I came back from studying abroad in Ghana in May of 2010, which was easily one of the most important, challenging, wonderful, and difficult experiences in my life. I had a hard time figuring out what to do next (as many people often wonder) and I looked more and more into applying for the Peace Corps. Initally, it was something that I thought would be a situation where I could see if I could get my foot in the door, but as the application process went on, I became more and more dedicated to becoming a volunteer, as it entails a great deal of what I believe in and offers an opportunity where I can truly pursue what I love to do. There have been big issues and questions along the way, but no organization, agency, person, service, or volunteer project is going to be perfect. Ever. But, I think with Peace Corps, I will have a real chance to serve children who are looking to learn, and to learn from those children as well.

That being said, Peace Corps is a commitment. And I haven’t even left. But I mean with the application process. If you want to be in Peace Corps, upon beginning the application, know that you will have to wait. A long time. Maybe a year. Maybe more. It’s incredibly frusturating. I put a lot of things on hold/turned down opportunities because of this process, so in doing so, you begin to really reaffirm that this is what you want to do for 27 months of your life.

So, I buckled down and with music in the background (I remember it was “Streetlight” by Joshua Radin which seems now totally appropriate) and with facebook open to chat with some of my best friends from school, Istarted to apply to Peace Corps.

  • July 2010: start and finish my Peace Corps application. Okay, confession. I wrote the whole thing in one night. But, I stayed up super late and was extremely tired the next day. So. worth it.
  • August 2010: had all of my reccomendation letters in with my file.
  • September 2010: Receive word that my application had passed the initial check. Scheduled a phone interview for later in the month.
  • September 2010: Recruiter had another commitment so the interview was cancelled.
  • October 18, 2010: Complete interview with Peace Corps recruiter. The interview lasts for over two hours including questions about my experience, my leadership in handling difficult situations, my thoughts on cultural exchange, and more. Very. intense. But! I do good enough as I receive a nomination for a program leaving in September for Sub-Saharan Africa. I will be teaching English according to my nomination.
  • Late October 2010: Receive the INTENSE medial kit. Includes bundles of paperwork for the dentist, a physician, and eye doctor. Included was a small writing assignment in which I had to explain why I saw a counselor briefly following my parents’ divorce.
  • November 2010: Followed up with recruiter and learn that I need to gain more experience. Search for volunteer opportunities to practice teaching English as a second language.
  • December 2010: Complete handful of doctor appointments and paperwork.
  • January 2011: Ship off medical packet to the Peace Corps.
  • February 2011: Start working with Maria at Ida Burns Elementary (Conway, AR) twice a week to practice working with students who are learning English.
  • March 2011: Sent recruiter update with volunteer experience and learn that my volunteer experience needs to be with students at the 6th grade or higher (Maria was in 4th grade). Dad starts to help me find a volunteer opportunity at his high school to begin after I graduate Hendrix.
  • April 2011: Apply for a position with Hendrix College. Receive opportunity with the college, but choose to check and see where Peace Corps status is at. Find out from recruiter that I won’t know anything (not even medical clearance) until July. After a great deal of reflection, decide to turn down job at Hendrix and continue to move forward with the Peace Corps.
  • May 14, 2011: Graduate Hendrix College!
  • May 2011-June 2011: Begin and finish volunteering with ELA classroom at Overland High School. Earn 30 hours helping students discuss cultural adjustment and assisting with group discussions.
  • June 20, 2011: Informed that I will find out about medical clearance in July.
  • June 26, 2011: Receive letter that confirms I passed medical clearance!
  • July 12, 2011: Had not received any information from the placement office. Called to check on what I was to do next. Placement officer looked up my file and told me that my “program has been closed for quite awhile” and that I should expect to not be leaving any sooner than January or March. In the mean time, I should gain more experience to become a more competitive applicant.
  • July 13, 2011: Start applying to non-profits and service programs in the United States. Upset about Peace Corps but accepting that maybe this door had closed for me, and maybe for good reason.
  • July 14, 2011: Receive email from placement office that informs me that I am in the running for a teaching position in Sub-Saharan Africa that would leave in September. ???? I email back and say that this sounds great, but that I was told something completely different. I told the placement officer that I was very confused. 10 minutes following, the placement office calls me and says that indeed all of the information I had received was true (especially with the economy and budget cuts) but that another position in a country that Peace Corps had recently entered opened up. I was next in line for an interview, and I needed to schedule one ASAP. I set up an interview for the next day.
  • July 15, 2011: Complete final placement interview. Lasts about an hour, with an overview about how I have been preparing and what I expect from the service. At the end, the placement officer says she will be placing my status as not only qualified, but as an invitee! Basically, this means that I am being officially asked to serve in a country! I MADE IT THROUGH THE LAST PART OF THE PROCESS! She said my invitation would arrive via UPS in the mail within 10 days and I will have a short amount of time to think about the offer and to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
  • July 22, 2011: Invitation arrives!!!! The country of placement is RWANDA leaving SEPTEMBER 2011. Relieved, I accept and begin the next phase of the application and pre-service process (meaning even MORE paperwork!)

2 responses »

  1. omg! heather- i can’t believe how crazy this process is and that it took a whole year! i would’ve been so disappointed in july when they said they couldn’t place you until january or march. was the government thinking about suspending the program or something?

  2. Wow, this looks like a pretty wild process/experience. I’m sure you’re enjoying it though, I know I would. Was it hard to finish the application in one night? It seems like a lot of work, i’m not sure how you did it but kudos to you cause I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to. Before I read this my mindset on the whole peace corps and Rwanda, and everything else was so negative but this changed my thoughts completely on everything about it.

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