From Application to Peru…how’d I get here again?

Since sophomore year of college, I knew that I wanted to join the Peace Corps and serve in a developing country for two years.  It was going to be a great chance to travel, live, and work abroad, and also give me a taste of whether or not development work was for me.  My application process took around 11 months in total from the time the application was submitted until I touched ground in Peru.   Here’s some thoughts on the whole application process, a year and a few months into service…

Application: Nothing I remember.  I think the essays were hard to trim down if there was a word limit.

Interview: Awkward because the recruiter had to type down EVERYTHING I said onto an older Dell Laptop, so I would have to stop talking at some points to let her catch up.  And the interview took 1.5 hours! But other than that, no issues.

Placement:  This is where things get interesting. 

My application (in my eyes) looked something like this:

  • 2 years experience in youth development, including responsibility for small and large group teaching/leading, designing lesson plans, visiting parents, etc;
  • 3+ years working as a research assistant for two international clinical juvenile diabetes research studies;
  • Semester abroad studying in Oman (SIT/World Learning if you’re asking), living with a muslim family for the duration, and beginner level Arabic;
  • Other activities: Theatre carpenter, International Relations major with a few classes in Spanish, handsome devil
  • Preferences: Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, Pacific, East Europe (I like the cold)
  • Possible placement: Youth Development, Health
  • Departure date: June 2009

Makes sense, right?  Youth development with the 2+ years working as a summer teacher for a reading program, plus the background and willingness to live in a Muslim country. 

Here’s what the recruiter saw:

  • Theatre Carpenter 3+ years: Knows how to build stuff
  • Spanish Classes: (=) Can Speak Spanish!!!!
  • Studied abroad, did some other work
  • Nomination: Water and Sanitation
  • Departure Date: Fall 2009
  • Region: Central/South America

Makes sense, right?  I talked to the recruiter about it and she told me that this was a good placement and although it might not be what I wanted (especially regionally), I might not receive another nomination or may have to wait longer to leave (which meant getting a real job in the meantime!!!!).  So, slightly reluctantly, I accepted the nomination and continued on.    (Note: Later on, I talked with a returned volunteer and he told me that if they thought you were qualified, you could turn down the first nomination and they’ll give you another.  A bit of a gamble, and not sure of the truth).

Medical Packet: Slightly frustrating because it was in sooo much detail.  Thankfully, our family dentist was willing to do all the paperwork and exams for the Peace Corps reimbursement funds (which didn’t cover what she charged…I think she was excited about the Peace Corps and that I had known her since I was 5).  But getting the medical stuff was challenging, since I was still in school and didn’t have a regular doctor, so my paperwork was scattered.  The attending doctor wouldn’t sign off on my papers until I had 10+ year records about some procedures faxed over, so that delayed everything.  Then finally, around December everything was turned in.  Your move, Peace Corps.

Invite:   I got an email around the 2nd week of March saying my ‘online application status has changed’ and that I would be receiving information in the mail.  Cool! No info about what’s in the mail, but figured it was the invite.  The brutal part was waiting.  I did some research and thought I was going to the Dominican Republic (Peace Corps Wikis didn’t have the placement probability tool yet).  My big packet with folders and information arrived on a Tuesday or Thursday and turns out:

Placement: Peru
Program: Water and Sanitation
Departure: September 11, 2009

Weird day to be flying, and didn’t know nothing about Peru…but hell, I’m in.  Now all was left was to wait 5+ months.  Funny note on that: the majority of volunteers got their invites 2-3 months ahead of time, and I think 2 or 3 received them right at the last possible day (6 weeks before departure).

So there ya go, a lot of rambling and a little information


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