Above is my Peace Corps timeline. Some additional things to note:
- Peace Corps has a program where you can call a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) to ask questions and get pointers for applying. I emailed my resume to the Midwest rep, and then we spoke over the phone to discuss my options. My undergraduate degree is in English literature. The rep told me, “They’ll definitely put you in a teaching position.” I was like, “Really? But I have a Master’s Degree in social work.” But she seemed certain that Peace Corps would want me to teach.
- I did not have teaching experience at that point. I had done some tutoring (adult ESL and I also worked with a child who had autism), but I did not have any classroom experience. I was certain I wanted to apply for a Peace Corps program in Eastern Europe. After doing some research, it seemed that in order to teach in Europe, I would need to be certified. (Though now I am not sure if this is true … it seems most of the other volunteers here are not certified.) Anyway, I decided that if I were going to apply to Peace Corps, I wanted to make a whole-hearted effort at getting in. So, I bought a Groupon for an online TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) certification program. At the time, I didn’t have a lot going on at work. My organization was going through a transition, and we had free time while we were waiting for a new program to begin. I decided to use my free time at the office to complete my certification.
- My experience with Peace Corps was pretty straight-forward. I know others who were slotted for other programs but then got moved around. That didn’t happen to me. About a week or so after applying, I was told I was being considered for Kosovo (one of my three choices). Then I had a phone interview with a Peace Corps recruiter from D.C. It was supposed to be a video Skype session. I didn’t have a web cam, so I had to borrow one from a friend. My interview was scheduled for 7 a.m. on a weekday morning. I got up early, dressed in a suit, styled my hair, and put on make-up. A few minutes before my interview, the recruiter emailed me and said her video camera wasn’t working. So, after all that effort, we did a phone interview. 😦
- In June, I visited my family for my birthday. I told them I had applied for the Peace Corps. (eeeee!) I think they were surprised at first, but ultimately, they were supportive.
- I wasn’t supposed to get an answer from the Peace Corps until December 1, 2015. But on a random day in October, I was at work, bored and checking my email on my phone. That’s when I got my “Congratulations!” email. I was shocked. I walked into Paul’s office (my work husband), and was like, “Ahhh, look at this.” That night, I had dinner plans scheduled with my friend Dana and her now-fiancé, so it turned into a little celebration. I called my family later to give them the news. I think it was initially hard for them … they didn’t expect an answer so early, and so it was a lot to process. But after talking with my family and closest friends, I decided to accept the invitation!
- In late November, I got instructions to complete my legal and medical clearance. Legal clearance was easy. The Peace Corps Midwest office is in Chicago (where I was living), so I just went downtown and got fingerprinted there.
Medical clearance was more involved. I had read on other blogs that the medical process was a huge pain … and it was. I was given 60 days to complete everything, and this was over the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday season. There was SO MUCH to do … getting dental x-rays, getting a physical, pulling medical records, getting vaccines, getting blood drawn …Yeah. Not fun.
- After that was all done, I just had to complete some online Peace Corps training modules (on safety and security, etc.). I also had to mail off my passport and a new photo, because I got an official Peace Corps passport! (Yes, I now have two passports.) We (the volunteers) were all really excited to get our official passports at the airport before we departed for Kosovo. The passports are really disappointing, though. They look like regular passports, except they have a sticker on the front, stating that we’re volunteers.