Interview on Friday!

May 26, 2010

I’m going to preface this entry by informing everyone that I’m going to sound like a horrible Peace Corps applicant. I know that many people have the idea that anyone applying for the Peace Corps needs to be completely selfless, be willing to give up their entire life for 27 months with no questions asked, and not care in the slightest what work area they are put in and what country they are sent to. I would love to say that I’m one of those people … but unfortunately, I’m not.

What I am is an individual who was born to help people. I’m a woman who has dedicated her entire life to being there for others and putting other people first. I’m a woman who feels unfulfilled in her current life and wants to do more to help those who really need it. But I’m also a woman who knows who I am, what I can handle, and how that plays in to the Peace Corps application process … hence, the remainder of this entry.

My interview is on Friday. I turned in my application last Monday. That means in the course of eleven days I will have filled out an application, sent it in, received follow up documentation, turned that in, and conducted an interview … and hopefully soon after that receive a nomination. That’s a pretty quick turn around if you ask me … especially when my decision to join the Peace Corps happened in about 24 hours. Let me explain.

I know the majority of people think about joining the Peace Corps for a long time. They get the idea when they are young or in college and hold on to that idea until they have time to actually put in their application and serve. I am a different story. I’ve thought about it before in the past, but never really entertained the thought for very long. The idea of leaving for 27 months seemed crazy for me so I just let the thoughts go.

The last two years though have been ones of transition for me. I was unhappy in my job, discontent with my living situation, and overall feeling very unfulfilled. I have spent the last two years trying to figure out how to fix that – a new job, a new place to live, maybe a new city. Then, two weekends ago I had a random thought about the Peace Corps again … and this time, the idea stuck. I chatted with my best friend who basically told me it was an incredible idea and that he’s surprised I hadn’t come up with it sooner. After that conversation and a few more hours of research, I decided to apply.

So the idea is still very new to me. I’ve spent the last ten days or so thinking about the program nonstop. I’ve read every page on the website, scanned every country for the programs I’d like to be a part of, read through journals and blogs of those who have served, and spoken with a friend who just returned from Tanzania two weeks ago. Through all of that though, I’ve still been hesitant. The excitement is there, but it’s not overflowing like I read in the posts of many other applicants. I’ve been worried that maybe that means I’m not meant to serve … but yesterday, I had two realizations.

First, I don’t want to teach. From day one I assumed that my only option with the Peace Corps was to teach. I’m an English teacher here in the states so why wouldn’t that be what I do overseas? Seems logical. The problem is, that isn’t what I want to do. Yes, I teach as a profession, but I don’t enjoy it. I’ve realized in the last two years that teaching is not what I was meant to do.

My passion is in helping the kids. I teach because it opens doors to coaching positions, tutoring positions, and after school activity positions. Those are the things I love to do. My passion is serving on boards and committees for youth programs. My passion is teaching my leadership classes, not English. So in reality, I want to work in Youth Development. That is where my passion is … but they need teachers. Will they listen to that request? I have qualifications for both, but will they really listen to my desire to work in that area? That I’m not sure of … and that worries me.

Second, I’m not one of those individuals who can pick up a map, point a finger, and go anywhere. I would really love to be one of those people who could say “send me wherever you want, I’ll take it,” but I’m not. I know that’s what being in the Peace Corps is all about … applicants are supposed to be willing to go anywhere they tell you to and do so with excitement and enthusiasm. I can’t do that.

The reason is because I have a history of anxiety. It’s not something that will get in the way of medical clearance; I haven’t had an anxiety attack in nearly five years and have been off medication for two, but the fact is it is still a part of my past. The reason I have been so successful in keeping the anxiety from returning is because I’ve learned about myself and what I can and cannot handle. I’ve found ways of living my life that keep me grounded. And, the one thing that I have realized I need in order to keep that grounded feeling is access to my family.

