Friday, May 11, 2012

The Peace Corps Process

I've been debating for a while on where & when to start writing in my blog. I was going to wait until I got my official invitation in the mail, so that I could share where & when I'll be leaving, but that's just taking way too long!

Back in the beginning of 2009, after speaking with one of my flatmates/neighbors while living in Ireland about the Peace Corps on a few occasions, I decided to start my application process and begin looking into it more. I was still in college, and I had other plans, but this was something that was in the back of my mind. It wasn't until June 28th, 2011 that I finally submitted my application. My friends that were already serving or were about to leave for their service told me that I just had to ride the waves from here on out, and that's exactly what I needed to do. The application process is tedious. It's long. It's invasive. And there is a crapton of waiting without knowing. Nearly a year later, and I'm still just riding the waves, taking what they give me as it comes.

After turning in my application last year, I was called for a phone interview. Since the recruiter liked me at this stage and after looking over my 27 pg application, she called me in for a 2 hour, face-to-face interview. For me, the PC recruiting office is in Oakland, in the Gov't Federal Building. That was super intimidating! So was having everything recorded, and being watched by so many people. At the end of the interview process, my recruiter told me that she wanted to nominate me for a Health Program in Sub-Saharan Africa. She said that this program would have an emphasis in HIV/AIDs work, and suggested that I get at least 3-months of volunteer experience in the field. I was sent on my way, was told to never wear jeans to an interview with the government (oops!) again. In September, my nomination for South Africa was sent to me, along with a multitude of health forms and questionnaires.

The next few months of trying to complete everything they asked health-wise was pretty trying. If you're healthy- it should be a breeze! If one little thing sparks interest, they want to know absolutely everything about it. And with me and all of my health anomalies, they wanted to know absolutely everything about everything. They give you about 200 dollars to cover physical fees and such while filling out the paperwork, but because of what they required from me, we ended up with a couple thousand in medical bills. All for me to get medically rejected, lose hope, and then get medically approved 6 months later. For the longest time I was thinking: Crap, I don't really have a Plan B. Everything I've been doing and working towards was riding on me leaving with the Peace Corps; I thought I was a sure thing, done deal.

Thankfully, in early March, I got an email saying that I passed my medical clearance, and I was in the placement process! This usually means a few more months of waiting- they'll call you, ask you some more questions, have you send them more essay's, resume's, they'll compare you to other applicants, etc. I was waiting for a phone call for the next step in the process when BAM! He called me and asked me if I'd be ready to go in a month- He had a program he needed to fill immediately and asked if I'd be ready to go. I went from thinking I still had many more months and steps to go, to "holy crap I might leave in a month".

He told me he had a program to fill in Asia- where I'd be working with youth, doing development, and still doing HIV/AIDs and a health program. Everything right up my alley. I found a website where you can check which programs are leaving & when with the PC (They won't tell you which countries because 1. They don't want you to get your hopes up & 2. They don't want you to start researching a country and getting the wrong expectations, or only seeing it from a tourist point of view.) So I looked at which programs would be leaving for Asia within the time frame he gave me and the results were Cambodia or The Philippines. SUPER STOKED!!! Even though they told me in Sept. that I'd be going Africa, and I really am okay with going anywhere, when he told me Asia I got so excited. I love both Cambodian and Philippino cultures, & food! +, Cambodia would border Thailand which is the #1 place I want to travel to, and Philippines would be on a tropical island. Man, it would have been perfect.

Unfortunately, as the PC teaches you, things don't always go as planned. My placement officer promised me I'd be receiving my invitation for Asia the upcoming Wednesday. Wed came, invitation didn't. Thurs came, invitation didn't. Fri came, invitation didn't. Same on Saturday. Monday comes around and I email him, in which he responds that he has "(good) news" for me. Oh no, he didn't send me to Asia.

As of right now, I'm leaving for Africa in July. The three programs leaving that month go to South Africa, Togo, or Zambia. I'm supposed to be seeing my official invitation in the mail within the next two weeks. It's the Peace Corps, we'll see if that actually happens, and if I end up there. But I'm pretty sure it's Africa, since I now have 7 months of HIV/AIDs experience and training under my belt! The official invitation will tell me exactly where I'm going, the exact date I'm leaving, and the job that I will be doing. However, it could always change, so I won't believe it until I'm on the plane and landing in the country!

Wherever I go, I'll be happy. I want to see the world. I want to learn about everyone, everything. I want to do it all, experience it all. I'm just excited to leave- I don't care where to!

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