peace Corps Partnership Program (PCPP) and the Small Project Assistance (SPA) USAID Program. The PCPP application must be completed when you have at least one year of service left, so you will want to inquire about it early in your term of service. If your application is approved, your project description is posted on the PCPP website and opened to online donations; therefore, full funding is not guaranteed and it may take several months to raise funds depending on your donor base. To see the types of projects that the PCPP funds, go here.

Certain education projects may be approved for a SPA grant. Be sure to inquire at your country’s Peace Corps office for more information.

Some countries may have other funding opportunities available. For example, a handful of countries in Latin America and Africa are served by the World Connect – Kids to Kids Program, which offers $500 grants twice a year for youth-related projects. For more information, visit the website.

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What advice would you have for a PCMI student who is getting ready to leave for his PC post?

Pack everything you think you need, then take out half the clothes and replace them with more teaching materials and resources, photos, and souvenirs from your hometown to give to your host family (but keep your comfortable walking shoes in there!). Try to get in contact with a current PCV in the country where you will serve, and ask for his/her advice on what to bring and what to expect. Go out to your favorite restaurant and savor your favorite food one last time. Then assure yourself that no matter how much you may miss that food while you are away, you will miss your host community more when you have to leave them to come back “home.” You are about to change your life forever…and that’s a good thing! So take a deep breath, relax, and open your heart and mind. You won’t regret it.

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What advice would you have for a PCMI student in the first two semesters of course work at MIIS?

Start and maintain a Google site or other preferred internet method of organizing your course syllabi, major assignments with professors’ feedback, and class/reading notes. This organization will give you access to these items while in Peace Corps and help prepare you for the academic portfolio which you will complete upon returning from the PC. Make particular note of how what you are learning in your course work can be applied to teaching and teacher training in an EFL context. Talk with your professors about different ways they might be able to support you while you are in the field (e.g., you may ask Curriculum Design students to create a curriculum for a course you will teach based on a description of the setting and participants that you send to them from your site). 

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What kinds of things may be hard to get in site?

Books and other teaching materials may be hard to come by, so be sure to take along any books that you may want for teaching and teacher training, some children’s books in English if you anticipate working with children, and some school supplies.

The Peace Corps Medical Office provides basic medical supplies such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, sunscreen, insect repellant, bandages, etc., so you don’t have to worry about bringing those kinds of items or trying to find them in country. However, certain feminine hygiene products may be hard to find or very expensive.  

Some foods (e.g. chocolate, butter) may be difficult to find or prohibitively expensive, depending on your country and site, so you may want to pack a supply of your favorite snack or cooking ingredient!

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What kind of work do you do when you get to your actual site?

Some countries use a split training model, in which trainees complete 10 weeks of training, go to their sites for 2 months, and then return to the training center for 2 additional weeks of training. In this model, the first 2 months of site are to be focused on community integration and needs assessment. PCVs may visit important places in the community or region (the mayor’s office, the police station, schools, etc.), and spend time with community members to make their presence known and get a sense of the interests and needs of their communities. A work plan is negotiated between the PCV and the official host counterparts, who work in the host agency (which will most likely be a school in the case of TESOL candidates). Your schedule may be structured or quite flexible, depending on your Peace Corps program (which could be TEFL, Youth Development, or another related program), and the goals and preferences of your counterparts and you.

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What is the in-country language training like?

Peace Corps language training has a very good reputation. Trainees are evaluated by an oral interview placement examination upon arrival in country, and subsequently placed in small language class groups segregated by proficiency level. Intensive language instruction is delivered daily by Peace Corps staff members, who are members of the host country and native speakers of the target language. In some cases, language training takes place in the training communities. If you test at an advanced level on the placement exam, you may forgo the intensive classes and instead participate in a weekly class while completing independent assignments in your community.

Training may also include cultural and technical components, which entail various activities such as visiting places of interest in the training community, conducting interviews with community members, and traveling to the training center to receive sessions. 

Training can be a very busy and stressful period, but it is all worth it when you get to site!

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How long does it take between the time you finish your application and being notified about your country posting?

According to the Peace Corps website, the application process takes an average of 6 to 12 months from start to finish. The longest and most frustrating piece tends to be obtaining medical clearance, depending on your particular medical history and needs. The more medical conditions you report having experienced on your initial application, the more medical forms you will be required to complete (and depending on the conditions, the more exams and appointments you may have to undergo). For this reason, you may wish to report only those conditions that have affected you significantly, and that may return or continue to affect you in your term of service. (To give an example, if you report having visited a mental health counselor one time 15 years ago when a traumatic event happened in your life, you will have to visit a psychologist for evaluation as part of your clearance process, which could be costly in terms of both time and money.) It is important to finish your medical clearance process as quickly as possible, because only after that will Peace Corps begin looking for a suitable placement for you, which could take a considerable amount of time depending on your medical needs, your civil status (married placements take longer), and your preferences. Try to be patient during this waiting period, keeping in mind that the longer it takes, the better fit your placement might be!

