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I'm a current PCV, my application process was longer than average for a single young person (it gets longer for older people and couples), and I'm going to come back to the states in July...

If anyone has specific questions, I'm be happy to answer them, but I'm a bit stymied at the breadth of the question...

You can also check out www.peacecorpsjournals.com/ for a ton of blogs by different volunteers all over the world.

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For Current Peace Corps Volunteers, Alums, and Applicants. Let's talk about the application process, the pro/cons of deployment and what opportunities (grad & career wise) were like after your return.

I'm an RPCV from Morocco 03-05. The application process is bureaucratic. I think I started in October and it was the following July before I had my official assignment. (I was living overseas already when I applied and had a hard time getting medical clearance because they required that I have my forms signed by an american doctor). The application timeline varies by individual so you should start early. If you have any medical problems, it can take longer. If you are going as a married couple, it can take longer. If you are picky about your assignment, that too can take longer.

What exactly do you mean by deployment? What's the pro/cons of serving? wow. I could write a book on that! For the sake of brevity, I would say that each assignment is different and the key is flexibility. If you go into with a very strict agenda on what you want to accomplish individually or what you want to "do" for your community, then you're setting yourself up for disappointment. If you go into with an open mind and take from it what you are given, you can have an amazing experience. You can stretch yourself and grow a great deal and you can be a part of a host community that you might never have the opportunity to know so intimately. Also, the volunteer friends you make are ones for life. I stay in better touch with PCV friends than college friends. That being said, everyone has their own experience and it would be important to get a lot of perspectives when making your decisions.

As far as grad and career benifits, I would say that most people look favorably upon PC experience; however, you have to learn to spin it for the jobs or degrees that you apply (just like any other experience). For example, for one job application I connected my experience with illiterate women in Peace Corps to working with low-skill/at-risk college students. For my grad apps, I talked about my experience with grant writing / management in PC that gave me experience in data collection, analysis, and report writing--all skills useful for graduate school. (If I get in somewhere, I'll let you know if that worked! lol)

Good luck!

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Thanks for the responses! The questions were more an effort to get a conversation going rather than anything specific I wanted to address. I've started the application process and I'm flexible about where I'm willing to go.

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For Current Peace Corps Volunteers, Alums, and Applicants. Let's talk about the application process, the pro/cons of deployment and what opportunities (grad & career wise) were like after your return.

I'm an RPCV Morocco '08-'10. As I'm sure you are now aware, the application bureaucracy can be a nightmare. I applied in Sept 2007 and left for pre-staging in Sept 2008, which is a pretty standard wait time. My suggestion is patience, patience, patience. And, as annoying as all that bureaucracy can be, it's 10x worse once you get into your host country and start doing projects, grants, etc.

I'm glad I served because as an undergrad I was determined to do grad work in development. After two years in the field, I am 100% sure I couldn't do it long-term. While Peace Corps can be incredibly rewarding, there are also daily reminders of how development work can actually be debilitating to a countrywhen applied improperly. However, my specific sector (Youth Development) reignited my REAL interest in working in the classroom, so that's what I'm applying to now.

As for grad/career, I only applied to one Peace Corps Fellows program, so that benefit wasn't a huge one for me. Several of my friends have taken/passed the Foreign Service Test and the non-competitive eligibility can help if you are interested in a government job. USAID recruits like crazy from RPCVs. Like the previous poster said, I think the best benefit comes from the ability to talk about my experiences in my SOP, interviews, etc. A line that one friend jokingly used once in an interview was, "If I can do all of that in Arabic and Berber, think of what I can do in my native tongue!" I know that my experiences in a Moroccan classroom feature heavily in my own grad school applications.

Hope this helps.

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  • 1 month later...

