Monday, June 13, 2011

Unhappy Peace Corps Update

My personal Peace Corps timeline-
July 2010- began application process online
August 2010- actually submitted it (after finishing it I sat on it for a long time before submitting it, just to be sure this is what I wanted to do)
September 2010- Did fingerprinting, etc.
October 2010- Met recruiter, had in-person interview
November 2010- Nomination, received medical paperwork day before Thanksgiving.
January-February 2011- did the medical stuff. Took forever.
February 12, 2011- Submitted medical
April 2011- Checked in, was told I would hear back on my medical within 2-3 weeks.
June 10, 2011- Checked in again about my medical after 7 weeks with no contact. Was told previous person incorrectly told me I was about to get reviewed. Was told I would be reviewed by end of June.
June 12, 2011- Received the following email -

The Placement Office is the office responsible for the final evaluation of applicants for suitability and competitiveness and the final selection of applicants for specific programs.   Evaluation and selection are typically done after applicants have received medical and legal clearances.  At this time, we understand you are still in the medical process, however, we are contacting you to provide you with information regarding your current status.

Recent events, specifically the federal budget resolution for this fiscal year as well as projected budget realities for next year, have had a significant impact on current Peace Corps’ operating plans. A result has been significant reductions in the number of Peace Corps Volunteer assignments to be filled for the remainder of 2011.  As a result of these adjustments, if/when you successfully complete the Peace Corps medical qualification evaluation and final application review, there is a strong likelihood you will not be placed in a program until January-March of 2012
Recognizing the challenge this may pose to you, we want to ask what you would like to do at this stage of the process.  The first option is to evaluate your application with a target placement date of January – March 2012.   If you choose this option, we would conduct an initial screening of your application for suitability and competitiveness and let you know the next steps within three months of the date of this letter.  Please keep in mind, any potential invitation would not happen for several months and is pending successful completion of the medical process and a suitability review.  If you choose this option, please continue to seek further opportunities to make your application more competitive.  Also note, if you are selected for service, a Placement Officer will work to match you with an opening, taking into account your skills, availability, necessary medical support needs, and the needs of our host countries.  If this option does not work for you, we can withdraw your application from consideration. 

We understand that you may need some time to consider these options but ask that you respond to this email by July 1st, indicating your interest in remaining active for consideration or indicating your desire to withdraw. 

As of today- absolutely no clue what I am going to do next. 
Give up and withdraw?
Stick with it and make the best of the next 8 months? 
Tell PC I am sticking with it, but proceed as if I hadn't? 


  1. oh boo. sorry hon.
    something is headed your way... I'm sure.
    Providence.... He will provide.

  2. So, twitter brought me here. 14 months ago, I was given the option to stick with the app process, even though I probably wouldn't qualify for anything until January either. In the end, I did, and I left 3 months later for Armenia.

    I was very frustrated after 4 back-and-forths with the Med office. Being unemployed while applying was taking a toll and it took friends-of-friends to help me get everything I need (thank god I was acquainted with a dentist).

    I'm now sitting here, just 1 year in Armenia, and I'm so glad I did. My story isn't unique, though PC is so very hard once you're here.

    I say that it is hard, because I've come close to leaving early, but I stuck it out, and now I have real results in my community.

    So, look at what you want to accomplish and your plans. If you want to move on, there is nothing wrong with it, but at the same time, I'm so glad I stuck it out.

    Wishing you the best,


  3. Katie L5:19 PM

    ^^ what he said. My application, from beginning to invitation, took over a year, and I too had several frustrating medical "issues." stick with it and just enjoy your life in America until you leave!

    also, not sure if you're aware of this, but your blog post has been posted on the Peace Corps facebook page.

  4. Anonymous5:29 PM

    I'm a Peace Corps volunteer, currently serving in Honduras, and I found your blog post on the Peace Corps facebook page. I'm so glad you posted all that! The application process is seriously too hard and I can't believe how much the budget cuts have affected us here. Peace Corps really wasn't using all that much money to begin with!

  5. I saw this posted on facebook via the National Peace Corps Association page.

    I want to share my story with you. I applied March 2005. Completed the medical by June of 2005. I got updates occasionally. I had to redo some of my medical because so much time lapsed. I got a call in the fall of 2006 asking if I would be interested in a program in Southeast Asia. I said yes with some hesitation. It had been so much time, I had graduated, accidentally found a job that could turn into a career. I stormed and fumed around my apartment grumbling to my best friend and roommate that I was going to say no and "show them."

    Then the packet arrived in November 2007. I had 10 days to decide if I was going to the Philippines. I told my best friend and family that I was going to make them wait 10 days before I gave my decision since they made me wait. I called the next day with trembling hands and said I had a lot of questions before I made a decision. By the end of the phone call I gave them a teary yes, I want to go.

