What a long and winding road it has been!
I felt a bit cursed writing this pre-departure, but with my clearances done and staging this weekend, I feel like I’m finally safe to go ahead with it.
This Sunday I’ll be meeting around 100 other bright-eyed trainees in Philadelphia, before we ship off to Casablanca the next evening to begin our Peace Corps journey. We’ll spend our first three months in Morocco doing in-depth language and cultural training before we swear in for our two year service as Youth in Development volunteers.
I want to start from the beginning, and it seems like my application timeline is a smart place to start.
If you are a prospective Peace Corps volunteer, you might be a bit daunted by my “third time’s the charm” situation. Please know that while many volunteers apply multiple times, my situation involved long periods between applications, and applying to (arguably) one of the most popular positions.
The Peace Corps is an organization I have admired for a long time, though to be honest I didn’t know much about it until Thanksgiving of 2016. I was looking up programs abroad (and being bombarded by voluntourism, expensive programs, and Ph. D requirements) when I came across the Peace Corps website. I remember looking through the mission and goals thinking “oh no, oh no, oh no, what have I done?”
The more I researched, the more I was sure that it was something I wanted to do. I’ve always been a big proponent of long-term, nuanced cultural understanding and intercultural relationships. Also, like, getting to know people. The volunteers I saw seemed smart, open-minded, and well-adjusted within their communities. I had a gut feeling, and here we are.
For those who aren’t familiar, these are the three Peace Corps goals:
The Peace Corps MissionTo promote world peace and friendship by fulfilling three goals:
- To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
- To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
- To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
Beyond those goals, there were a few factors that drew me to Peace Corps as well. First, volunteers are compensated for their work. Though the monthly stipend is small (meant to let you get by at the level of your community), we also receive insurance, 3 months of training, a readjustment sum, and numerous government benefits for our time. While I support many experiential international volunteer programs, many make it impossible for the non-wealthy to participate, and it was important to me that Peace Corps didn’t fall into this category.
I also like the inherent respect Peace Corps seems to display for its host countries. The “othering” is put to a minimum. It’s not a perfect organization, nor should it be expected to be so, but the seeds of white saviorism have been squashed at every opportunity and replaced with substantial grassroots development.
I’m really looking forward to learning a third language, and to practicing my French in the more touristy Moroccan cities. Besides one basic Arabic class almost two years ago and a few informative Youtube videos, I have no experience with the language. I’m excited and a little overwhelmed by the challenge.
I’ve seen other YiD (can you see me easing you into the PC acronyms?) volunteers start clubs at the Dar Chebab (youth center), run summer camps, teach yoga, run empowerment weekends, tutor English, and use their unique talents to benefit their host community.
I made the decision to reapply twice, with the same first choice position and country. I’ve been asked since why I was so stuck on Morocco – while I have many reasons I felt drawn to this post, the real answer is more practical. As you’ll notice, the Peace Corps application process, even just one time around, is a long one. By the time my first application was rejected, I was preparing to graduate college and made the decision to stay in Nashville for another year. On my next applications, I had to keep in mind what departure dates worked best for my job and lease schedule. The fall was always the ideal time for me to leave, and of the fall departures, Morocco was my first pick.
From what I can remember, my position choice was the same on each application: 1) Morocco, 2) Senegal, 3) Wherever I’m needed most.
Peace Corps Timeline – Youth in Development in Morocco
12/5/16 First application submitted
12/28/16 Under Consideration for Morocco
1/12/17 Interview Request
3/1/17 Know-by date, application denied
8/9/17 Second application submitted
8/25/17 Removed from consideration
*yearlong mental preparation for another rejection*
8/23/18 Third application submitted
8/27/18 Application pulled from Morocco, put under Namibia
8/28/18 Under Consideration for Namibia
*long interlude where I convince several people that I have never had asthma*
10/10/18 Under Consideration for Morocco
11/29/18 Interview Request (references all submitted within 3 days)
*longer interlude for government shutdown to benefit evil man*
3/4/19 Invitation to Serve, three days after the original know-by date. I freaked out in the middle of a Latin American grocery store in Nashville and I called everyone I knew while eating tacos and frijoles refritos :’)
*lots of appointments*
4/19/19 Dental Clearance
5/19/19 No-Fee Passport Issued
5/30/19 Legal Clearance Granted
6/20/19 Medical Clearance (just a few days after final follow-up submitted)
9/8/19 Staging in Philadelphia (departure for Morocco the next day)
And, just for fun: my scheduled date of return is November 26, 2021.
I hope to document more of my time in Morocco through this blog. There’s an email subscription box in the bottom right corner, if you’d like to follow along.
If I had been studying Darija at all this summer I would write goodbye here, but I can’t remember how 🙂 talk soon!