peace corps timeline

Peace Corps Timeline- Madagascar Health Volunteer

A lot of Peace Corps Volunteers like to post the timeline of their application process on their blogs. When I was trying to plan my life, I looked at many PC Timelines to give myself an idea of what to expect and how to plan my travels before service. 

Most blogs describe a year to a year and a half of waiting, so I was planning according to that. I applied in May 2014 and I figured I’d have until about May 2015 to ride my bike and travel eastward across Europe and maybe even into the Middle East. (It would have been an adventure!) but shockingly my official invitation to leave for Madagascar in February, 2015 was received in August, only three months after I applied. It kind of threw things off and seemed too good to be true. But now I’ve been in Madagascar for four months, so I guess it’s really real! Things can’t fall apart now… 

I was really intimidated by the application process because the Peace Corps is a sector of the government and bureaucracy scares me. It is very “Big Picture” and I figured it’d be easy to get lost in the shuffle as just a name on a piece of paper. But it wasn’t that bad! The recruiters were very helpful. 

I applied right before the application process changed, which is probably why things were so fast for me. I’m not sure how things will be now for new applicants, but here is my series of events for the reference of those whom are curious:

To help me remember the dates, I have written where I was and what I was doing while my Peace Corps journey was beginning to unfold. 

May 1, 2014 - I submitted my Application from my apartment in Paris, France after a tireless month of compiling information on every relevant thing I’ve ever done.

May 7, 2014- I was I invited to Interview. The email was received while I was at my friend’s house in Stockholm, Sweden.

May 9, 2014- My interview was scheduled in an email string with a recruiter while I was on night bus from Stockholm to Oslo, Norway.

May 15, 2014- I had a 2 hour phone interview from my room in Paris. It was 11pm local time. It went really well and ended with a nomination to serve in Madagascar, February 2015 as a health volunteer while the recruiter and I sang “I like to move it, move it.”

June 1, 2014- I submitted the legal package. It was 72 euros to send with FedEx from Paris. Ew.

August 12, 2014- The first day of my Bike Tour across continental Europe, in Brussels, Belgium. I received the email that I was officially cleared and invited to serve in Madagascar, leaving in February 2015!!!

August 14, 2014- Bike tour progress: in Bruges, Belgium. Here I realized just how much stuff I had to do between paperwork and medical appointments. I spent all day at hostel doing research and preparing to return to Brussels for the only available U.S. Consulate appointment in the region. 

August 17, 2014 -I returned to Brussels to get work done and visit the US Embassy. I then reluctantly let my Business Manager (mother) convince me that I should fly home for the medical appointments. 

August 23- September 8, 2014 -I left my bicycle in Belgium with a friend. Then I flew to California for 2 weeks to finish all of the paper work, passport requirements, and about 12 Medical appointments. I saw my friends for 5 minutes. Then I left again. And I cried. 

September 12, 2014- Bicycle ridden to The Hague, The Netherlands. I received an email stating that I was medically cleared! Boo yah. The US Government officially owned my body at that point 

October 28, 2014- In Prague, Czech Republic. I received an email about the PC Madagascar Facebook group. 

November 1, 2014- In Krakow, Poland. I caved and reactivated Facebook to join the FB group and to begin mentally preparing. 

December 30, 2014 -January 9, 2015- I locked myself away at my aunt’s house in London, England. I read, read, read, researched, and watched youtube videos to prepare for what I needed to bring and what to expect.

January 9-February 8, 2015- I returned home to California! I ate everything, saw my friends, and prepared to head off again. 

February 8, 2015 -I flew to Philadelphia for Staging!

February 10, 2015- I landed in Antananarivo, Madagascar with the 42 other new volunteer trainees! 

February 10- April 23, 2015- Two and a half months of Pre-Service Training in Mantasoa, Madagascar! 

April 24, 2015- We were officially sworn in as Peace Corps Volunteers at the Ambassador’s Residence in the capital, Antananarivo. 

April 25-April 30, 2015- This was a long and exhausting Installation week with 5 other volunteers in my region. We bought everything we needed for our huts before moving in! 

May 1, 2015- I moved into my hut in Tsarasambo, Madagascar to begin my two years of service! (Exactly one year to the day after I submitted my application). 

And now I’m here, living my childhood dream of serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer, in an absolutely incredible country! 

(Well, that baby’s not me, but you get the idea: Peace Corps= cute kids…)

If you are thinking of applying, don’t worry! You might need a lot of patience and organization, but it will be more than worth it in the end! Good Luck!

