Oh boy, where to start. Well here's a little glimpse into what I have been through in the past year or so. A quick summary, if you will. When I get a chance I will update this to be alot more thorough.
August 2009-Submitted my very lengthy application. It consisted of several essays on cultural experience, motivation, goals, etc; three letters of recommendation; and a complete background check, including legal, financial, and all that good stuff.
September 2009-nothing exciting happened. just waiting to hear if I would be accepted to interview with a RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer) in the Regional Headquarters in New York.
October 2009-Still waiting. This is something I will get VERY used to.
November 2009-Granted an interview in New York. This means that from my application I am deemed qualified, based on my skill set, to serve as a PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer).
On November 9th, I travelled to NYC via Amtrak to interview with a RPCV in the region headquarters at 2pm. I studied a list of possible questions that the interviewer would ask on a peace corps wiki site, and thank god I did, because they were the exact questions I was asked word for word. Overall I thought the interview went well, but there were some areas I could have expanded on. My interviewer said I could expect to hear an answer in about two weeks if I would be nominated or not.
When I woke up the next morning, I found that I had an email from her. In it, it stated that I was nominated to teach math in Africa leaving in September of 2010. The way this step works is if you are qualified skill wise and, I guess personality-wise, you get nominated. What that means is I am qualified and able to teach math based on my engineering degree. I was scheduled to leave in September of 2010, because, I was still under the assumption I would be able to finish my degree on time (June 2010) and therefore would have three months for myself to travel and visit everyone before I left for 27 months. I was also nominated for a general region (Africa). This was based on my preference, or lack there of. I said I was willing to go anywhere, and it just so happened that Africa is where my skills were needed first based on my availability. Unfortunately, I was told that no matter that I was a perfect match for doing Environmental and Sustainable Engineering projects in South and Central America, I would not be nominated for these programs because I did not speak Spanish. Oh well, I am happy with going to Africa.
I was also told that I would receive the Medical Packet in the mail within a few weeks. Once I received it, I would have about three months to complete it and send it back. This is where things start to go downhill.
December 2009-By now, I had just started feeling better after having E.Coli from drinking some contaminated water in Jamaica, while on an assessment trip for Engineers Without Borders. This slight incident put a wrench in my plan for the upcoming year. Because of the E.Coli, I had missed about six weeks of school, in the fall term of my senior year. I needed to finish my research and begin writing my thesis, as well as take about six graduate courses. To make matters worse, I then got Swine Flu on top of it. I was constantly playing catch up with school work and consequently could not start writing my thesis. This would set me back about three months.
Now, in addition to playing catch up with school work, I had to prove to Peace Corps that I was healthy enough to go abroad for 27 months. I guess for normal people this wouldnt have been such a big deal. Everyone gets a cold, the flu, E.Coli, right? Yeah well ok, that might not be thatttttt big a deal, since if I do go abroad I can definitely count on having E.Coli or another GI water-borne disease during my service. But to make things fun, I am severely, to the point where I can die, allergic to Peanuts and Walnuts. oh and I have a history of asthma and a bee sting allergy. Right of the bat, Peace Corps has a disclaimer, if you have any number of certain diseases you will most likely not be accepted. Severe allergies were on this list. But I had a very encouraging friend who was also a PCV in Jamaica that pushed me to apply anyways, and that, I am a very qualified individual and that my motivation and drive would shine through: Peace Corps would make it work for someone like me. She turned out to be right, and I could not have gone through this process without her. Thank you so much Lindsay.
Anyways, back to my history of illness. so yeah, I needed to convince Peace Corps I was medically fit to go abroad where the likelihood of having medical facilities accessible was virtually non-existant. During December, I had all four of my wisdom teeth removed, as requested by Peace Corps and recommended by my dentist. That was fun. Also during this time, I was in and out of my primary care doctor due to the after effects of the E.coli and the swine flu. I had been multiple times for blood work, because my lymph nodes would not go back to the normal size. It was apparent something was wrong, but no doctor could determine what it was, and no amount of blood work would turn up anything out of the ordinary.
January 2010-I continue with all my Peace Corps Medical paperwork. This includes a physical, blood work for things I had never heard of (example: GP3 something, which determines if your able to take malaria pills), urinalysis, and numerous shots. I had to get ANOTHER MMR and Polio booster shot. Ouch! In addition, I had to go to the Eye Doctor, back to the Dentist for more X-Rays to prove that my wisdom teeth were in fact removed, and to my PHCP (Primary health care physician) numerous times for signatures. Also during this time, luckily my Pediatrician is a family friend, because I needed records of all my immunizations. I also thought I would have to go back to the Allergist to prove the severity of my allergies. Luckily, the Peace Corps OMS (Office of Medical Services) told me that I should only have to provide my history. So here I go again, calling and asking for all my files sent to me. I cant even tell you how many times I went into Yury's Office to use the Fax machine to send/receive my medical files and give authorization to have them released. It took forever!
February 2010-I think by now I have finally sent in all my last paperwork. Phew! Thats done, for now at least. Its all out of my hands now. Now I just wait for an answer.