They could put me in any living conditions, in any program, and I would do well. Throw me into a new culture, new language, new traditions, and I’d love it. Give me a job with no guidelines and I’d happily create them on my own. I don’t care about awkward, uncomfortable, or unknown … I can handle all that, as long as I have access to my family and my support system. The thing is, I don’t really even need to see them. I could go the entire two years without seeing them and be just fine. All I really need is the comfort of knowing that I have access to them if it becomes necessary – if someone in my family gets sick, if I decide I want to take a vacation home with some of my leave, if my family wants to come and visit me. As long as I know that those things are options, I would flourish. But, that means I’d need to be placed where I could afford a plane ticket home, or my family could afford a plane ticket to me … and that limits the places I could go.

Now I know many of you applicants are reading that and saying “if she has restrictions like that, then she shouldn’t serve … she shouldn’t feel that way … she doesn’t understand the true mentality of a PCV,” but I completely disagree. In reality I absolutely know the mentality of a PCV, what it means to serve, and what our job would be … I’m being honest with myself. I know what I need in order to make it the entire 27 months without leaving early or feeling like I can’t do it. I know how I function and how I flourish. I respect the Peace Corps enough not to take the chance of going somewhere, getting overwhelmed, and packing my bags for home. Or worse, staying the entire time but not doing the job to the best of my ability. I’d rather go in with preferences or restrictions and be told no than go in with none, be given a nomination, and not be able to do my duty the way it should be done.

So, I go into my interview on Friday with “preferences,” a sin in the eyes of applicants and recruiters. I want more than anything to serve as a volunteer. I want more than anything to go help in another country, learn a new culture, appreciate what it means to be unique or less privileged … I want this to be my life. I just hope they see that desire and give me a nomination.

I guess we’ll find out on Friday.

6 Responses to “Interview on Friday!”

  1. Nicole Says:

    Wow… You remind me so much of myself… I am getting ready for my online interview in about an hour here actually… We are doing it online… To calm my nerves, I started reading applicant blogs on the PC Journals website and I found your post… This is actually the first response I have ever given on one of these! All I can say is that our reasons for doing this are so much alike. I am currently in a very confusing career and life situation, and I seem to have made to decision to apply to the PC very quickly… (within a week or so).. I had always known the PC existed but never really considered it an option for myself. One day, the thought just came to me again and I thought, “WOW, I CAN do this…for myself dispite what anyone else will think.” And actually, everyone else in my life has been very supportive! I was amazed… I had the application, legal kit, and additional addenda completed within about two weeks… and here I sit waiting for my interview during week number four… It is so crazy how this is happening so quickly… In certain ways, it seems only half-real that I am actually doing this. I feel very inadequate about my decision after reading about all of the PC applicants who have extensive overseas volunteer experience, extensive local community service experience, and have been preparing for the PC all through college… All I have to offer is a pretty strong professional resume and limited volunteer experience… Will that be enough? Also, the decision to leave for 27 months is very liberating but also very scary. This is the first decision EVER that I have made for myself, not really worrying too much about the financial or career impacts it will have on my life. I guess I sort of think of this as a calling and that fate will help me figure the rest out… Anyway, there is so much more that I would like to say, but I need to get started setting up my NetX for my interview… We’ll see how this goes! lol… I would love to keep in touch with you and stay posted on your experiences. Good luck with your interview on Friday!🙂

    • kylenemichele Says:

      Nicole,

      I commend you for apply for PC! As you said, your situation sounds very similar to mine … a very quick decision, but one you feel in your heart is right, even if your head hasn’t caught up yet!

      I’m glad to hear that your family and friends are supportive. Mine are about 50-50. Those that are are extremely supportive, those that aren’t are really just nervous and scared for me because of the distance, length of time, and possible living situations. All things I can remedy by sharing as much information with them as possible.

