|I'm joining the Peace Corps because I remember how happy I was when this picture was taken. I want to take hundreds more just like it.|
I am happy to report that another round of the Peace Corps has been completed. And by that, I mean they have accepted my application. Now, I actually get evaluated and considered by them. Hopefully I will be interviewed in the next few weeks, which is really the most competitive part of the process so far.
I know most of you don't know much about the Peace Corps, so I thought I would tell you. If this doesn't interest you, mosey on. I'll see you tomorrow.
First, no, you do not get to pick where you go. As much as I wish that I handpick the program I want, that isn't the process. They actually take into consideration your previous language skills, your practical skills, professional background, and education. Even though they do accept applicants at 18, it is a competitive process, and therefore, having a college degree or applicable work experience, is in an applicant's favor.
There are 15,000 applicants a year, but they only accept 4,000 into the program. (Which is why I am so happy every time I find out I am still in the running. There is no word on how many of the applicants drop out during the extra-long process. Speaking of which...)
It takes, on average, 9-12 months to get into the program once your application is accepted. My application was only accepted today. I'm on track to get in for the May, June, or July programs. And I won't know where they are sending me until about 4-6 weeks before. So right now we're talking late March at the absolute earliest.
Where do I want to go? I've done a lot of research on the different programs in the different Peace Corps countries around the world. (click the link to see the map and learn about the programs) I am very interested in a couple of different areas. One in particular is teaching business skills and computer skills. These programs are taught in the more industrialized countries, and in the bigger cities. Given my background in business and computers, I don't think it is a stretch to get assigned there. However, my second main interest is in sustainability, which is mostly found in African countries. And my last main interest is in health care, particularly for women and children. HIV education is a major program throughout Africa. So I'd love to go to Africa. Also, anywhere ending in -stan.
The Peace Corps has a huge number of volunteers teaching english, math, and science in schools around the country. If you look on the sidebar (-->) you will see "Peace Corps Blogs" towards the bottom. I've been following several volunteers (and even email with a few!) for a few months now. Most of them are teaching English, math, and science in high schools (and they are all in different countries). There is one man in Samoa who has a very modernized life, a cat, and blogs nearly daily. There is another girl in Madagascar who is living a VERY primitive life. How do I feel about living in a primitive culture? Honestly? I welcome it. I really would love it. Whereas I know some people would be freaked by the thought of living in a tribal area of Africa, far from any other English speakers and the internet, I am turned on by the idea! (Maybe that is just the 14 hours a day I spend in front of a computer talking, but seriously! I LOVE IT!)
A Peace Corps assignment lasts 27 months, including the first 3 months of training. No, you do not get paid for the experience. They pay for all of your living expenses and a stipend though. And when you get back there is a bonus of sorts to help you reintegrate into the world.
I am giving some serious thought to taking my EMT courses again to get re-certified. I learned all too well in Haiti just how rusty my skills are. When I talk to my recruiter next week (I hope) I will find out if getting re-certified would do me any good. If it will help me get a medical assignment (a medical assignment in Africa is pretty much the top of my list of ideals!), I will take the course. If EMT level training is of no interest to them, then I'm not going to do it. (Because I would get certified, go into the PC, and when I get back my certifications would have lapsed again.) It is 4 months of hard work to get certified, so I am weighing my options.
Next is the biggest detail of the application process. Finances. You can have no debts, except for a student loan, in order to enter. Being unemployed right now, that is a tough one for me. My debts are fairly small, but after 10 months of unemployment, they are getting bigger, not smaller. Thankfully, I am in a good position with freelance work, and if all stays on track, and I'm not thrown any more curve balls, I will not have any problems in this area.
Now for the "WHY" of it all. Why do I want to join the Peace Corps? I just always have. Just like I have always known that I want to adopt babies from Ethiopia, Haiti, and Vietnam, and be a foster parent, I have always known that I want to join the Peace Corps. In my younger, more daydreamy days, I used to fantasize about raising a family of little nomads who live a Peace Corps lifestyle. Its just who I am. I can't explain that part better than that! I can say that after going to Haiti I realized I had no interest in going back to a typical desk job doing the same old things. I needed my life to have a little more meaning than that. I could still be happy at a desk job if I was actively engaged in the right non-profit work. (Potential employers- please believe that!) But right now while the path is wide open and the future is uncomplicated, I'm taking this blue moon chance to join the Peace Corps.
And come on, admit it, you know you're looking forward to the blog posts from Africa! (or Kazhakstan, or India, or Antigua, or Micronesia!)
Oh and if you are wondering, YES, you can come visit me!