    I left for the Philippines in May of 2007. I have since returned. And I can say without a doubt. It was worth repeating some of my medical. It was worth the frustration. It was worth the wait. My life is forever changed.

    Stick with it if this something you truly want to do!

    All the best,

  6. Another FB re-direct. FWIW, a lot of us had to wait for a long time between applying and getting clearance/nominated to a location.

    Personally it took 18 months between my application and send-off thanks to the two factors you mentioned, changing budget/staffing levels and medical clearance. I was originally supposed to go to Eastern Europe right after the end of communism. PC planned to send several hundred people and those numbers got cut once Yugoslavia started falling apart into Civil War.

    I opted to keep my application open and wait another year while working as a barista and teacher's aide in a community ESL program. The latter actually gave me a lot more hands-on experience that really benefited my Peace Corps assignment as a teacher. Ran into another hitch with medical flagging me because I'd checked the asthma box (stupid mistake, I'd had problems in the past but am in no way asthmatic) and that limited where I could go. But I opted to keep the application open and also contacted my Congressional reps office to ask on my behalf about my application. The rep's office really helped make sure that PC knew that I was serious about participating and also raised my visibility (heh).

    Personally I'd say keep your application open because at the very least, you have the option to decline.

  7. Susan6:29 PM

    Big hugs to JLL above and the best of luck to you Erin! This is but one bump in the road you will experience in the Peace Corps Family. They say flexibility is the best trait you can possess for a successful stint in the Peace Corps. This won't be your last test of faith! I say go for it! You won't be sorry.

  8. Anonymous6:41 PM

    Hi Erin,
    I too found out about your blog through the NPCA. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco 10 years ago. Even then, the process took me over a year. My medical clearance (for a completely clear medical history) took so long to come through that I missed whatever original assignment they had planned for me to go to a different country in an earlier month.
    What I can tell you is that if serving in Peace Corps is truly one of your dreams, you should stick with it. Be pissed at them. Hate the beaurocracy (not that you'll ever escape it). Even with all of that mess, there really is no experience like PC. It's not for everyone, but it sounds like you know that it is for you. Follow your dreams and find something else interesting to do in the meantime.
    Good luck!


  9. Anonymous8:30 PM

    Stick with it- It is so worth it! I have never regreted a minute of the time I served with folks who have become my extended family.

  10. Anonymous8:49 PM

    Stick with it and set some short term goals as you wait!
    Well worth waiting for!
    RPCV Kenya

  11. Stephanie10:42 PM

    Another link from FB. I'm so sorry to hear the problems you're facing, it's never easy to be in such an in-between place. I was Peace Corps Malawi 2003-2005, and I found that it was such an incredible and formative experience that I have to say it is worth the wait. Certainly continue to live your life, and do what is right for you when you get your invitation. If Peace Corps isn't right at that point, then you can choose to decline. But I agree with the other RPCVs who have commented, it's well worth waiting for.
    RPCV, Malawi

  12. Anonymous11:09 PM

    Ditto to everything said above so far. Patience and flexibility are the two most important skills you can bring to your Peace Corps service. Use this extra time to cultivate these traits and appreciate whatever comes your way in the months you remain in the states -- extra time with family, friends, lots of daily hot showers...You will be steps ahead of your fellow volunteers once you start your service. It took me 20 years to finally apply to Peace Corps and not a day goes by since I returned that I don't think about my two years in Africa.

  13. Anonymous12:26 AM

    Life is full of disappointments and unexpected situations. Peace Corps is like marriage. It's a commitment. There are good moments and bad moments and you stick with it through thick and thin.

    You have to evaluate yourself and really research whether you really want to join the Peace Corps. If you can't handle this minor roadblock and the medical procedures, paperwork and mistakes that might happen (which you have to do as a normal American on a semi-regular basis), then maybe you shouldn't join the Peace Corps.

    Peace Corps is not for everyone. And by far, the application process is nothing compared to the training and actual service. How will you handle things if you are in a village with no electricity, running water, or cell phone reception and the conception of time is the polar opposite of America? Do you really think that you will form deep meaningful friendships and understand your community by trying to move things along at your own pace?

    Not only patience and flexibility are required for a successful PCV, but RESPECT for others and the commitment that you make to them by serving.

  14. Hi Erin,
    Another FB link similar to everyone else. It actually took three years for my Peace Corp application to go through and I went to graduate school while waiting. I applied my senior year of college (2002) and had a lot of medical processes to go through. I also applied to grad school at the same time and got accepted so I decided to head to grad school and wait to see what happened with PC. I didn't hear anything from the Peace Corps until May 2004 and they said I'd be leaving in Sept. for Central Asia. Then in August they reevaluated my medical file and said I wasn't eligible to go there and that if I wanted I could wait until "early" 2005. I had dreamed about doing Peace Corps since I was 7 years old and I wasn't about to let my impatience get the best of me - so I stayed with my parents (who I was temporarily living with for the summer), got a job to pay off my credit card debt, and left 16 Jan. 2005 for Honduras.