March 2010-Waiting, waiting, waiting. Perhaps during this time, I was contacted for supplemental forms, but honestly I cant remember, its a bit of a blur.
April 2010-This time sticks out in my mind in particular. Its been months since I have sent in my medical forms and I just want an answer. I cant take the waiting. If you are going to reject me, just do it already. It was the end of Spring Break (I had gone on Alternative Spring Break to South Carolina), all the girls on the trip had gotten wish bracelets? I naturally had wished for an answer regarding my medical clearance, with no hope that this stupid bracelet would actually work. It was the next week after I had returned home to school. It had broke on a tuesday night.
Wednesday I had a letter in the mail from OMS. It stated that I had been conditionally medically cleared. What this meant was I was cleared but could only go to certain places based on my medical needs. It stated that Peace Corps would do its best to accommodate my needs, but at times it was simple impossible, albeit rare. Wow. What a relief! I was actually cleared medically to go and serve!!!!
May 2010-So for normal applicants who dont have any medical issues, they would be medically cleared and placed to a country and program relatively soon. In my case, Peace Corps needed to do an extra step before I could be invited. This obviously meant more waiting...Oh and now Im back in the doctors because I havent had my period in over 7 months. This cant be healthy. More bloodwork, nothing. Everything comes back perfectly normal. Maybe its because I have lost more than 20 lbs in about five weeks when I had E.coli and still have yet to gain it back. Maybe its because my immune system is stilled messed up, maybe its stress. The doctors give me a 100 different reasons.
June 2010-Waiting..Waiting..Starting to get a little nervous since I was supposed to have graduated by now, but yeah because of that stupid E.coli I was way behind schedule. So now the pressure was on to finish, wait I should say START my thesis and then finish it all by September, which was when I was scheduled to leave.
End of June, I traveled to Kansas City, MO for my roommates graduation party. First night Im there, I end up in the ER due to an acute allergic reaction. I think to myself, GREAT! I just spent 4 months trying to convince Peace Corps that I am healthy and that my allergy is controlled, possibly even less severe because I havent had a reaction in more than 10 years. And now im in the ER, my body covered in hives and a throat that is slowly swelling shut. GREAT GREAT GREAT. And now I have to send all the ER paperwork and reports to OMS. Im surely going to be rejected now. My dream is over.
July 2010-Writing writing writing my thesis. It sucks. I have no life. and Im so afraid PC is going to reject me now. I procrastinate at sending the ER Report, and partly because I am caught up in my thesis I forget. Eventually, I get around to it. End of July I get an email from a PC Rep. It states that she needs copies of my Official Transcripts showing the date my degree was completed in full. Im freaking out. I still havent technically graduated. I am only about half way done with my thesis. OMG after all this medical stuff and now Im not going to be able to serve because I didnt graduate on time. She also needs an update resume to include any new volunteer experience and a Skill Set form outlining all my skills and any professional development courses I have taken, etc. At the bottom it says not to send anything unless its all at once. Great now I have to wait until I graduate. Everything is over. Im not going to graduate until september which is when I was supposed to leave. She calls a week later, but I miss the call. On the voicemail she says that if she doesnt hear from me by the end of the week, she will consider it that I am no longer interested in serving as a PCV and my application will be withdrawn. Im panicking. I call her back immediately and explain the situation. She explains to me that she really only needs my resume and skill set form. The transcripts are more of a formality and those can be sent later. Crises averted. Phew! Again that is, but not for long Im sure.
August 2010-I have sent the ER Report and now Im just waiting to be rejected, even after making it this far. Im so close to an invitation and now this stupid allergy is going to ruin it for me. August 9th: I receive an email from my PO (Placement Officer). She explains that she as completed the preliminary review of my placement but would like to know how I feel about service, since its been so long that I first applied. She asks a series of questions and I am required to answer them and send them back to her. She also includes a note about my medical clearance:
Luckily based on my answers to her questions, she qualifies me for placement. Now I just need to wait. what a surprise that is! Ha! In turn I have my own questions. Its now August, and I was supposed to leave in September, thats not feasible is it? No she tells me, but shes waiting medical approval for programs in Africa that leave in October and November 2010. Looks like Im still going to Africa!
August 16th, I am at Rosemary's (the Vice Principal of Our Mother of Sorrows, who has been a very important person throughout my application as well!) house dogsitting, I am explaining to her the latest updates in my process, when the phone rings. Its a 202 number. By now, I recognize 202 to be Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, DC. I answer the phone. Its a Rep from OMS. She wants to discuss my ER Report. She asks me some questions; why didnt I use my epipen? Do I know how to use it? Would I use it if I had to? Would I know when I needed to? Overall it was not a very promising call. She sounded very unsure that I could take care of myself in the event of an emergency. I was freaking out (again). This was the end. I was SOOO close to an invitation. I had been in contact with the PO things were moving along and now this call. the Rep at OMS said she need to talk to the doctor and reach a conclusion. Im heartbroken. But now all I can do is wait. wait. wait.
August 25th I wake up to find an email. The subject line is: Peace Corps Invitation. I nearly die. Finally, I made it! Im going to become a Peace Corps Volunteer.