Peace Corps staging in Philly
This is a short essay that appeared on LinkedIn from a woman who calls herself Kewatki2. She says she is a ‘student and childcare’ person from Salisbury, NC and she wrote this on February 3, 2017 as she prepared to leave ‘staging’ and head overseas for Africa and her Peace Corps assignment. I thought you might enjoy reading it and it will also bring back your memories of your time at Staging. JC note.
Friday, February 3, 2017
Whoa. This past year has been long. Each year that goes by makes me less familiar with the Me I was the year before. In March of 2016 I started the journey through my application to serve in the US Peace Corps. Honestly, I didn’t think I would make the cut. I had been filling my mind with reasons why I should wait “a little bit longer” so I would be more qualified, experienced, whatever. Really, I was afraid. Loren (if you haven’t met him, you’re really missing out) finally shook me free of my hesitation. “Stop talking about it, stop thinking about it, stop worrying about it, and just do it!” There’s nothing I hate more than a challenge from a *really pretty* man.
So, its almost a full year later and I’m sitting in a hotel in Philadelphia for Peace Corps Staging with 53 other Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs). I can’t believe I’m here. Applying to the Peace Corps is like balancing on pebbles to get over a lake of lava. Since I had no idea how the process actually works, let me fill you in. It’s been a while, but I’m trying to remember this as accurately as possible.. some of the steps might be simultaneous or flip-flopped.
First, you complete your general application. It has basic personal information, a short essay, your resume, transcripts, etc. That’s followed by a longggggggggg medical history questionnaire, which helps determine where you can/cannot serve. For example, women with IUDs can serve, but only in countries where an IUD can be easily removed in case of an emergency. This is a preliminary screening to see if your worth interviewing and where they might consider your service. Then, you fill out country preferences and availability dates. Country placements open up as volunteers turnover yearly, so not every country is available for application all the time. Your availability to leave also determines your eligibility. You are allowed to choose three currently available placements, in which case you will only be considered for those placements. If you make your last choice “wherever I am needed,” then you have the option of being considered for other placements if you are determined ineligible for the first two. Then, based on all of this information, you may or may not get an email saying you are being considered for a specific placement and are invited to interview for that placement.
My choices were for youth development positions in Thailand and Samoa, with a flexible third choice. I was told I was being considered for Thailand, and waited to schedule an online interview. My interview took place in April, and I was asked some Thailand-specific questions and some generic questions. You are told to wait to hear back, but are given a “know-by” date, which is typically a few months later. My know-by date was September 1st. I waited and waited… and waited.
Finally, on August 4th I received an email that started with the heartbreaking words, “The Thailand placement is very competitive and it is likely your application will not move forward..” I almost cried myself into a pulp until I continued reading the email, which asked me whether I would be willing to consider serving in the Agriculture sector in Tanzania, something I hadn’t even considered. Of course I would be willing to be considered, but I figured they would just break my heart all over again. Not so much. Within an hour, I had received my official invitation to serve for 27 months in Tanzania. They had already determined I was the candidate they wanted, but had to make sure my heart was in it before offering an official invitation. I could finally tell my closest friends and family my plans. That was just the beginning!
Next, I began the lengthy process of medical and legal clearance for the federal government. I felt like a pin-cushion coming out of endless doctors appointments, and I thought my brain would explode from milling through files from my medical history. All of this while keeping this huge secret from my job and the general public. In October, I received my medical clearance, and finally received my legal clearance in November. It felt like thousands of chores had to be completed before I actually received my departure information. Personality tests, surveys, online courses and essays followed. Tasks flooded my inbox with confusing information and too-few answers. Finally, in January my travel plans were sent to me and the packing began. Oh, the gear that ensued!!! Long story long– I made it on the plane today with under 100 lbs of checked baggage. A miracle.
Saying goodbye to everyone was rough. Day after day, I shared tears with various friends, family, and pets. By this morning, I didn’t even want to pick up my phone. (My heart knew you were calling and texting with love, but my brain just couldn’t process the task at hand!) Loren grabbed my face and both hands: “Don’t you give up. Don’t quit.” There’s nothing I hate more than a challenge from a *super goodlooking* man. So, like I said.. it’s been a long year. Leaving corporate America for rural Africa is certainly a life change, but something in me was yearning for this. I’m ready… or at least I’m seriously scrambling to convince myself that I am.
Wish me luck for my fourteen-hour flight on Monday. There will be 54 anxious risk-takers on the plane to Africa with unlimited beer and wine. This could get weird.
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