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International Security MA - torn between good options, wondering if this is even the right time


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So I applied to the Peace Corps about a year ago, partially for the grad school tuition and language incentives. The application process is long and I wanted to have a Plan B in case they didn't extend an invitation, so I applied to 3 MA programs not really expecting to be accepted. The Peace Corps finally sent me an invite to Cambodia for a teaching position. This was my ideal location and I excitedly accepted. Over the following weeks I was admitted to the University of Pittsburgh without funding, University of Denver with a scholarship covering 50% of tuition, and American University without funding.


Pittsburgh is a non-issue. Denver is pretty solid but not the best fit for me, although with my savings and scholarship I could most likely graduate debt-free. American was my top choice, but it'll put me into $25-$40,000 of debt. 


I do have some experience teaching overseas so the Peace Corps would in a way be more of the same, but I would still like to do it and probably won't ever get another chance. It also seems like beneficial experience for State Department jobs which is ultimately where I want to end up. So really I have 2 questions:


1. Would it be crazy to turn down the opportunity in Denver for a slightly more prestigious, but also more rigorous and interesting program in a city where I could make more relevant contacts and internships?


and 2: Could I reasonably assume that I'd be admitted to the same programs again with an extra paragraph in my personal statement outlining 2 years of Peace Corps service?

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I think you could very easily potentially get into more and better programs with more funding after your Peace Corps tour.

International on-the-ground experience is incredibly valuable, especially for your field, and especially in a less common country like Cambodia.

If you'd be picking up Khmer, too, then hands down that seems the smarter investment route at this point.

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Just like jujubea said, Peace Corps will help you and you might get more funding. Denver LOVES Peace Corps volunteers, so I'm sure you will get the same offer and possibly even more money from them. There are several universities that participate in the Coverdell Fellowship program, not sure if AU's Int'l Affairs program does, but that's easy enough to verify on the university and Peace Corps websites. You will also get application fees waived at some schools as well, so you won't have to worry about the cost of reapplying.


Denver is a great school, but if you're not sure that it's the right fit, I'd definitely go for Peace Corps. It can only help you and if you want to work in international development or for a government agency like USAID, the two years of international experience are priceless. I'm an RPCV and was able to do a paid internship with USAID in the country where I served because of a special program they have for RPCVs. It has opened a lot of doors. 


Bottom line, I'd go to Cambodia if I were you. Grad school can wait till you get back.

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Fit is important.Regardless of being with the International Affairs, I feel that therr arr not many programs out there for 'exclusively' made for us security peeps besides the ones you listed, GWU,American, Georgetown, and a very small portion of other ones that are not commonly talked about on here. I personally was impressed with Denver,but security obviously also has different concentrations as well.

Is Cambodia and nations around that country your 'regions of interest' when it comes to security? If so, then literally living there and getting experience under your belt should boost your application. I know that both grad school and Peace Corps application processes can be tedious. But, it probably wouldn't be worth it to attend programs that you feel aren't the best fit.And, you seem to oppose getting into debt as well.

I used to dream about joining Peace Corps.But since I plan to get into the 'intelligence' aspect of international security, it is illegal for me to join...based on their website's policies.

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just a quick point of information for both OP and onelove21:


If you do Peace Corps - you will have to wait five to ten years before you can work directly in intelligence (though in some cases it may be as few as two years). I've heard some intelligence positions might not be accessible to RPCVs, but I'm not too clear on if that's true or how all of that works.  


On the flip side, if you work in intelligence first, you won't be eligible to volunteer until 10 years after your last intelligence job - http://www.peacecorps.gov/volunteer/learn/howvol/legal/


I know it doesn't make it any easier, but it's not impossible. You never know :)

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I've spent quite a bit of time in Southeast Asia so I managed to work it into my SOP...but its not exactly crucial. More than anything I was trying to bridge the gap between life experience and academic interests. Cambodia doesn't factor directly into my interests but I can't imagine an extra 2 years abroad and language training would do anything but strengthen my application. Still, there's no guarantee of funding in the future as it seems somewhat arbitrary.

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