I’ve seen a lot of blogs that include their Peace Corps application timeline, and I’ve found them immensely helpful and reassuring. While I love Google and Wikipedia, reading first-hand accounts written by people in similar situations provides much more depth, as well as a sense of community and solidarity. Most people don’t realize how intense this process can be, and how long it can take. I hope this will help any future applicants, especially those with complications in their process. Persevere!
Summer of 2011 – Began the application, had all materials submitted by August.
September 2011 – Had my interview. I was crazy nervous, but my recruiter was very personable and well spoken, which put me at ease. It went well! At the end, my recruiter informed me that she was nominating me for the Education Sector – Teaching English in Sub-Saharan Africa, with a tentative departure in early fall 2012.
Fall 2011 – Completed legal work, got legal clearance, scheduled lots of doctor/dentist appointments to complete the medical evaluation.
Winter 2011/2012 – Sent in my final medical work, waited for medical clearance.
Spring 2012 – Was informed that one of my tests had come back abnormal, and that I could not get medical clearance until this was diagnosed or resolved. This was quite a shock for me. If you know me at all, you know that I am a very health conscious person – I eat well, I know a lot about nutrition, I love exercising, etc.
A big, long complicated blur of doctor’s appointments ensued (and of course, all the while I was also juggling my final research papers, volunteer work, and upcoming graduation). In May, two days after graduation, I had a kidney biopsy. I was diagnosed with Alport Syndrome, a rare genetic kidney disease that usually has zero complications for females, but would require me to begin preventative medicine.
May 29, 2012 – Received a letter from the Office of Medical Services that I would be deferred for six months. Devastation.
Lots of time passed. I spent much of it going to see my kidney doctors to figure out what medications would work for me. I had to be on each different med I tried for weeks/months before we could tell if it would work, and then sometimes we would need to change the dosage or add another med. There is no cure for Alport Syndrome and there is no right way to treat it, medication is just a preventative measure to help protect the kidney from further damage.
This time was the most frustrating for me because I have never had any sort of health concern that required me to take regular meds. Outwardly, I was the picture of perfect health – and inwardly, too. My kidney function was perfect. It seemed ridiculous that this was keeping me from the Peace Corps, since Alport Syndrome wouldn’t affect me until old age, if at all. The doctors couldn’t write my recommendation to the Office of Medical Services until I had been on a permanent medication regimen for a while, which meant three months would turn to six months and then to nine months.
In the meantime, I moved to Philadelphia, started a couple jobs, met a bunch of cool folks, lived, etc. – You can read all about my life if you want, this is my blog :)
February 2013 – I finally, FINALLY got the okay from my wonderful doctors, who sent a letter (along with required test results and forms) to the Office of Medical Services. At this point the entire Peace Corps application process had gone through a big makeover – they had a new online portal that I couldn’t access, everything was electronic, and the timeline for applicants was slightly different. On top of that, both my former pre-service nurse and placement officer (the main folks I had been in touch with) had changed positions. Figuring out who to contact and what to provide them was a bit of a mess.
March 20, 2013 – I got medical pre-clearance. Obviously, this was a huge deal for me, since it was the cause of my great delay.
April 12, 2013 – I was contacted by my new placement officer, who told me she was working on placements for September – March 2014, and gave me a document with English Teaching specific questions to be completed and returned by April 19th. I worked on it over the weekend, and returned it on April 14th.
At some point in April I joined the Facebook group, “Future Peace Corps Volunteers.” A lot of applicants were posting about their process, many about their invitations, and many more about their initial nomination start dates getting pushed back. I got medical clearance too late to be considered for any groups leaving in the summer, and there seemed to be a lot fewer fall groups, particularly for education… I was starting to get worried that I might be waiting around for another year.
May 2, 2013 – I emailed my placement officer to notify her of some new teaching I would be doing over the summer, in hopes that it would make my application more competitive. She sent an email shortly after, notifying me that I was being considered for a position with a September departure date. If I qualified, I would be eligible for an invitation, and she would make the final placement decision. I was once again informed that I would hear from her “in the coming weeks” – that wonderfully vague stretch of time that all Peace Corps applicants have come to loathe.
May 20, 2013 – After a weekend of moping around and spreadsheeting my future with plans b, c, d, e, f and g, I RECEIVED MY INVITATION!!!!!!!! I’m going to Mozambique in September!
July 26, 2013 – My last day of work in Philly! After this I will be driving down to Sweet Home Alabama, stopping in South Carolina on the way.
September 24, 2013 – Staging in Philadelphia. If possible, I’ll drive up a few days beforehand to hang out with all my Philly friends one last time!
September 25, 2013 – Goodbye U.S.A., hello Mozambique! I will be training for the first three months and living with a host family near Maputo, the capital city.
December 3, 2013 – God willing, I will be sworn is as an official Peace Corps volunteer, and move to the site that will be my home until December 2015.