Peace Corps Timeline Update!

August 15 - New Peace Corps website goes live. I was nearly done with my application on the old site (literally one essay left) when I had to go home unexpectedly for a family situation and didn’t get time to finish it before the site changed. 

August 28 - The essays haven’t changed, so it doesn’t take me that long to finish up. I press submit after checking over everything seven thousand times. Immediately complete the pre-health survey which is really quick until I hit the allergies section. 

September 11 - I’m told they’re waiting on one last recommendation (no surprises there, I knew who’d be the last one in) and I receive the financial obligations form to fill out. 

September 17 - I complete the financial obligations forms and send them in, and make a desperate call to get my last recommendation in as there is a window of time before they’ll consider it an inactive file.

September 20 - My last reference is in! Yay! Now the waiting and hoping that I make the first cut starts.

September 25 - Just less than a month after I applied, I get contacted by my (amazing!) recruiter (who also happens to be an Ohioan now in California!) to set up an interview! Cue almost tears, insane joy and immediate trepidation. I am super nervous about the whole process, since it means so much to me and I only get one shot. The recruiter is out of town for a while (going to learn about the new application system) so we set an interview for October 10 in Oakland. My first trip to the East Bay!

October 8 - My amazing, seriously so amazing, co-workers set up a mock interview panel for me using random questions they found online. They even printed out a Peace Corps logo, colored it, and stuck it on the door. I’m interviewed by my boss, the receptionist of our office, my co-AmeriCorps, the mental health specialist at our school and her two children (second and fifth grade - it was Columbus Day and they had no school but we did). It totally helps, as I get a chance to really think about what’s important to say and hear feedback. The little ones even rated all of my answers for me. 

October 10 - I do a nearly two hour public transit commute to the Peace Corps offices in Oakland. I’m so nervous, but I drink some tea on the train to relax and listen to some Ohio State music to keep me pumped. The security officers at the door wish me good luck, and the receptionist is super nice. The interview goes super well. I’m prepared because of my mock interview and never feel the striking fear of having no idea what to say. I have really good questions that show that I’m invested (I had read two books and a series of articles, and cited them) and know what I’m doing. It seems to go well on both ends. I’m out the door in a little less than two hours after my recruiter says she wants to move on with the nomination process! Whoo!

October 18 - I email my recruiter to thank her for the interview and to make sure that (as she had said in the interview) she knew she had a thumbs up from me, and that I hoped the same was true on her end. 

October 19 - In the middle of school I get a call. I don’t answer because I’m busy, but I check the voicemail as soon as possible. It’s my recruiter, and she wants to talk to me about a potential position. It’s a secondary English teaching position leaving in mid to late September 2013 (right after the beginning of my availability). I’d have to be comfortable with the possibility of living with a host family for most or all of my placement, and it’d be cold in the winter. That’s all I’m given, but I email her back and say I’m interested. Within ten minutes I get my official nomination email. Cue more almost tears. 

October 20 - While enjoying an Ohio State football game I notice that I have my first medical task! Huzzah! I’m excited to have something to do until I realize that it’s a mental health form and that they want me to get it filled out by my psychologist. Earlier, on the pre-health form, I was honest when I said that I do have a phobia of thunderstorms and that I had seen a psychologist when I was younger. And while I still suffer from the phobia, I haven’t seen anyone over it in over 15 years (living in the midwest, it’s just something I learned to deal with). My excitement over the task turns to dread, as I have no idea how I will get it accomplished since no one knows anything about the previous psychologist and I really don’t want to pay to have someone evaluate me now. I email the medical staff to see what I should do.

October 23 - The medical staff informs me I can write a personal statement on my phobia, addressing certain concerns they had, and they will decide if I need to see someone further. I’m nervous - it’s hard to convey that while I do have a legitimate fear, and I really, really hate storms I’m not going to let it hold me back. Some fears you can avoid. This one you can’t, so I can’t let it get to me too much. I start the essay… but I have a hard time choosing the words. I work on it here and there with little interest.

November 11 - With the deadline for the personal statement fast approaching, I decide to stop putting it off and I realize that it doesn’t need to be an award winning essay. I write it from the heart, and decide there isn’t much better I can do. 

