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Why the Peace Corps Is Worth the Wait
February 17, 2012, 8:20 am
Filed under: Paraguay, USA

Dear Applicant,

Is it your ultimate dream to join the Peace Corps? Have you been anxiously waiting for months to hear about the next step of your application process, or an invitation? Do you feel frustrated, confused, impatient, and sometimes (yes, sometimes) just ready to give it all up?

DON’T! The Peace Corps is worth the wait. Here’s why:

I, like you, was one of those impatient applicants who did everything in their power to secure an invitation. My application process was one of the long ones: it took me nearly two years from the start of my application to leave for the Peace Corps. This was partially because I told my Peace Corps recruiter of a relationship I planned to be in the Peace Corps, and when we broke up shortly afterwards, they extended my wait time for a year because I had ‘gone through a significant life change’ (I don’t recommend voluntarily offering this information to your recruiter). I was also kept on hold for three nerve-wracking, sleepless (and completely silent from the Peace Corps-end) months between getting medically cleared and finishing all my paperwork, and actually receiving an invitation. I kept being promised ‘Your invitation will be in the mail in a few weeks,’ with an assured leave date of February 2011 to Central America. I held faith, didn’t apply to any other jobs, and stuck it out at my parents house unemployed, waiting for a phone call or letter.

Finally at the beginning of January 2011, high-strung as I knew my invitation was sure to come in the mail at any second, I got a phone call from the Peace Corps office. Out of the blue I was told that my nomination pool filled up, I would not be leaving in February, and that they basically had no idea when I was leaving, where I was going, or what I would even be doing as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I thought that this must be it: my dream of being a Peace Corps Volunteer was over. But a week later, the Peace Corps office called me again, and told me an invitation was in the mail for me. I opened a letter welcoming me to Peace Corps Paraguay, departing in May. I have now been in the Peace Corps for nearly nine months.

If you’ve been through any or all of these experiences- don’t give up on your dream. Some sound advice a mentor, former Peace Corps Volunteer, and then recruiter gave to me during this process was just to ride it out. If you’ve gone through the entire application process in the Peace Corps (including getting medically cleared), you will get an invitation: it’s just a question of when. In the meantime, don’t put your entire life on hold or make any major life decisions for the Peace Corps. Continue with your current job, don’t sell your house or car or make any major life adjustments, as everything in the Peace Corps is subject to change, whether it’s your leave date being pushed back or even your invitation country. Be patient, flexible, and nothing but cordial and open on the phone with your recruiter or anyone at the office. I know as Americans it is immensely frustrating not to have every little piece of information set in stone: but if this is TRULY your dream, don’t let anything stand in your way. I didn’t, and now I’m living my dream.

I know that a year ago I would smack myself for now thinking this, but I’m actually glad that my Peace Corps application was such a long and arduous process. It truly made me realize how much of a dream this was for me, and how committed I was to it. That is honestly what gets me through the hardest days in the Peace Corps, and to be frank, the Peace Corps is extremely challenging. I sincerely believe that if my Peace Corps invitation had been handed to me the first day I applied, I might just be back in the United States right now, already given up. But now that I’m here, those moments when I think about how much easier it would be just to go home, I remember how badly I wanted this.

Now that I’m here, I can’t lie and say that everything is perfect, or that my service is what I imagined it to be. I’m not the exemplary Volunteer I imagined in my head, saving lives left and right and making sweeping changes in my community from the first day. But I can say that this is the most rewarding experience of my life. I have never learned as much about myself as I do now, and I’m really proud of who I’ve become in the past year.

Bottom line: if it’s your dream to join the Peace Corps, don’t ever let it go. Sometimes I still pinch myself: I am a Peace Corps Volunteer! And you will be too.


11 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Thank you for this! I am at the two month mark since I sent in info to the pre-placement assistant and I am developing RAS pretty bad. I just need to take a deep breath and know that I WILL hear from my PO and I WILL get an invite… 🙂

Comment by Sarah

You will!! It may not be what you expect or when you expect, but you will get there!

Comment by brittanygoesglobal

Hi Brittany!
Thank you sooo much for this! I was nominated in July for a May 1st 2012 departure to Central or South America, but I have recently been told that I could now go anywhere and might leave on time or might have to wait longer. It has been really hard, but I am determined to become a PCV…even though I do feel like giving up sometimes. Reading this has really helped me today!

Comment by Marielle

Hope you make it down to Paraguay!!

Comment by brittanygoesglobal

Thanks for this! I’m currently working hard to not develop RAS — in general I try to stay pretty calm, but it’s getting a little tougher. Over Christmas my nomination was changed from June/Asia to September/Africa … and that’s really exciting to me, but also means a longer wait I guess. Placement told me a month ago that I would hear from them in a week and a half. Hah! I’m trying to take it as a good thing since knowing where I’m going will probably mean losing motivation in classes. Still… the really looooooong explanation shows I already think about it to much 🙂
Glad for the reminder that none of this waiting will matter once I get wherever I’m going

Comment by KatieA

Thanks Katie for writing! Keep holding on, you’ll get there!

Comment by brittanygoesglobal

Wow I’m in the same situation. I am waiting on my Eastern Europe nomination with the expected departure date of March 2013. I was nominated in July and submitted my med files in September. I still haven’t heard anything (they are dead silent) from the Peace Corps and I’ve been trying hard not to become impatient. Do you think the relationship factor plays a role in the placement process? Should I not have told them about it?

But hey, thank you for this article. It helps me out a lot that other people have gone through the same arduous process, yet at the end it all bears fruit.

Comment by Justin

Hi Justin,

I wouldn’t worry about the relationship factor, I have plenty of Peace Corps friends who are in long-distance relationships- it doesn’t affect whether you get a placement or not. I think Peace Corps is just typically being frustrating and unresponsive… but like I said- you’ve made it this far. You WILL get an invitation! It’s just a matter of when. Hang in there 🙂

Comment by brittanygoesglobal

I am waiting, too. I like what you said about the wait… if you were taken the first day you applied, you probably wouldn’ thave appreciated your volunteering as much. I Wanted to join the Peace Corps when I was a teenager, but I had a child instead. Now that my children are grown, my dream to join is as strong as ever. Yes, there are times I want to give up, but I have made it this far and when I make it to my host country I will remember the LOOOOONNNNNGGGGG wait I waited 🙂 Hope you are doing well.

Comment by posthysterrunning

Awesome! You will make it, I know it!

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