So, I got accepted into the Peace Corps and I’m… moving to Colombia!

Posted by on Mar 27, 2013 | 42 Comments
colombia

Photo courtesy of getintravel.com

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!

Obtaining an invitation to serve in the Peace Corps has been a long journey, but to be honest, the waiting game hasn’t really bothered me. 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 cursed 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 questionnaire 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. I could not be more thrilled.

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.



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42 Comments

  1. Sarah
    March 27, 2013

    I just spent a month in Colombia and absolutely LOVED it! There’s a wealth of attractions and activities to do, and people are the nicest I’ve met. Where in Colombia will you be?

    Reply
    • Sarah Shaw
      March 27, 2013

      I’ll be placed somewhere on the Atlantic coast, in either Barranquilla, Santa Marta or Cartagena, but I won’t know until I get there. :) Where did you travel?

      Reply
  2. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures
    March 27, 2013

    I visited a couple of years ago and LOVED it!!!!!! How exciting and congrats!

    Reply
    • Sarah Shaw
      March 27, 2013

      Thanks. :) Where did you travel in Colombia?

      Reply
  3. Chris
    March 27, 2013

    I hopefor your sake they don’t drink nescafe in Colombia like they do in Mexico despite the fact that they produce high quality beans there….

    Reply
  4. Alana - Paper Planes
    March 27, 2013

    Congratulations! It will be interesting to hear about your observations and dealing with getting used to the new culture…many people write about culture shock going from ‘home’ to somewhere new, but this will be moving from a foreign country already!

    Reply
    • Sarah Shaw
      March 27, 2013

      Thanks, Alana! You’re absolutely right– I’ve already been thinking about how I’ll adjust to Colombian culture as a “Koreanized” American, especially since I’ll also be teaching English. I won’t be able to make poop jokes during class and use G-Dragon as an example, and I’m sure that I’ll miss my kimchi and karaoke, but a change will be much needed! Luckily I’ll spend at least a month in my hometown before I embark on this next journey.

      Reply
  5. Andrea
    March 27, 2013

    Sarah!! This is so amazing!! I’m so happy for you :D

    Reply
    • Sarah Shaw
      March 27, 2013

      Thanks, Andrea! You should visit sometime in the next two and half years! You don’t want your Spanish to get rusty…;)

      Reply
  6. Pauline
    March 28, 2013

    Wow! Congratulations! That’s awesome! I’ve heard Colombia is a BEAUTIFUL country. I hope you’ll still have time to update us with your stories when you’re there! Looking forward to reading them already!

    Reply
    • Sarah Shaw
      March 28, 2013

      Thanks, Pauline! I also hope I’ll have internet access and sufficient time to blog! I’ll definitely be residing in a city (Colombia PCVs aren’t allowed to be placed in rural areas because of security reasons) so I’m sure that I’ll be able to use internet cafes and there’s a possibility that my host family will have internet at home. So, we’ll see. Thanks for reading. :)

      Reply
  7. Drew Meyers
    March 28, 2013

    Sarah-
    Congrats on the peace corps!

    I’d actually really love to learn a little bit more about the research & thought process you went through (even though you detailed quite a bit of it). Been thinking on some “arrival” ideas for long term volunteers. Shoot me an email if you’re open to a quick skype discussion.

    Reply
    • Sarah Shaw
      March 28, 2013

      Thank you, Drew! I’d love to talk to you, but you should send me an email and let me know what times you’re available. Do you work with the Peace Corps? Or a different volunteer organization abroad…?

      Reply
  8. Ekua
    March 28, 2013

    Congrats! My mom is currently serving in the Peace Corps in Namibia and coming upon the end of her service later this year. I’ve always had it in mind to apply for the PC one day but I feel even more inspired by her!

    Haven’t been to Colombia yet but planning to this summer! Heard so many great things about it. Do you speak Spanish already?

    Reply
    • Sarah Shaw
      March 28, 2013

      Hey Ekua,
      Thanks for stopping by. That’s awesome that your mom is serving in the Peace Corps as well. What an inspiration!
      When will you be in Colombia? If you happen to be there at the end of the summer, maybe we could meet up. I studied Spanish in high school and in Peru for a couple months when I was 18, but it’s incredibly rusty now. Looks like I have a lot of studying to do… :)

      Reply
  9. kt h
    April 2, 2013

    How exciting! My husband and I spent about a month in northern Colombia (maybe four or five years ago?). I absolutely loved Cartagena and Santa Marta was a fun (but busy) city filled with vacationing Colombians. We had wonderful travel experiences, enhanced by our interactions with the welcoming locals. Good luck!

