My wife and I decided to apply to the Peace Corps, and after reviewing how long and intricate the process can be for individuals I felt it would be beneficial for us to share our experience through the process. Also, as of August 2012 the application process has been update. From my understanding, a “quick” process for a single applicant is around 8 months. However, for couples it is usually 12 months. The reasoning for this is they have to find a location that is in need of both applicants skills, plus the whole background check and interview process is doubled.
General Question: The questions seem to be very similar, if not the same, as from what I’ve researched as past examples of the question – even though this is their “new” application. It is very in depth and takes a long time to complete. Let me state that again, it takes a looooooooong time to complete. They want to know everything about you, where you are from, your education level, work experience, language skills, financial obligations (loans, alimony, mortgage) other various skills (such as business, agriculture, teaching, etc.) and then there are the essay questions. A tip regarding your financial obligations, if you have any be ready to be able to report on them and how you will continue to make payments while serving in the Peace Corps. If someone is going to be making payments on your behalf, you will need a notarized note.
You will need to provide a professional, personal and volunteer reference. The volunteer reference is someone who you have worked with for a volunteer project in the past, in my case I contact an adult literacy center I volunteered for. My wife contacted her undergraduate sorority alumni adviser and had her serve as a reference since they worked together on various small volunteering projects.
Essay Questions: There are numerous essay questions, most of them were couple specific:
What do you view as the biggest challenges Peace Corps service will present to you as a couple? Have you confronted similar challenges in your relationship in the past? If so, how did you overcome them? If not, what relevant experience have you shared as a couple that will be helpful in meeting these challenges?
What are your expectations about serving in the Peace Corps as individuals and as a couple?
Couples must be prepared to live and train in separate communities during the three-month pre-service training, as couples typically serve in different Assignment Areas requiring separate trainings in community-based locations. Additionally, couples must be prepared to endure periods of separation during service due to service-related duties, medical issues, etc. Such periods of separation may be difficult for newly married couples, as well as more established couples. Please describe how you think you would cope with separation from your spouse during pre-service training, as well as during your service, while keeping in mind communication options may be extremely limited even within your country of service.
Upon completion of pre-service training, couples will be placed in the same community and share a household together. Typically, such households will have 2-3 small rooms, although some may be limited to one small hut or living space. Living quarters may feel cramped at times in comparison to housing standards in the United States. Additionally, many couples will find they share workspace and spend a significant amount of time together while collaborating on community work activities. At times, it may be difficult for individuals in a couple to find adequate time, or space, where they can be alone. Please describe how you think you may cope with living in close quarters with your spouse, and how you may cope with limited options for spending time alone.
Many cultures are characterized by clearly defined gender roles that differ from those in the U.S. How do you believe you will deal with situations that may cause strain on you as an individual, and on your relationship? For example, the credit for a wife’s work may be attributed to her husband, or a husband may be teased for washing dishes or clothes, as this is considered “women’s work.”
Documents: Make sure that you also have a PDF copy of important documents such as transcripts, marriage license, resume and if you hold any certifications such as foreign language, teaching license, etc.
Skills section: This portion of the application wants to know everything about the skills you have and the skills you would be willing to learn. I clicked yes on agriculture and had to answer around four detailed questions about my agricultural experience (umm personal gardening), affiliation with organizations like 4H, and my thoughts on pesticides and why. If you have any second language certifications it may be best to track down any forms that you may have. If you took courses in high school or college you can indicate as such.
Overall, the agriculture and language portion was easy because my experience was limited. However for the Education portion, they asked all sorts of questions about my experiences as a teacher, certifications, and such. My wife had to fill out all sorts of business questions, which were hard to answer because most of her experience came from her graduate degree in Organizational Leadership. I felt that I was overly redundant throughout this process, but I guess this is their way to find any inconsistencies if you aren’t being truthful.
Picking a Country: In the past, it was my understanding that you could select the regions that you would be interested in being placed. With the new application, you don’t get that option. Instead the ask you to list the countries you would NOT want to visit and why. It is a little easier to pick where you want to go versus the where you don’t want to go. Especially when they are looking for you to write out an explanation, without trying to sound shallow, uptight, or biased in any way. We left ours blank, in the end they are going to put you where they need you anyways.
Medical Questionnaire: After you complete the application you will quickly receive an email asking you to fill out a health/medical questionnaire. This separate questionnaire is just as in depth as the process. For my wife and I it was easy to zip through because we haven’t had any surgeries, overnight hospital visits, therapy/counseling sessions, or habitual health problems. I’ve read one story where a guy had all sorts of checks and double checks from his orthodontist because he was having braces removed while he was going through the PC process.
Be sure to follow up on our application process.We are completing our timeline, and will write about our interviews and all follow ups as we get further along in the process. Obviously, if we aren’t accepted for any reason our timeline and tips will end there.