I'm an RPCV from Ukraine (07-Dec 2009). The application process took a whole year for me. I had a medical issue and believe it would have been a little less time had I not, but it was worth the painful process. I think if you just understand that it could take that long then it should be easier for you. After I had an interview I was nominated for an assignment a few weeks later, that's when you have to start all of the medical clearance stuff and that's what generally takes the longest. If you're in good health you won't have much to worry about, even if you have some issues as long as they can be either resolved or accommodated by your host country then you should be OK. I have mild asthma and was nominated for the Central Asia region but got denied medical clearance, I ended up getting switched to Ukraine, which was a bit of a let down because I was psyched for Central Asia, but the bottom line was that I was happy to go anywhere. It all worked out and it gave me the foundation to move on to grad school in an international affairs/development program.

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  • 1 month later...

I'm a current PCV in the Caucasus region, finishing up this upcoming fall.

Yes, the application process takes forever - it's basically the way they weed people out. In general, as long you clear medically, if you can make it through the wait and not give up on it, then you're in. This may be changing this year because the programs are getting cut back a lot due to funding being cut. I know my country is getting about 1/3 less volunteers in the upcoming group... so maybe it'll be more difficult starting this year? I think one thing I didn't realize while applying was that just because you're nominated for one region, doesn't mean you'll get an invitation for there. I was first supposed to go to Sub-Saharan Africa (where I wanted to go) then they called and asked me if I would agree to a Mid East/North Africa nom, which I did (and got super pumped for) just to get an invite for Eastern Europe. I turned down my first invite (to Ukraine) and although they freak out and act like you'll never get in for declining an invitation, I was then invited the following day to where I am. (Both of my invites were over the phone because I was asked right at the 6 week deadline for invitations). Moral of the story - make sure you'll be happy where you're going before signing off for 2 years.

PC is both what you expect and not what you expect. It's not as fulfilling as you think it will be. Yes, it can be great, it can be very meaningful to you personally, but most of the time, you wonder if you're doing anything actually helpful and dealing with a lot of frustration. I'm TEFL in a village out here, and I can say that very few students can speak English any better than they could when I arrived, mostly because they don't actually want to learn it. The biggest thing of me being here is simply the cultural exchange, and having them see that there are other acceptable ways of living your life.

Peace Corps is a wonderful, albeit frustrating, experience and I highly recommend it. However, I would say not to go into it with these grand notions of actually changing the world completely, and also don't go into it just because you can't find a job and think it's something to do for two years. There are many people in PC for the wrong reasons, and there is a lot of ET-ing (early termination).

I'm hoping to be able to get a PC Fellowship, although I'm concerned with how competitive they might be (since it's not so much of a stretch for PCVs to want to get an MPP in International Development, now is it?) Otherwise, I'd say there are a lot of personal benefits from PC service - you really do learn a LOT about yourself, and what is important to you. Also, it never hurts on a job application to show what you were able to do during your service (although I'll be able to vouch more on that hopefully next year!)

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  • 2 weeks later...

@bgreenster....couldn't agree more with your assessment, I don't know anyone that served in any other region but Eastern Europe is tough emotionally, especially TEFL because it's not something that's tangible, you're not building hospitals or bridges, you're hoping that some kids learn some English. I did other things besides teaching and I'd have to say that writing a grant was the best learning experience I had in terms of professional development, I don't ever want to teach again. I spent about a year in a village and the rest of my service in a large city with European shopping malls, movie theaters, and about 8 McDonald's places, both of them were emotionally draining for very different reasons. In a village the reality of the poverty and apathy are tough to overcome and in a city like the one I served in "What the hell am I doing here?" is something that I asked myself all of the time. Eastern Europe is a mixed bag, you might end up in a place where the hardship of living is half the battle or in a modern city where you have a lot of resources at your finger tips to do your job. I did find out that Ukraine is dubbed "Posh corps" which is infuriating because unless you were a pcv there you have no idea how hard it is emotionally, what I mean is that there is just a lot of apathy that TEFL volunteers encounter, the typical teacher isn't interested in anything beyond you being the "American accent in the room"...that's not everyone and I've met some good teachers and people who cared about why I was there, I loved my counterpart and her familybut generally speaking there was a sense of dissatisfaction throughout the group. And on a cultural level there's a sense that it's modern and a bit familiar but almost at every turn there was something that happened reminded you it was very foreign, but on the other hand it's supposed to be foreign and it's supposed to be hard. I did things that I never would have thought I'd do and I joined in order to experience life in a different way, which I most certainly did. I think I got as much as I could have out of it and I will always be grateful to the Peace Corps for that opportunity as well as to represent the USA in a service capacity, I took that oath very seriously and was so proud of it.