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Can I enroll in courses at the Monterey Institute while I am a Peace Corps volunteer abroad?

If you are not a current Monterey Institute graduate student, it is not possible to take courses while you are a Peace Corps volunteer. However, some of the PCMI students who have already been accepted to MIIS and have completed at least one semester of coursework on campus can choose to do their Practicum teaching in the Peace Corps. This decision lightens the load in their final semester, even though they still enroll in the MIIS Practicum course. In addition, during the two-year Peace Corps period, students can complete up to four units of graduate work by doing their regular Peace Corps duties and documenting them in reports and research projects submitted to the TESOL PCMI advisor.  These four units can be counted as elective credits toward the TESOL MA degree, and the tuition for up to two of these units will be waived.

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When is the application deadline? Is there any possibility of beginning the program this coming semester?

There is no firm deadline for admission. Students can start the program in either fall or spring semester. 

However, the scholarship competition has very strict deadlines. For Fall Semester 2012 those deadlines are December 1st, 2011; February 1st, 2012; and March 15th, 2012. For Spring Semester 2013 the deadline is October 1, 2012. There will most likely be more scholarship money available in the earlier distributions, which means that the earlier you apply, the greater the opportunity you will have. If you miss these deadlines, you would still be eligible for the PCMI support, and possibly for work study support, but the merit-based scholarships may have already been distributed. For more information, be sure to see the MIIS website, or contact our Financial Aid Office. The email address for this purpose is finaid@miis.edu, and the phone number is (831) 647-4119.

The Monterey Institute is a small school with trained staff members who are reachable by email, fax, and telephone. They would be happy to help you with any aspect of the admission process. Carol Johnson, our Enrollment Manager, should be your first point of contact. She can be reached at (831) 647-4113, or via email: carol.johnson@miis.edu.

How do the application processes for MIIS and Peace Corps coincide? Do I have to be accepted in the Peace Corps before applying as a PCMI candidate at MIIS?

As long as your Peace Corps application process is under way by the time you arrive on campus at MIIS to attend classes, you are officially considered a PCMI candidate. You are not required to have already been accepted by the Peace Corps. If, however, you arrive on campus to begin classes without having submitted your Peace Corps application, you will not be considered a PCMI candidate.

If for any reason you are not subsequently accepted by the Peace Corps, you are still considered a graduate student at MIIS, but will no longer be considered a PCMI student. This would mean that your third semester at MIIS would not be subsidized by the PCMI program. However, you can still complete your MA TESOL degree at MIIS with no time lost and no additional requirements.

Do I have any choice about what country I go to?

What country you go to depends largely on what countries are currently requesting aid from the Peace Corps, what skills are needed in those countries, and what technical (work) skills you possess. Sometimes the language skills you have already developed are an additional factor.

Your Peace Corps recruiter may encourage you to state a “preferred region,” such as Central Europe, Africa, and so on. Stating that preference does not necessarily guarantee that you will be placed there — only that if your knowledge and skills fit the need of sites in that region, you will be considered for placement in that region. It has been said repeatedly by Peace Corps recruiters themselves that the more flexible you are in your expectations of where you will be sent, the more favorably your stated preferences will be considered. However, if there are specific countries or regions to which you know you would not accept an invitation, it may be wise to let your recruiter know that.

Can I go on to do a PhD after I complete my Peace Corps service and my MA at the Monterey Institute?

Our TESOL M.A. provides excellent preparation for PhD work. Many of our graduates over the years have gone on for doctorates. PhD admissions committees tend to value candidates who have gotten some work experience before enrolling in a doctoral program, so some time spent in the Peace Corps would be ideal. Also, Peace Corps service may give you the opportunity to acquire a new language, which would be a plus for a linguistics doctoral degree.

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What additional degrees or specializations are available?

Some students choose to stay an extra semester at MIIS (whether or not they do the Peace Corps program) and complete a specialization — i.e., they get additional education and specialized training. We currently offer specializations in (a) Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL), (b) Language Program Administration (LPA), International Education Management (IEM), and (c) TESOL or TFL. (For example, if you are completing your M.A. degree in TESOL but are a proficient speaker of another language, such as Spanish, you can do an extra semester and get a Monterey Institute specialization in teaching Spanish.) This is not the same as a state teaching credential. After completing two years of Peace Corps service teaching EFL, you are also eligible to apply directly for a California State teaching license. Edy Rhodes will give you the information. (See contact information above.)