    Reply
    • Sarah Shaw
      April 2, 2013

      Thanks, KT! I just checked out your blog and saw that you’re from Alaska! I’m going to Alaska this summer (before the PC) with my family for a week. We haven’t made any plans yet, so if you have a chance, I’d love to hear some recommendations from a local’s perspective. :)

      Reply
  10. Mike
    April 5, 2013

    My daughter was just invited to Colombia for the same August dates as you. I have been doing the worried Father search for info and was pleased to read your blog. Her first offer was Ethiopia and that did not take long to turn down. This looks MUCH better. I will steer her to your info. Thanks for sharing. Mike Fisher China Grove, NC

    Reply
    • Sarah Shaw
      April 5, 2013

      Thanks, Mike. Ethiopia also sounds awesome, but I can understand why you might have been worried. My mother was also happy with my placement. Can’t wait to meet your daughter at orientation. :)

      Reply
  11. Katie McCarthy
    April 8, 2013

    Hey Sarah! I am a current volunteer in PC Colombia and I stumbled upon your blog by some random coincidence! Shoot me an email if you have any questions :) Looking forward to meeting you in August.

    Reply
    • Sarah Shaw
      April 8, 2013

      Thanks, Katie! I’m looking forward to meeting you too! Where are you placed and how are you liking the experience so far? I took a quick look at your blog, and I noticed that you went hiking in a national park. Looks awesome! How’s your host family? I read that you have to go to church a lot… umm, do you think Colombian families will be accepting of non-believers, like me? haha. Reminds me of the time I first moved to Seoul and I was tricked into going to church by my exchange adviser, who told us it would be an “exchange party.” Nope, it was service! Oh, church people. They sure are feisty.

      Anyway, I’m getting really excited for the change of moving to Korea back to the States for a month or so and then on to Colombia. I’ll definitely email you if any questions come to mind! (which I’m sure they will.) :)

      Reply
  12. natalia
    April 9, 2013

    Be careful! I’ve visited Colombia a number of times because my family lives there. What part? Are you going to Cartagena? It’s beautiful there! The old city is awesome place to visit and take pictures. Barranquilla, thats where Shakira is from and my mom says where Cumbia was born. They a huge Carnival there every year kinda like Marti Gras but it last forever and it’s really big thing. Santa Marta is where the mountains meets the sea. I went there once and wasn’t much to do, but the beach is great. The beaches are great.
    Tip don’t get freaked out by the police office with huge guns. They are there to protect you. (I say because I did) And practice your spanish and your walk. Colombian girls are always on trend and super confident. They can tell you are american by the way you hold yourself not the way you speak. Another thing is that maids are common over there. Whether it’s live in or a once a week thing.
    I think thats it. You may already know that though…

    Reply
    • Sarah Shaw
      April 9, 2013

      Hey Natalia!
      Thanks for stopping by. I won’t know which part I’ll be living in until I get there, but I have this not-so-secret desire to live in Barranquilla because of my junior high-era (and high school..and college) girl crush on Shakira. And I’m really excited for Carnival!

      Thanks for the tip about the police officers and their guns– I’m sure I will get a bit freaked out first– especially since I’m living in South Korea, which (ironically) is probably the safest place in the world. I’ll need to get used to not wearing a backpack on the subway and having no fear that someone will reach inside and snatch my wallet. Or leaving my shit around and expecting it to be in the exact same place a week later.

      I know about the maids, because I lived in Peru after high school for a couple months with a family who also had a couple indigenous maids from the countryside. I will, however, start practicing my walk, but I can assure you that Colombians will still know that I’m American (or foreign) because I, well, look like a white person.
      Sarah

      Reply
  13. Jason
    April 14, 2013

    Congrats!

    I’m still loving Colombia, but I should be moving on around August. If we cross paths I’d love to buy you a drink sometime. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your blog.

    Looks like Katie will be a great resource for you but if there’s anything I can help with, Don’t hesitate to ask. And don’t worry, they have great coffee here. I recently hosted (couchsurfing) a really cool couple that finished their Peace Corp time in Africa. Sounded interesting to say the least. Can’t wait to hear your story here as you go through it. And the internet is pretty good in most areas here. I had no trouble getting it in Barranquilla.

    Good Luck!

    Reply
    • Sarah Shaw
      April 14, 2013

      Great! Thanks so much! I really appreciate the support, and I’ll let you know if I have any questions. Where are you off to next? If we happen to cross paths, I’ll definitely take you up on that drink!

      Reply
      • Jason
        April 15, 2013

        I was planning a quick trip to Venezuela next, but they’ve locked down their borders for the election, so I may have to change plans. Probably Ecuador but I’m not sure.

        Reply
        • Sarah Shaw
          April 16, 2013

          aww, that’s too bad about Venezuela, but I’m sure Ecuador will be fantastic. I’d love to get to both countries at some point. Good luck with your plans!

          Reply
  14. Blanca
    May 13, 2013

    HEY!!! I’m going to Colombia for the Peace Corps too!

    Reply
  15. Jessica Smith
    May 22, 2013

    I adored Colombia, and I know you will have an amazing experience! Colombians are the most welcoming and happiest people (overall) that I’ve met! I just started a Matador Community Blog and only have one article about Colombia so far, but it might be useful! I will write many more!
    Here is the article I wrote: http://matadornetwork.com/community/j3ssica/how-to-piss-off-a-colombian/

    I hope it can be useful to you!
    Jessica Smith recently posted…You Can’t Always Fake It…My Profile

    Reply
  16. Catriona McD
    June 4, 2013

    I also accepted my invitation to Colombia for the peace corps and am leaving in August. I have been buying so much and starting to pack! I will be teaching English there!!

