So I made it through the first part of the Peace Corps application today after finishing up my interview. I got up at the crack of dawn (8:00… :) ), got some coffee and jumped on the #6 to get downtown to the Peace Corps office. The building was pretty fancy, and quite secure (I guess it’s full of government stuff). It took me a moment to figure out how to navigate the place. I walked past security, punched a button on a number pad telling the elevators what floor I wanted to go to. The monitor on the number pad told me to go wait by elevator D, which arrived immediately afterwards. Inside the elevator there were no buttons except door-open/close and emergency stop. It felt oddly futuristic, even though the technology wasn’t anything special.
The Peace Corps office was pleasant and open, and the secretary was nice and jovial. I read through some promotional pamphlets while I waited, learning a bit more about the Fellows/USA program, where returned volunteers get funding for grad school. A few minutes later I met the recruiter and went back to his office for the interview.
The process was quite painless and pretty interesting. We first went through my application materials to make sure there were no errors in my name, address, social security number, etc. Then came the questions. Apparently there is a stock set of interview questions used by the government (or perhaps this was one set of several) with the standard “talk about a time when you had to . . .”-type questions. There were some questions for trying to identify my personal concerns with being away from home and with being in a foreign environment, including whether I felt I could deal with different kinds of foods, lack of electricity, and the like. I was pretty much excited by each of these prospects, not worried, and at the very least felt confident I could deal with them. So that was reassuring.
I found that visitation by friends/family is easy to set up and highly encouraged by the Peace Corps, since part of its goals is to bring cultural knowledge back to the States for people who didn’t serve. This was good to know. It also seems that dealing with things like taxes won’t be any real problem.
By the end of the interview I had a pretty good sense of where/when I would be going and what I would be doing. Because of my skill set, I am fairly well qualified for and only for teaching science. This sounds awesome to me anyway, and is pretty much exactly what I’d like to do.
I had said that I wanted to leave in January so that the gf and I could go do some traveling and language learning during the first semester of this year, but it looks like I’ll have to add some more plans for second semester as well. For science teachers, the only current openings appear to be in June of 2009 in Sub-Saharan Africa. This makes things tight for coming back and going to school 27 months later, but I’m sure I want to do the Peace Corps so I’ll just have to cross that bridge when I come to it.
The next step in the process is to fill out a few more forms and then get recommended by the recruiter. After that, it’s all up to the Peace Corps machine in D.C. to start sending me medical stuff and to decide on my legal clearance. Apparently the recruiter can suggest when/where/what for placement, but has absolutely no control after this point (and neither do I). Basically, the central office will look through my file and through the needs of their clients (the countries) and choose based on what they think is the best fit. I trust they’ll choose well.
So now I just need to find something to do from January to June that is flexible enough that I could leave with a few months notice…