    I have NEVER once recgreted waiting. Peace Corps was the BEST experience I have ever had. It was incredibly challenging and there were days I wanted to pack up and go home, but in the end, it was such a life saving experience.

    If it's really what you want, it's totally worth waiting for. The government is known for its red tape, bureaucracy, budget cuts, etc., but somehow in the end it will all work out.

  15. Anonymous4:17 PM

    Agree with all comments above. The application process IS the initial screening/evaluation step (even if unofficial).

    My application process took 3 years, partly because I was selective and initiative on where I wanted to go (you can turn down assignments, they will give you another one)and partly because the process is what it is. Don't give up if you really want this opportunity!

  16. Anonymous5:50 PM

    Go for it! Just go for it! Now, my application was so quick, easy, efficient - I believe from the time I submitted to the time I packed my bags to go to Peace Corps in Africa, it was under 6 months. All smooth sailing. BUT, from what I have heard from all the other volunteers in my group - it took even longer for them than what you are currently experiencing. DO it, girlfriend. You will be so glad you did.

  17. Anonymous7:17 PM

    It's good to hear that others are facing similar issues, thanks for writing. Just know that you are not alone.

    I was originally nominated for a June 2011 departure, but I just received an email earlier today stating that "there is a strong likelihood you will not be placed in a program until June of 2012." That's 12 months, for those who are counting.

    As you might expect, I am also seriously questioning my future career plans!

  18. Anonymous10:42 PM

    I was supposed to leave in September but was told because of the budget cuts I would be leaving as late as March 2012. I got some more information and I will probably be leaving Nov-Jan. I have a job waiting for me on the other side (a job that I love!) that I worry about screwing up but don't want to miss out on this experience. So I am applying for temp jobs...not something I thought I would be doing graduating with Peace Corps leaving in September and a job for when I get back but if I can't put up with this unpredictability then Peace Corps probably is not for me anyway... So happy waiting with you!

  19. Anonymous1:46 AM

    The exact same thing happened to me, I submitted October 2010. Medical just got done today, first doctor's appointment was in January. I got the same letter from the Peace Corps telling me I have to wait a year. I am living a my parents home, sold my motorcycle,knowing I was leaving for the peace corps tore my last relationship apart, turned down internships and jobs and now I have to wait a year with my life on hold?

  20. Anonymous12:43 PM

    My son went through the same thing last year. Graduated and just got a job in September. Invited in October with promise to ship out in March. Got laid off and no one will hire someone leaving the country in a few months, so he threw himself into learning Arabic, blacksmithing, forestery, and beekeeping (he was going to Morocco and all were relevant). It didn't make sense to move out of the house because he'd just be leaving the country. Completed his medical and at the end of January they said he didn't seem to have enough 'initiative' they put him off until September when they said he could reapply.

    He told them all he'd done, kept at it and looked for work like he was never going to leave the country. Found a job teaching/tutoring and then two terrific jobs doing sustainable agriculture in teaching settings. The next day, Peace Corps called. The tutoring work he did qualified him for the education program. He left for South Africa last week.

    Tell them you want to keep going. And throw yourself into what you're doing now, completely, as if you will do it for the rest of your life. One way or the other the right choice will happen and you'll know what to do. But don't put your life on hold. Live it.

  21. Anonymous1:04 PM

    I'm in the exact same place as you... I received a similar email about a week after you did about budget cuts etc... its quite frustrating especially when you rarely hear from ANYONE.. whether its headquarters or your recruiter. Peace Corps cannot expect people to just "hang around" in limbo... people have to live, pay bills and have responsibilities. I'm continuing with the process but come August 1, 2011 I'm applying for jobs... I'm hoping to leave in Sept. my original departure date.

    Good luck and hang in there :)

  22. Hey!

    I haven't read other's comments, but I'm sure that they reiterate what I'm going to tell you: if it's really something that you want to do, then stick with it. You can make the best of this time and find ways to boost your resume and become more competitive.

    While I did not receive the same e-mail, I had been in the application process from January 2010 and in December 2010, I was medically deferred for 5 months. It was a set-back, but I took the time to continue volunteering with a community farm (I was nominated for Environmental Education) and ended up with an internship there. After my medical hold was over with, I found that all my time on the farm had qualified me for an agricultural/environmental position! And how I was rewarded for my patience and dedication: I am leaving in six weeks for Togo as a Natural Resource Management Extension Agent! I got my invite within 2 weeks after my hold was lifted.

    If it's for you, stick with it. The Peace Corps is an incredible opportunity and if you choose to find a job, another commitment, etc, and you do finally get an invite, no one will blame you for jumping at the chance!


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