The Application Process Itself

The first part of this process is deciding where you want to go and what you want to do. Applications that provide the most flexibility in where and what have the most chance of progressing onwards, but you also need to be honest. If there is one particular country you definitely do not want to serve in, you need to make that clear in the comments section at least. If you are determined that you only want that one country, that one position, it will be harder to move onwards in the process. The Peace Corps is very competitive and there are a lot of people out there that are happy to go anywhere, as long as they are serving in some capacity, so keep that in mind.

Also, please make sure this is something you really want, that you are prepared for a 2 year commitment, that you can handle that long away from family, friends, and everything you’ve always known. It’s not going to be an easy experience by any means, and if you don’t think you’re up for it, then maybe think longer before you do something about it.

One of the main tricks to getting to the interview stage of the applications process is applying early. Each country handles their applicants and interviewing process differently. Some countries wait until the “Apply by” date to begin reviewing applications and deciding who to interview, while others do so gradually as they are submitted. However, why take the chance? If you’ve got the will and you’ve got the materials ready then you shouldn’t wait. Do it ASAP for the best chance of success.

The next important part of the application process it the motivational statement. This is all about why you want to serve and why they should pick you. Kind of like a cover letter in fact, but more specific. I would strongly suggest reading a variety of other PCVs essays to see their format, and see the kinds of things the PC is looking for. You should also submit the optional cover letter, and for this I put a bit more of my emotional reasoning into my writing.

Motivational Statement Prompt: Peace Corps service presents major physical, emotional, and intellectual challenges. In the space below, please provide a few paragraphs explaining your reasons for wanting to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer and how you plan to overcome the various challenges associated with Peace Corps service (less than 500 words).

My motivational essay is below. Please do not plagiarize it. I used other people’s application essays for inspiration and welcome others to do so with mine.

Over the last six months, with graduation from university looming ever closer, my post-graduation plans have returned repeatedly to the same general themes of travel, service, and learning languages or teaching English. I am interested in teaching English abroad, volunteering in my local community, working for wildlife conservation and education organizations, and traveling globally to broaden my experiences and cultural knowledge. Traveling, using my unique skill set to solve problems, learning from other people and cultures, and helping people who need it, without ulterior motive or desire for compensation is where I see my life heading. The Peace Corps program provides a unique opportunity to fulfill all of these desires, and to teach me how to be a globally conscious international citizen, to live and rely on myself, to become part of and work with local communities to provide lasting and sustainable solutions to community problems, and to be directly involved in organizing community programs and agricultural outreach.

My focus in university has been on wildlife conservation and management, with a specialization focusing on human-wildlife conflict mitigation and communication with locals. This is a cause near and dear to my heart, guiding me along my future path to bridge the gap between local communities and the natural environment around them. I genuinely believe that agroforestry and diverse agricultural methods can be used to create sustainable communities, and my education in agriculture, forestry, and livestock nutrition give me the background to excel in promoting and working in these areas. The Peace Corps will allow me to use my passion for sustainable agriculture and environmental education to serve others first, and work with the entire community to achieve common goals.

The Peace Corps stresses that service will present times of hardship, physical exertion, emotional difficulties, and intellectual challenges. I know it’s not going to be easy. If chosen to volunteer, I know there will be times when I will struggle to find my way to serve the community and achieve the goals I have been given. I will be placed in situations that will push my comfort zone and test my ability for adaptability and to roll with the challenges as they appear. If my childhood of moving from place to place has taught me anything, it’s that adaptability is crucial when attempting to integrate into new communities, compromise is invaluable when working with diverse groups of people, and new challenges sometimes bring out truly wonderful qualities – not only in leaders – but in the entire group of people working together to solve community problems.

