This is part one in a two part series about being invited to serve in the Peace Corps and the subsequent steps that are involved in being cleared to serve.
I have always been interested in the idea of service. I enjoyed being a Girl Scout all throughout childhood and even went on to get my Bronze, Silver, and Gold Awards with the organization. After college, I began working for the federal government as a civil servant. Although I liked working for the American people, I felt very removed. Did my work actually help anyone? Around the time that I was going through all of these questions in my head, Drew, one of my friends from college, announced that he had been accepted to the Peace Corps and was quitting his job, selling his car, and moving to Mozambique to teach science for two years. I was intrigued. Was this the kind of job that I had been looking for?
I began talking to Drew about his experience and became more and more convinced that the Peace Corps was the change that I needed. I wanted to work directly with people at the community level and I wanted to have the opportunity to travel and be immersed in another culture. I proposed the idea to Eric, and after talking it through for a while, he jumped on board. We researched how to apply as a couple and were happy to find out that the Peace Corps now accepts unmarried couples. We then looked through all of the openings and decided to apply in October 2014 to be Coastal Resource Management Volunteers in the Philippines. Since Eric and I both have Masters of Engineering degrees in Ocean Engineering, we thought that we would be shoo-ins.
The Start of a 22 Month Process
I’ll cut to the chase. We were wrong.
We got placed under consideration for the Philippines in early 2015 and interviewed shortly after that. Eric and I each had an audio/video interview with the recruiter for about an hour separately, and then we came together for a couples interview for another half hour or so. We were told that in the Philippines, they do not let couples serve in the same sector, so one of us would be able to do coastal work, while the other would have to work in youth development. Eric agreed that he would work in youth development, but I worried that it could cause tension in our relationship from either me feeling guilty or him feeling left out. In early March, decision time came and we were notified that we were not accepted to the Philippines. If we wanted to join the Peace Corps, we would have to reapply.
So that is what we did.
One day after getting denied for the Philippines, Eric and I reapplied. This time, we said that we would go anywhere and do anything. This way, they would place us under consideration for whichever country they saw as the best fit for us and our educational backgrounds. In March 2015, we got placed under consideration for Ethiopia to work in the environmental sector.
We got asked to interview at the end of May and scheduled interviews in early July. We were happy to hear that in Ethiopia, we would be allowed to work in the same sector, and since we had already completed a full interview, we would only need abridged interviews this time. We completed our interviews in July and submitted a couples questionnaire and then we waited….again.
Finally, on August 31st, we were notified that we were not accepted, again. This time, however, they asked if we would like to keep our applications open because we “have the skills and qualifications to be competitive for Peace Corps service” and there were programs leaving in April and June of 2016 that had a high need for volunteers. Eric and I talked it through and decided to keep our applications open. It was discouraging to get denied twice, but now at almost a year since the idea of the Peace Corps had first entered our minds, we still had the determination to go.
11 Months Into Our Application Process
In September 2015, we got placed under consideration for Liberia. Nothing ever came of this and we were told on November 30th that they were not able to offer us a position. Again, they told us that they would like to keep our applications active because there was a high need for math and science education volunteers departing between July and September 2016. We agreed……….again. Why not?
Are you sensing the pattern here? It’s almost done, I swear.
14 Months Into Our Application Process
So finally, in early December 2015, we were placed under consideration for Namibia. We knew the deal by now. In mid December, we were asked to do a short phone interview. We scheduled our phone interviews for right after New Years 2016. We both thought that they went well, but we weren’t putting much stock in it because we had been going through this same pattern for a while now.
16 Months Into Our Application Process
On February 11, 2016, I got a call from Eric. I was on a work trip in Chesapeake, VA simvastatin 40 mg tablet. He asked me if I had checked my e-mail and I had not. He excitedly said, “WE GOT INTO NAMIBIA” and I responded, “Are you serious?” I was in total disbelief. I was just starting to rationalize in my head that the Peace Corps was not going to happen for us. I guess letting go made the difference.
Little did we know that the hard part was just about to begin (part two starts here).