      As for your worries about experience, I honestly believe that if you are a strong candidate who shows that you are dedicated to helping others and committing yourself to serve, that you will be fine. It sounds like your extensive resume can be helpful. Volunteer experience is obviously helpful, but so is knowledge and experience in actually career fields … you may not get into the exact work field you want, but I’m sure they’ll have something for you! I’ll cross my fingers for you …

      Do you have any preferences in work fields or locations?

      Anyway, hope your interview goes well. I’d love to hear about it and keep up to date on your status in the application process!

      If you want to contact me my email is kyleneum13@yahoo.com.

      Chat soon …


  2. Howdy honey!

    I’m actually at the waiting-for-the-invite stage, but I wanted to tell you that when I went into my interview I had some of the same preferences. I don’t care where I serve, but when I was asked what I wanted to do I told them honestly: I don’t want to teach. Despite being a teacher for the past year, it’s not what I want to do. So I just wanted to tell you there is an option for us that may or may not make you feel better: teacher trainer. It’s not teaching English in classrooms, but instead working with teachers to improve their methods and what have you. The PC has so few people applying with teaching experience (a requirement to be a teacher trainer) that if you went into the Education field, that’s probably where they would want you.

    If that doesn’t do it for you, which I’m assuming it won’t since you appear to rather want to work with the kids, then just plan on playing up the experience you have for Youth Development. Tell them exactly why you would rather do it, and come in with some ideas on what you could do before placement to improve your resume. Your recruiter may give you a funny look (mine did), but you need to sell yourself and come in with a plan on how to gain more experience, and I’m sure they’ll work with you on it.

    One of the questions they’ll ask you is how flexable are you in where you serve and what you do. Above all just be honest to both them and to yourself. I must say you have a great mentality for the PC BECAUSE you recognise your own limitations. It’s incredibly healthy to know what you can and cannot handel, and that knowledge is what will help you through and not terminate early. So if anyone gives you flack, just smile and ignore them. Your restrictions may make some things harder, but at least if everything works out and you’re invited to serve you will know that you can do it and stick with it until the end. And that’s a very, very good thing.

    Good luck to you!

    • kylenemichele Says:

      Michelle,

      Thanks for your kind words! I agree that it’s a good thing to know your own limitations and what you can and cannot handle … I just hope that those limitations fit well with a placement somewhere🙂 I have a bunch of stuff planned and ready to say to hopefully convince them I have thorough training in the program I want, but if they still think I’m better suited for teaching, then maybe that’s just what I’m going to have to go … we’ll see!

      Nervous for the interview … I’ll post updates afterward!

  3. Jenna Says:

    I wish you the best of luck! I was an applicant myself back in 2008. I even got an invitation, to El Salvador (thru a little Russian roulette) doing Youth Development. But like you, I know my limits, and ES wouldve been too much-various reasons. I declined an invite and inquired about another, but they declined me. However, what happened happened, I then went on my own to china to teach English which was great! But I probably wasn’t straight forward enough with them at the beginning, plus they put me through like 4 nominations!!! (rare). some people bashed me for declining the invite, others stood by me while being understanding and helping me straighten out my emotions. You do what is best for you!

    Be straight forward about your job preferences and job passions. Let them know what will make you succeed. There are plenty of Youth Development, or even Community Development, programs open that can encompas youth. I knew several teachers who went through the PC process and directly stated they didn’t want teaching and why, and they were placed in other various fields. One is happily doing Health in Swaziland, another working with youth in Belize, and another business in Armenia!

    I know I said some confusing things in my comment, a whole lot of “woa!” but email me if you ever have any questions–I have been around the pc process since 2008

  4. Brian Says:

    Funny, my background is in business, but I’m working on a career change going for another Masters, this one in International Affairs, and I am going to wind up telling them that I don’t want to do business in the peace corps.

    So you’re not alone…it’s also funny that, I think I’d like to teach English in the peace corps. I have no experience whatsoever, though. So we’re all in the same boat, just with different fields.

    So do what feels right to you and see where it leads.

    I wish you well.
    Brian


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