My Cover Letter: 

Dear Peace Corps Recruiters,

I’m going to be honest and say that I did not really know that the Peace Corps existed until about 3 months ago. I had heard the name bandied about among fellow students and faculty at my university, but on some level I thought it was a civilian volunteer branch of the military. Then, one day in late November 2016, I heard about an information session happening on campus at Oregon State University. As I was near where it was happening I thought I’d attend and see what all the fuss was about. In 60 minutes, my world opened up. In 60 minutes I found something meaningful that I realized I really wanted to do. In 60 minutes, my plan for the next few years changed. Attending that information session was possibly the single best spontaneous decision I have ever made.

I am a senior in college right now, studying Fisheries & Wildlife science with a specialization in rangeland species conservation and agricultural influences on wildlife. My post-school plans were to work seasonal 3-6 month positions during the summer for government departments until I had earned my dues, made contacts, attained a Master’s degree, and found a permanent position 7-10 years down the line. I wanted my life to mean something down the line, to eventually make an impact and work in rural communities to bridge the gap between agricultural interests and predator conservation interests. I still want to end up working in these communities to mitigate livestock loss to predation events, while still conserving the biodiversity and beauty of the native wildlife communities. While I am still passionate about conserving wildlife and natural areas, that’s not enough for me anymore. I have discovered a will to help people too, in whatever way they need.

When I discovered the Peace Corps, I discovered the thing that would mesh both my love of natural ecosystems with my care for local communities. Whether I end up educating and engaging people with their natural environment, or working with local agricultural farmers to improve production practices, I feel like I could make a difference – even if only a small one. I realize I’m not going to solve world hunger in a day, or a year, or even 10 years, but every little bit helps, every bit of community engagement makes a difference, and I would be truly honored to be a part of that. I hope that my particular talents can be put to good use out in the world, and even if I do not get the position in the Peace Corps this time around, I intend to go out into the world and find a way to help people somehow.

I thank you for your consideration and hope that I can be a part of the Peace Corps mission.

Respectfully,

~Lara Chodelski

If you get chosen for an interview, you will get an email with instructions about how to sign in for Business Skype. It says to do it “10 minutes before your scheduled interview”, but I would try it out the night before at least to make sure that the program can connect your webcam and microphone with the program. There is an add-in that you have to download that may take some time and even though the add-in downloaded fine for me, it still wouldn’t connect properly with my computer. I ended up having to do a phone interview. So definitely have one of those on hand. When you answer the questions I have listed below in the interview, be aware that after you give your anecdote about “a time when [blank] happened that prepared you for [blank]” be prepared for the follow up of “and how is what you learned in this experience going to help you should you be chosen to serve in the PC”. It’s a bit of a nerve-wreaking experience, but stay calm, practice before hand, and make sure you dress well at least from the waist up and are in a quiet place with no distractions or strange background. It’s a job interview like anything else, except since you really really want this opportunity, you really want to be seen as professional. Also, remember to try and let who you are show through a little bit. They not only want to know how you will handle challenges, but they will also be evaluating your people-person skills. Presumably. Be professional, but be you, not a stiff board or a dead fish.

Interview Questions for preparation:

  • Why do you want to serve in the PC? Why choose the PC instead of some other aid organization? Why were you interested in [Country]?

You will be asked about past and current long term experiences that relate to the following:

  • living or working with people from another culture;
  • working in an unstructured environment;
  • fulfilling an important but difficult commitment;
  • working in a challenging team dynamic;
  • transferring knowledge or skills; and
  • failing to achieve a desired goal that was within your control.

Try to share different experiences for each of these subjects.

During the interview, you should discuss any concerns about commonly faced challenges during service, such as:

  • Uncommon foods/lack of variety in diet, altered living conditions, and modifying appearance
  • Separation from family/friends/significant other, geographic/volunteer isolation, and perception of privacy
  • Traditional gender roles, diversity and inclusion challenges in another culture, and communal/personal religious views

*Disclaimer: The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Tanzanian Government. I am obligated to post this message due to the fact that these photos and posts are solely my experiences and interpretations of my experience of the Tanzanian culture.

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