Things rarely happen where or when you might expect them to. Yesterday, fortune found me in a 104 degree McDonald’s parking lot near Lodi, California, desperately trying to scam some free internet from American’s largest purveyor of fast food. As I waiting for my iPod to load my email, my mom (and dear traveling companion) went inside for a bathroom break and ice cream. As I sat alone in the car, wiping sweat from my eyes and cursing the California heat, my email popped up. I scrolled through the messages, hoping but trying to remain aloof that an invitation might await me.
“Surely, not until Monday,” I thought, remembering what I had seen on the Future Peace Corps Volunteers Facebook page. “Not until Monday.”
And then, there it was. My invitation.
June 7, 2013
Congratulations! It is with great pleasure that we invite you to begin training in Zambia for Peace Corps service. You will be joining thousands of Americans who are building stronger communities around the world. This call to action gives you the opportunity to learn new skills and to find the best in yourself.
The next step is up to you. Please carefully read the enclosed Volunteer Assignment Description, Welcome Book, and other important details about Peace Corps service, including Peace Corps’ pre-departure safety and security information located here (link), and Core Expectations for Volunteers information located here (link). Consider the project description and primary assignment duties very carefully when making your decision. In accepting this assignment, you are making a commitment to the project, the country, and the Peace Corps.
A critical pre-departure requirement for invitees is gaining Final Medical Clearance, requiring complete Physical and Dental Exams by appropriate medical practitioners and possible follow-up to be determined by the Office of Medical Services (OMS), starting up to six months before departure and finishing at least two months before departure. In accepting this invitation, you must be available to complete all necessary medical tasks within the time window. Please factor this requirement and timeframe into your decision and into your pre-departure plans, particularly any travel plans. OMS will email you concerning your physical examination up to 180 days prior to your Staging/departure date.
Please complete the attached Invitation Decision Form within seven calendar days if you decide to accept our invitation. If we do not hear from you within this period, the assignment may be offered to another applicant and your application will be withdrawn from further consideration. If you decide to decline this invitation, you must reply to this email with a written statement indicating your reason(s) for declining, within seven calendar days. If you have questions about this process please call the Placement Office by telephone at (855) 855-1961, option 1, extension 1840. Please note that applicants who decline their first invitation will only be issued a second invitation in exceptional circumstances. Second invitations are rare.
Please note, accepting your invitation via the Invitation Decision Form automatically informs the Peace Corps of your acceptance. If you accept, you will receive a reply within 3-5 working days of this email confirming your acceptance into this program and detailing next steps.
Because your invitation to serve in Peace Corps is contingent upon final medical and legal clearances, it is important that you respond promptly to any requests for further information. If you have questions, feel free to call the Placement Office at (855) 855-1961, option 1, extension 1840. If the address above is incorrect, please log onto the Applicant Portal and update your address. You will also need to update your address through the Medical Applicant Portal. It is your responsibility to make sure your contact information is up-to-date. If you need to update your address and do not have access to the Applicant Portal, please contact Placement.
We appreciate your desire to make Peace Corps service a part of your future. We look forward to hearing from you soon.
My heart beat at least 1000 miles per hour as I read it over and over again. Mom returned to the car holding aloft a cone of glorious vanilla goodness.
“Here you are,” she said.
“Mom,” I replied. “I’m going to Zambia.”
And thus began the chorus of shock, awe, support, and other incredulous responses as I called friends and family to notify them of my placement. Zambia. The reality of it is just now beginning to set in. I have so much reading to do, so much to learn, beginning with all of the documents they sent with my invite.
The Zambia Welcome book
Peace Corps Core Volunteer Expectations
2011 Volunteer Handbook (which is the most updated version, apparently, and is 110 pages of reading)
Peace Corps On the Homefront (for families of PCVs)
My specific invitation in the Rural Aquaculture Program!
I have yet to actually accept my invitation as I plan to read through all they’ve sent first. As the invite email said, I have seven days during which to think about my decision. I currently plan to accept the invite and depart for Zambia (barring any changes) in February. While I have been warned that the waiting was the easy part, I am given courage by the opening paragraph of the Volunteer Handbook:
“Congratulations on your decision to become a Peace Corps Volunteer! You are joining an extraordinary group of Americans who, like yourself, have sought the challenges that are unique to Peace Corps service: the opportunity to live in a different culture, to learn a new language, and to forge lasting relationships with the people of your host country and fellow Volunteers. At the same time, you will share your skills, patience, and idealism with people who want to build a better future for their communities. Your work will be demanding, but the time and energy you give to the people of your host community will leave an impression for years to come. Moreover, the personal rewards of Peace Corps service will enrich your life long after your overseas service.”