For some reason, life has been hectic these past couple months–maybe because I’ve traveled through Taiwan for two weeks, ended my teaching job, moved to the countryside (with really heavy bags on multiple buses), started studying Korean full-time, mingled with my new classmates, participated in a three-day Templestay, wrote posts for this blog (sometimes), tried to finish my second Glimpse narrative (to no avail) and oh, I got accepted accepted to the Peace Corps, and in August I’ll be moving to… COLOMBIA!
Whew, now it’s time to take a deep breath.
Obtaining an invitation to serve in the Peace Corps has been a long journey, but to be honest, the waiting game hasn’t bothered me at all. I decided to apply last May, and I knew that my Korean public school teaching job wouldn’t end until the end of February. I also knew that my best friend from home would be getting married in August, and I promised her that I’d be in her wedding. Additionally, I wanted to travel/study for the remaining six months before I would potentially leave.
So, I wasn’t really waiting at all when I finally received my placement. I’ve just been living my life, and having a marvelous time, as per usual.
Because of the unfathomable amount of time that the Peace Corps requires to receive a placement, and because of the amount of times that I’ve heard, “Are you still going to be in the Peace Corps?” and “Do you know what country you’re going to yet?” I decided not to tell everyone right away.
The timeline has gone something like this:
May 2012: I met a fellow American English teacher on a Seoraksan hike who served in the Peace Corps in Mali. I became really interested and asked her lots of questions. She told me all the incredible details, including the fact that she frequently suffered from bouts of malaria and typhoid fever. I mentioned that I should join the Peace Corps, and she replied, “Why not?”
May 25, 2012: I told my mother that I was applying to the Peace Corps and she wasn’t phased at all.
June 6, 2012: I started my online application and sporadically shouted long-winded strings of curse words at my computer screen while trying to navigate through online forms that appear to have been created in the early 1990s and never updated.
June 16, 2012: I completed the first section of the application and
asked begged my co-teacher, best friend, and favorite university professor to write me references.
June 26, 2012: I submitted my full application, along with a separate email to my recruiter explaining that the 90s-era form wouldn’t let me insert my Korean phone number.
August 16, 2012: I filled out the initial medical form.
August 22, 2012: I submitted my fingerprints. (Luckily I was in Maine for vacation at the time.)
August 31, 2012: I registered for the medical applicant portal.
September 4, 2012: I was interviewed via Skype, where I wooed the RPCV interviewer with my stories from teaching English in Korea, dwelling upon the challenges and lessons learned by working with a 40-year-old ajosshi, middle-aged Korean man. I should thank my co-teacher for that.
October 1, 2012: I was nominated to the education sector with a tentative August departure date.
February 22, 2013: I was asked to fill out a questionairre to find the best placement where my experience and skills could be utilized.
March 12, 2013: I was cordially invited to serve in Colombia as a Teaching English for Livelihoods (TEL) trainer, beginning on August 27, 2013. Hell yeah! I could not be more thrilled to be placed in the land of Shakira, gorgeous men, fake boobs, coffee, cocaine, dancing, the FARC, and beautiful Spanish accents. (Hopefully I will not be encountering some of those, but would be thrilled to become acquainted with others–namely coffee, music and dancing–especially after living in the land of K-pop and instant
coffee sugar drinks.)
March 13, 2013: I accepted my invitation, and called my mom. Then I immediately posted it on Facebook. Then I thought about how I probably won’t be able to use Facebook much once I move in with my Colombian host family. It’s probably for the best.
March 15, 2013: I submitted my aspiration statement and an updated resume.
March 25, 2013: I scheduled an appointment to apply for my Peace Corps passport at the US embassy in Seoul.
Now, I still need to take some passport photos, apply for my Colombian visa, schedule some doctor and dentist appointments, do some thorough research, and brush up on my Spanish (which may be difficult since I’m currently studying Korean full-time.) Finding some English speaking doctors and dentists to fill out my forms may be a challenge, but I shall find them!
When I finally begin my training in Colombia, it will have been a year and three months since I first decided to join the Peace Corps, so if you’re interested in applying, be patient my friend.
Have you visited or lived in Colombia? Have you served in the Peace Corps or are you in the process of joining? Share some tips about Colombia, the Peace Corps process or your own experience serving as a PCV overseas!
-Text by Sarah Shaw @ www.mappingwords.com. All rights reserved.