November 16 - I get my fingerprint forms in the mail! Naturally I get it on a Friday, so I can’t set an appointment up until after the weekend. When I try to set an appointment up, they’re all closed for Thanksgiving. When I try again, they want to charge me two separate fees since I have two cards. This seems like a rip-off to me, since I’m not taking up two appointment windows. Seriously… 68 dollars for something I could do with a two dollar ink pad from JoAnn’s? Luckily, as I’m sitting dejected over the huge fee I’ll have to pay I re-read the letter from the Peace Corps and notice that they’ll do it for free at your recruiting office. Sure, it’ll take a few hours of public transport… but I call and book an appointment with the Peace Corps and make my co-AmeriCorps call and cancel my other appointment.

November 29 - I enroll in an online TEFL certification course (120 hours). I want to make sure I have the best qualifications going into placement, and I know this will help. Plus, I really do want to learn the best way to teach grammar and all the uniqueness inherent in English.

November 30 - I spend a few soaking hours getting myself to and from Oakland. I get my fingerprints done with the fancy red ink, and ask if they happen to know any more information about my program. They don’t. No surprises, and since they change so quick they don’t want to say anything that might not be true. The receptionist tells me that I can check my status probably once a month since my departure date is so far off. I laugh. Sure. 
(Edited to add: I should have listened!!)


February 27, 2013 – Email check in with medical to see if they had received my documents/remind them that I exist. Got the standard ‘we’ll get to you when we get to you, it’s very busy’ response.

April 2, 2013 – Email check in with legal to see if they have received my finger prints (they have, they’re waiting on medical pre-clearance before processing them). Fair enough.

April 23, 2013 – Realize that my mom is moving with my brother to a two bedroom apartment and I’m not sure what I’m going to do after my second year of AmeriCorps completes in August (and with it goes my housing). I had planned on going home and then leaving for the Peace Corps, but it definitely seems like I’m going to be delayed for an extended period of time that I don’t know what to do with. Email my recruiter and medical to see if we can get the ball rolling, and medical tells me that they have temporarily paused pre-clearance while they catch up with those departing immediately.

May 1, 2013 - I attend a Peace Corps event in Berkeley where RCPVs host tables about their countries of service. Awesome. Amazing to see so many people in the process and about to head out. A few people receive the old blue invitation packets. How my heart was beating so hard that they would call my name. They don’t. But I really want one of those envelopes one day (as opposed to the email). How can I make this dream a reality? I just want to *physically* rip something open!!

May 28, 2013 – I can’t fall asleep because I’m so stressed about what’s going on. I decide to call the pre-medical unit in the morning to see if I can get someone to look at my file. I write out an entire (awesome!) script because I hate speaking on the phone, but the call goes kind of nuts. I do get someone to look over my file and tell me that they don’t think my psych issue (a phobia) will be an issue, but that my dust and mold allergies could cause a problem. She says that she’ll try to write up the accommodations in the next few weeks if she gets a break.

May 30, 2013 – I officially finish my TEFL certificate! YAY! I can’t believe it took so long, but I’m a procrastinator and it really made me work hard for it.

June 5, 2013 – I get notice that I have a new message in the portal — could it be pre-clearance?? No, it’s not. It’s three more forms to have filled out about allergies; 1 for cats, dogs, animals, dust and mold; 1 for a self-reported Benadryl allergy; 1 for seasonal allergies. Oh and can I have these forms done in a week? No lie, I was so frustrated I cried for a few minutes. Six and a half months of being told they had everything, and then one week to get forms filled out! Luckily my mom comes through and calls my allergist’s wife (they’re next door neighbors with her best friend) and gets her to have him help me out. Within two days I have all the forms back, but I notice that he’s left out information about dust and mold, which means I have to call them. Yuck.

June 10, 2013 – To my surprise, the reason they never filled out information about dust and mold allergies is because the last time I was tested I didn’t react positively! I don’t need any accomodations at all! They fax the forms over stating that clearly, and I upload them.

June 11, 2013 – The medical office messages me to ask if I want them to mark that I have no restrictions for dust and mold. They say that if I do have restrictions, it will be incredibly hard to place me. I tell them to take the restrictions off! Whoo! I get a note back that they’ll let the officer know. I got so excited that it was pre-clearance, but it’s not – again. But right as I walked into a Radio Shack with my coworker to get something for school I check my email and it’s there — I’m finally medically pre-cleared. I instantly start to cry. The cashier is concerned at first, then really excited for me. It’s like I got an invitation, but I didn’t in the slightest. YAY more waiting. I don’t even care. At least my file is headed to someone who makes decisions!