Well, I’ve been in the Peace Corps application process for over a year now, and finally things are moving forward. I’m including a summary of my phone call with my PO and a general summary of my application timeline up until this point for anyone interested in the Peace Corps as well as any current applicants wondering what to expect. I hope my experiences will help anyone out there as all the many blog posts I’ve been reading has helped me. I know that personally I couldn’t get enough of what other people’s application process was like just to feel that my experience was “normal” or to help learn of what might come next to better prepare myself. Here’s my story.
Summer of 2007-Began my Peace Corps application online. Wanted to get a feel of what was expected, gathered materials, etc. Took my time going through these. At this point, I filled out any “quick information” I could. What I mean by this is filling out name, contact information, questionaires etc. that I could fill out without much leg work. Left off writing my personal statement, essays, resume, financial obligations, etc.
Dec/Jan 2008-Wrote out resume. My senior year of college I also did A LOT of volunteer work (300 hr Americorps program in 12 months, officer of college’s Volunteer Center, you get the idea. This volunteer work was enjoyable and truly soul-feeding for me personally, and also in hindsight really helped my candidacy as a prospective Peace Corps volunteer i.e. showing a volunteering spirit, gaining varied experiences, making connections who could later serve as mentors as well as references). Emailed 3 people asking if they would be my reference explaining to them that the form is pretty comprehensive and time consuming and made sure they were willing and able to complete these for me in a timely manner.
Feb 14th 2008-Officially submitted application and completed medical questionaire. My wonderful references had also completed their forms and sent them in by (or very close anyway) to this time.
Two weeks later-Call from recruiter! In luck. Recruiter will be in Iowa City next week for interview. This will save me a much longer trip.
Following week-Interview. The interview went well. I was very nervous but also very excited. It was slightly intimidating because my recruiter had to type out my responses verbatim and it lasted two hours! But overall, what got me through was knowing how much I wanted to join Peace Corps and knowing that my sincerity and excitement would show. Left interview feeling very good. Of course I probably stumbled, may have had some awkward moments, but overall it went well. My recruiter was also very nice and allowed me the opportunity to ask her questions about her experience abroad. Overall it was not difficult having a conversation with her because we had the common interest not only in Peace Corps, but in travel, respecting other cultures, helping people, service. Keep that in mind when you go to your interview. Take it seriously as you would any other job interview, look and be professional, but also do not let yourself be too intimidated and you might actually have some fun.
March 2008-Officially nominated for Sub-Saharan Francophone Africa in Agroforestry to leave in Sept 08. Around this time I received a packet of forms needing filled out as well as having to be fingerprinted at the local police station. That was a first! haha! However, it was a lot of fun. My boyfriend went along with me and the police officer was very friendly and asked a lot of questions about Peace Corps.
April 2008-Received request for further medical information. This was not the actual evaluation but more information they needed regarding a prior medical condition. I had suffered through an eating disorder when I was in high school and they needed to have a specialist evaluate me to make sure I was healthy to serve. This is where it got sticky and my application process sloooowwweeed down. Both my parents the beginning of the year changed jobs and we lost our insurance. I wasn’t really sure how to handle this because I knew that I would be paying for this out of pocket. I contacted a therapist I had seen before and discussed the issue of the eating disorder. This therapist had not treated me for the eating disorder as I was already over it when I visited her, we merely talked about it and it was put down in my file. After explaining the situation to her, I saw the therapist and she filled out the form.
May-June 2008-I later received another form from Peace Corps stating they needed a more comprehensive review of my ED from an eating disorder specialist. Long story short, I found a wonderful specialist in Iowa City who sat down with me, went through my history of body image and ran some tests that would help support my claim of being eating disorder free and healthy. All went well, passed with flying colors. Then I got the bill…more than $900….ahhh. That took awhile to pay off and made me gun-shy of going through the rest of the medical evaluation uninsured.
Fall of 2008-Eye exam completed and form mailed in to PC. Call to arrange doctor’s appointment, but regular doctor is out of town. Scheduled soonest available opening. At the appointment the doctor looks over the charts and tests needed and tells me to go home and try to make an appointment with the county nurse to cut costs otherwise I would have a HUGE bill. A few days later I talk to county nurse and discover that they do not give boosters to adults and they do not run blood tests.
Winter 2008/2009-By a stroke of luck and providence the HR director where my mother works informs her that she recently discovered that there is legilsation which states that adult children under 24 who still live with their parents are elligible to be covered under their parents insurance, and since my mother had been at her job long enough for her benefits to kick in we were golden. Reschedule doctor’s appointment with regular doctor. Also at this time I have dental appointment with a wonderful dentist who gives exams and x-rays for Peace Corps applicants absolutely free of charge! You will obtain a list of these dentists when you receive your medical kit.
Winter 2009-At doctor’s appointment, my doctor expresses doubt at my insurance paying for the costs of the tests since I wasn’t technically sick. At this point I tell her I want them anyway and if I had to I would pay for everything just to get the medical evaluation completed and turned in. Receive partial exam but have to reschedule to have pap test and blood work done a month later (I really don’t know why, but that’s what happened.)
Month later-Rest of medical exam completed. Had to wait for results to come through. Alls healthy and mailed in to Office of Medical services.
March 2009-Receive form needing filled out about another prior condition! I had had mono January of 2008 and needed doctor that treated me to show how sick I was and say whether or not I was healthy now. It took a lot of phone calls because I had been treated at a free clinic at my college town, but I tracked him down and got everything turned in.
April 2009-Medically cleared but with a restriction!
June 8, 2009-Receive email from Placement Officer requesting an appointment to discuss things with me over the phone.
TODAY-At three o’clock, my Placement Officer called me and we chatted for about twenty minutes. Basically this phone call was to discuss my current interest in serving, my current relationship status, how my parents feel about me leaving, coping strategies for stress, and any new volunteer experience relevant. I felt very nervous and excited. I kind of felt like a rambling idiot, but all in all the conversation went well. I was told that there was a position open to leave this September (a year exactly from my original departure date which I think is just too funny) to serve in agriculture in Sub-saharan Africa. She could not tell me the exact placement but I will be receiving my invitation in the mail in 7-10 business days. I’m so excited! I can’t wait to learn what country I’m going to so I can begin reading up on it as well as learn more about my project so I can brainstorm into oblivion! It feels so good to know right now that things are moving forward, that my patience and perseverence is paying off. All the people in my life who’ve asked for updates will finally have something worth hearing! I’m quite happy right now. 🙂