Why I Chose Peace Corps: A Peace Corps Story
Like any other college student on the verge of graduating, I was a little unsure of where my trail would veer off to next. For the last five years, I knew exactly how my life would go: I would go to school, survive on a waiter’s salary, hang out with my friends, drink and eat, sleep A LOT, and whatever else the average college student did. I didn’t really plan out how my future would unfold. I just finished my BA in English with a Creative Writing emphasis this may of 2013. For a little while, I contemplated the idea of getting my masters, but I didn’t feel like doing more academic writing. I knew that if I wanted to get really good at writing creatively, I would need to do just that. I was going to develop my skills faster if I wasn’t focusing all my attention on a masters program. I put that idea on the back burner.
During my last semester, I enrolled in a Careers for English Majors course with Dr. Donna Souder, one of my most important and beloved professors. Believe it or not, just cause I have a degree in English doesn’t automatically volunteer me to be a teacher (the immediate assumption from most strangers) and like any college graduate, I needed that extra shove into the career world. We read through a book compiled of different individuals and their journeys to a successful and rewarding career. It was uplifting knowing that so many people had settled with a career that made them happy AND paid them what they deserved. I wanted my life to be that rewarding. As I read through my first few chapters of this book, I read a paragraph about the possibility of joining the Peace Corps. Had I not ventured to Europe in the summer of 2012 (life-changing experience), I don’t think I would’ve even considered that option. I went home immediately and read through the entire Peace Corps website. Within minutes I felt in my heart that it was something I needed to do. I called my Mom, Dad, brother, and sisters and told them that I wanted to join and, like the supportive and encouraging family they have always been, they gave me their consent and praise. I didn’t apply right away though. It was about a month before I actually sat down and went through the process. I think it was about 2 am.
The application process was tedious. Step one is the Application, where a lot of essay writing is required. You have to provide a lot of information about yourself: school background, work experience, etc. Once it was done, I let it go. I didn’t worry myself about whether or not the application would be reviewed or not. Eventually, I received contact from a recruiter, Lauren. She was very cordial and helped me with the application process. And so you know, the application process is very extensive. Lauren sent a 6-page recommendation form to the three references I provided and gave them less than 10 days to complete it. Once my references sent them back, I was able to schedule my Interview (step two). It was at a Panera Bread in Denver. A pretty long drive for me because I live in Pueblo. I was excited to go, but that’s when the nervous and anxious kicked in. The interview took about 60 minutes for me and I was so hopped up on adrenaline and coffee I don’t even remember the kinds of questions Lauren asked me, but she said I did a good job. They actually send you sample interview questions when they schedule your interview, so you can prepare yourself.
It took 15 days for them to respond with my Nomination (step three) which informed me that my estimated departure date is June 2014. I was nominated as a volunteer for Educational purposes because Education is such a large focus for the Peace Corps. I will be teaching English as a Foreign Language. I guess I kind of will be teaching at some point in my life. I actually plan on writing for a magazine somewhere down the road. I then received a follow-up email providing me with information about Medical, Legal, Suitability, and Competitive Reviews (step four). I was directed to a portal to which I would upload further medical paperwork. And I was sent a legal package in the mail instructing me to complete two sets of fingerprints. They give you as much as a month to upload any additional medical paperwork and ten days to return your fingerprints to the main office. After that, it’s a waiting game.
It has been almost a month since I completed all of my additional information. Right now I am under review and at this point, I have no idea where I will be going. They asked if I had a preference, but I wanted to go where the most immediate attention was needed. While I received just a nomination and not an Invitation (step five), I am on my merry way to becoming a part of the Peace Corps. In my mind, I have already accepted that I am going and have begun my preparation for departure. So why did I choose this career path? Well, I love to travel and I think world-wide travel gives you some of the most amazing insights. As a writer, the more world experience you have, the better writer you are and the more you can relate to everybody. The Peace Corps always looks great on a resume and it gives me a chance to make a difference in this world. Its thrilling to know that I will enhance at least one life.
Right now I am working on getting in better shape because I want to be prepared for whatever terrain I will be living on. I am in pursuit of some teaching experience because it was recommended by my recruiter. I have been observing various teaching styles at a local elementary school (I am unsure of what age group I will be teaching). And I’ve been simply enjoying my last year in Colorado: swimming, hiking, camping, road trips, snowboarding, freelance writing for the Pueblo PULP arts and culture magazine, working my serving job and trying to save some extra money, and spending time with my family and friends. I know there isn’t a place out there that maps out how extensive the application process is, and I hope that this blog can aid in informing any potential Peace Corps candidates. I have more to come so stay tuned.