Does the TESOL/TFL degree program offer any alternative "internships" that do not involve Peace Corps service?

Yes. MIIS TESOL candidates have participated in both U.S.-based and international internships.  We can also work with you to assist you in developing your own short-term professional experience. There are many opportunities to teach part-time in the Monterey area, including at one of the three area adult schools, one of the two local community colleges, or at MIIS itself. However, we don't recommend that you teach during your first semester. You can contact Ms. Edy Rhodes in the Center for  Advising and Career Services for more information on this point. Her email address for career guidance is hrhodes@miis.edu and her telephone number is (831) 647-4627.

If you were accepted by the Peace Corps, it would probably not be feasible, under most circumstances, to complete both an international internship with MIIS and your Peace Corps field service. The PCMI advisor at MIIS can discuss your options with you when you are ready.

How long is the program and when does the Peace Corps participation take place?

Students typically start the M.A. program in September and attend two full semesters. In June or July (depending on the Peace Corps placement process), you would go into the Peace Corps. This commitment is for two years of service. Then you would return to school in September and graduate that December.

So for example, if you were to enter MIIS in September 2012, you'd go into the Peace Corps in summer of 2013. You'd be in the field until approximately August of 2015, and return to MIIS that September. You'd complete one more semester and graduate in December of 2015. If you were completing a specialization as part of your M.A. (see item 7 below), then you’d return for two more semesters and graduate in May of 2016.

Some of the PCMI students have chosen to stay in their host country to travel or to do extended training (i.e., training new volunteers) for the Peace Corps, because they liked it so much. They then returned to school in January, completed their last semester, and graduated in May. (In the example described above, if you were to do this you could graduate in May 2015 if you weren’t completing an additional specialization , or December of 2015 with a specializaiton.)

What if you complete the Peace Corps volunteer service before entering the M.A. TESOL program? Is it possible to receive credit?

Students who complete their Peace Corps Service before entering MIIS do not receive academic credit for their Peace Corps Service. However, they are eligible to apply for the Peace Corps Scholarship and/or the Peace Corps Fellows Program. Information about this scholarship is available on the MIIS website.

What happens if I don't finish the full two years of Peace Corps service?

If you are sent home by the Peace Corps, it may be possible, under some circumstances, for MIIS to pro-rate your PCMI scholarship. (This decision would be made on a case-by-case basis.)

If you choose to leave your Peace Corps service early (not having fulfilled your two-year contract), you are welcome to return to MIIS. However, under these conditions you will not receive the PCMI tuition benefit during your remaining semester(s) at MIIS.

What kinds of positions and sites are generally open to MIIS PCMI candidates from the Institute while they are in the Peace Corps?

TESOL PCMI assignments in the past have included primarily secondary school or university EFL teaching positions and EFL teacher training positions. Sometimes MIIS volunteers have served both of those functions. Less commonly, some volunteers have been assigned to youth development positions, which include English teaching for youth and/or teacher training components. Because of the training you receive in your first year at MIIS, you can expect that your Peace Corps in-country directors will want to place you at the sites that require the most knowledge and expertise.

Of course, teaching or teacher training constitutes your primary responsibility. Secondary assignments or projects (generally required in Peace Corps assignments) are dependent upon your skills and interests as well as particular community needs, and may well lie outside the field of education altogether. Some examples of such secondary projects are writing grant proposals for a variety of community needs, working in an orphanage, fund-raising, running summer camps for young people, starting a library, becoming involved in community environmental protection actions, translating and interpreting for local organizations, coaching sports teams, and forming music and theatre groups. Peace Corps volunteers have also worked in AIDS education, environmental education, gender and development, small income generation, Earth Day activities, etc.

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Can I extend my Peace Corps Service beyond the two-year contract?

Yes, as far as MIIS is concerned, but not indefinitely. The length of your stay in country is up to you, the Peace Corps, and your site hosts. The important thing, in regard to your responsibilities to MIIS, is to stay in close contact with the TESOL PCMI faculty advisor (presently Dr. Kathleen Bailey) and keep her well-informed of your plans. Any decisions regarding your time of service, your departure from or return to MIIS, and your enrollment status need to be communicated and discussed with the TESOL PCMI faculty advisor and with the Financial Aid Office at MIIS.

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