I don't know about budget cuts, but for Ukraine they've been upping the amount of volunteers, they've been wanting to double the number in country...to 600. There were around 300 volunteers in the country at any given time while I was there...which is a lot.

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  • 7 years later...
  • 3 months later...

Wow, talk about a thread necro!

I'm a soon-to-return Peace Corps Volunteer, serving in Cameroon from 2017 to 2019. I applied in 2016 and started in 2017. I can say that the application process has been greatly improved; they switched to an online application about 3 or 4 years ago, so instead of days, the initial application took me ~4 hours (including writing two 500-word essays). You also get a little more say in where you go; you're given a top-3 ranking preference that can be selected by country, region, or "I don't care, send me anywhere". After you get an invite, you'll have ~6 months before you ship out. There's a lot of paperwork to do during that time, mostly medical documentation, but if you're on top of things then you'll have plenty of time. Overall, it's much better than the year or longer that the whole process used to take.

Each country is its own organization, so keep that in mind when considering opportunities. Job postings are usually done in batches based on job sector, so you'll have three or four different periods throughout the year when different applications are open. If you're interested in working in a specific country or region with a specific job and you don't see a listed posting that matches what you're looking for, contact a recruiter who can advise you on when during the year those sorts of postings are likely to show up.

Also, keep in mind that the conditions of the specific country you serve in at your time of service is the most overwhelmingly important factor that affects what service will be like. For example - Peace Corps Cameroon is on the same continent as Peace Corps Tanzania, and they both host volunteers serving in the education sector. However, Cameroon education volunteers are placed directly in schools and teach classes, while Tanzania education volunteers serve as teacher-trainers and resource development agents. Further, Cameroon is currently experiencing major internal strife and large sections of the country are completely blocked off for travel (even to the embassy), while Tanzania is one of the most popular countries for African tourism (safaris, Mt. Kilimanjaro). Volunteers serving in these countries, even if they're on the same continent and job sector, have wildly different experiences during their service.

I can't say that I feel that my service had a substantial direct impact on my community. I'm not unique in that, but I know other volunteers that I served alongside that feel they were able to give their communities a lot more (one guy built a well, for example). Are we really changing the world out here? Maybe, but it's a very small change. But in a world with 7 billion people, it's a bit arrogant to think that an individual volunteer can effect massive change. I got enough out of service that it was worth it to me, and I can say that it has given me a new outlook on the world and who I can and want to be within it. I'm pursuing graduate school to transition to a career that I'd briefly considered before graduating college, and my Peace Corps experience helped me get into schools that I didn't stand a chance of getting into straight out of undergrad, and with a hefty discount too (gotta love that Coverdell Fellowship)!

As far as the "Posh Corps" discussion above, I wouldn't pay it any mind. Each person's service looks different, and each is challenging in its own way. Countries with more readily-available amenities are considered "posh" by those without, but that can be said even at different sites within the same country. I knew volunteers with no access to electricity or wireless connectivity who had to walk an hour to fetch water. Meanwhile, I had fairly consistent electricity and I lived under a wireless tower and got better internet from my bed than I did when I visited the capital (but I didn't have running water). Other people had power and running water. My service could certainly be considered "posh" by some standards. But I also live 15 minutes from the border of severe internal strife with military traveling back and forth almost daily to an armed conflict zone. As an African volunteer, I consider service in every other country to be Posh Corps, but that's a tribal coping mechanism that me and my fellow volunteers use (much like the Marine Corps, taking pride in the misery). But I'm not going to be snotty about it if I meet another RPCV from Ukraine after my service, and I don't expect anybody else would be either. Once you're an RPCV, we're all the in-group and it's regular civilians that we'll other-ize together :P

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