After studying abroad at UD, I was inspired to make a difference internationally after graduation. My decision to apply to be a Peace Corps Volunteer was not to be made lightly, as it entails spending 27 months away from family, friends, and a familiar culture. However, the experience offers an opportunity for great personal growth, valuable work experience, and a chance to make an important difference in a developing country.
New Application Process
The application process for the Peace Corps has recently been shortened. Basic personal and language experience information and a short motivational statement (designed to collectively take about an hour to complete) was all I needed to get started.
Following the initial application I filled out a health history survey and an assignment preference form, something new to the process. Assignments used to be given to applicants based on their skills and experience. Now, applicants can browse assignments and apply for specific countries and sectors. I indicated Peru and the environment sector as my first choice for service. For my second and third preferences, however, I indicated that I would be open to serving wherever I was needed in the environment, followed by anywhere for agriculture. Applicants can indicate that they are open to any sector where their skills are most needed. When applying, I tried to be flexible while keeping in mind an idea of the type of environment I was looking for. Some assignments are more rustic than others, so keep your comfort and isolation preferences in mind so that your experience is positive.
After submitting the initial forms, I waited for a month and a half. When I heard back, I was given a country and a sector where I was being considered for service. For Paraguay, I am required to have basic Spanish proficiency. I was asked to detail the experience I had with the language. Some programs require language proficiency, while others do not (if the country in question uses English or a language not often taught in U.S. schools). If you wish to serve in a Spanish or French speaking country, take courses in college or gain experience through immersion before applying.
After submitting information on my language experience, I did some more waiting. A month later, I was invited to interview with a Peace Corps Placement Specialist. The interview was 1.5 hours long and was partially a discussion of the details of service in Paraguay. What caught me most off guard were the questions about the times in my life during which I felt most stressed or unable to control a situation. These are important questions to ask applicants, as Peace Corps service is extremely challenging.
When preparing for the interview, come up with the questions you have about service, because it is just as much a time for you to evaluate your interest in the position as it is a chance for the interviewer to evaluate your ability to serve.
About a week after completing the interview, I was sent an invitation to train as a Protected Areas Management Promotor in Paraguay!
My advice to you as a Peace Corps applicant is to take time to consider the length of commitment, and be open to discussing your weaknesses at length (along with how you’ve overcome obstacles associated with them). Be flexible while at the same time remembering what you want to get out of your service, because it will shape your life for the next two years!
Written By: Kerry Snyder
Kerry Snyder is a recent graduate of the University of Delaware from Centre Hall, Pennsylvania. As an undergrad, Kerry majored in Wildlife Conservation and Agriculture and Natural Resources and completed a minor in Environmental Humanities. She worked as a student assistant at the Institute for Global Studies and was a Student Ambassador for the Delaware Environmental Institute. She will be starting her training as a Peace Corps Volunteer this September. Feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org!