    Reply
    • Sarah Shaw
      June 6, 2013

      Nice! See you there, and don’t buy too much stuff!

      Reply
  17. Abby
    June 15, 2013

    Hey Hey! currently coming to the end of my two years here (well, I’ve got like six more months so not that close…) I’m actually thinking about staying in Colombia, so that’s a good recommedation. I’m in Cartagena.

    Unfortunately, I must confess that Costeño accents are not so beautiful, but it’s pretty great here and there is internet to be had just about anywhere we are, although my current host family doesn’t have wifi, so I am a frequent caller at my local internet cafe. You could also email me if you would like…

    Reply
    • Sarah Shaw
      June 16, 2013

      Hey Abby!
      Thanks for reaching out! I’ll email you if I have any questions. Hope to meet you this fall!

      Reply
  18. Catherine (고영미)
    July 16, 2013

    Sarah,

    I just tripped across your blog. I haven’t read much yet, but it seems you had some great experiences in Korea. So glad you are joining the Peace Corps! It can be a life -changing experience, as it was for us.

    Guess where I served in the Peace Corps?
    Korea!
    The Peace Corps had programs there from 1966-1981. I was there from 1973-1975. I was a middle school TESOL teacher for one year, and worked in TB control at a rural health center the second year. Korea was much different back then.

    Those of us who were volunteers and staff for PCK remain very close 40(+or-) years later. In June we had a reunion in Scottsdale, AZ. Even those folks we had never met before became instant “family”. 옛날 revisited!

    In those days there were no karaoke bars, instead we had 다방(찻집)’s with each establishment offering different styles of music playing on their record players. Most played Korean tunes (no K-pop then) some played classical, and a few played Western folk and rock (in Seoul mainly).

    Communications were much different back then, too. Telephones were rare, we NEVER made a phone call in Korea; all communication was by postal mail (which was pretty good). Some really rural health centers didn’t even have rotary dial phones, they had the “battery crank” style sets that were still in use since the Korean War!

    I saw that you said you are on Facebook, and I thought you might be interested in seeing some Peace Corps Korea memories that we share in our
    FB Group – KOREA RPCV’s:
    https://www.Facebook.com/groups/Korea.xpcvs/

    Feel free to join the group. If you have any trouble joining let me know by email and I’ll send you a Friend Request. We enjoy posts from folks who have been in Korea recently and invite you to tell us about your experiences. We have many Korean members (both in Korea and in the USA) and we have some vols who never left Korea. In fact, two of them became Korean citizens! Heck, once you become part of the Peace Corps Columbia program, we would love to hear about your life there as well! Feel free to share!

    Here is a link to a really wonderful video made by Joonhee Lee, whose mother worked in the PCK office in Seoul. He was born in 1970, but still remembers the Peace Corps. It might make you cry as it does all of us:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kh_7ggQWb0I&feature=youtu.be

    I am in the video several times (look for me washing my hair by the spigot in the front yard of our “house”), as well as is my smiling husband (holding the BIG 주전자 which was filled with 막걸리)!

    I hope your Peace Corps experience enriches your life as ours did. It is a different time, however the spirit and commitment remains strong.

    평화 from 고영미 (K-27/K-31),
    Catherine

    Reply
    • Sarah Shaw
      July 16, 2013

      Hey Catherine!

      I replied to you Facebook message, so I’ll keep it short. Thanks for your encouragement. Your photos and videos have reminded me of all my great memories in Korea and inspired me to be a great U.S. ambassador and Peace Corps volunteer in Colombia this August. I joined the Facebook group, and I hope that we can keep in touch.

      연락해줘요~
      Sarah

      Reply
  19. Angela Lopez
    July 30, 2013

    Hello! My name is Angela Lopez and I am from Chicago and I will also be going to Colombia in August with the Peace Corps! e-mail me! or facebook me!

    Reply
  20. Angela Lopez
    July 30, 2013

    I don’t think my comment showed up before, My name is Angela Lopez and I am also going to Colombia in the Peace Corps in August! you can e-mail me at zazer5@rocketmail.com or facebook me if you can find me!

    Reply
    • Sarah Shaw
      July 30, 2013

      Hey Angela!
      Thanks for stopping by. I left a comment on your blog–I’m kind of intimidated that you’re a Spanish teacher. For my own benefit, I really hope that all the other volunteers aren’t fluent speakers because my Spanish is seriously sucking right now. Every time I try to think of something in Spanish, the Korean words immediately come to mind. Oh well–I’m sure that will change soon.

      I just booked my ticket to Miami, so I’ll see you there soon! Feel free to email me whenever.

      Reply
  21. Workers of the World #11 | The Working Traveller
    December 12, 2013

    […] So, I Got Accepted Into the Peace Corps and I’m… Moving to Colombia! Sarah Shaw says goodbye to her Korean teaching job and does the I-got-accepted-into-the-Peace-Corps dance. […]

    Reply

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