I got my invitation in the mail today–I’m officially invited to be a Rural Community Health Advisor in Benin! I still have to read through the information more thoroughly after I turn in this paper that I am in the middle of writing, but I’m 99% sure that I will accept the invitation.  It sounds completely aligned with my interests as far as Community Health goes–I’ll be working mainly on maternal and child health/nutrition and on disease prevention in conjunction with either a local health center or an NGO.  I don’t know much about Benin but from what I’ve read about it so far, it sounds like somewhere I would like to spend two years of my life. I’m fine with a rural placement; in fact, I think I’d prefer that over an urban one, so that sounds great. And the staging date is at the end of June, which is exactly when I was hoping to leave. So all in all, perfect! The only thing that concerns me is that apparently I’m expected to have “working fluency” in French by the end of the 3-month training period…considering how lacking my French skills are, this could be interesting. But I’m sure that the language immersion will help me reach that level quickly.


That’s really the gist of the news.  You may want to skip over this next part, because it will be boring unless you are in the process of applying for Peace Corps.  I’m including a few details of how these changes went down, for other applicants who are (like I was) scouring the web for information on what might be happening in the mysterious PC application process: On Friday of last week (3 weeks and 1 day after I sent my revised resume and was told that I would hear from them in 4-6 weeks), I got a call from a 202 area code around 4:30 in the afternoon. I freaked out when I saw the number, because I was definitely not expecting any other calls from the DC area, but I had also pretty much given up hope on getting the call that week. When I answered, the voice on the other end confirmed that he was from PC Placement and my heart nearly jumped out of my chest. He wanted to schedule a time to have our final interview (unless I had time right then, which of course I did. I mean, really…there was no way I was going to wait until the next week now that I had him on the phone!).  We talked for about 30 minutes about various things: my motivations for doing PC, safety in PC, my support system at home, my vegetarianism, how I would deal with certain situations, etc. At the end, he said the next step was to qualify me for placement and invite me to a program. He said he had a program in mind, and asked me a few questions about changing from the program I was originally nominated for, specifically the departure date.  I said that I’d be more than happy to leave in June instead of September, and he said he’d like to invite me to be a community health advisor in West Africa, leaving at the end of June. After he explained the position a bit, I said I would love to do that and would be extremely excited to accept that invitation.  He said the invitation would be sent the next day, and that I would receive it in 5-10 days. We hung up and I freaked out. I ran to find my housemates and proceeded to scream at them that I was getting an invitation. They have been with me through the whole process, so they knew what a big deal it was, and joined me in celebrating. I could not stop smiling.

I checked the Peace Corps Wiki and saw that Benin was leaving at the end of June, so I suspected that it might be my placement, but I wanted to keep an open mind until I knew for sure.  The e-mail informing me that I had mail that was too big to fit in my dorm mailbox arrived today while I was at my internship. I didn’t tell anyone that it had arrived, even though people knew I was expecting it. I was so nervous my whole way back to school and as I was walking up to Mail Services. When I finally had the package in my hands, I didn’t even know what to do. I’ve been waiting for this for so long that I almost didn’t want to open it. What if it was a letdown? What if I was disappointed by my placement? I finally sat down on a park bench on my way back to my dorm and slowly peeled back the envelope.  I saw the cover page, which said I was invited to Benin. I honestly felt a bit numb (this might have been in part due to the all-nighter I had pulled last night, which meant that I was beyond exhausted) and I thought I might cry (not because I was unhappy but because it was such a relief to find out and generally so emotional). I put the paper back in the envelope, but the envelope in my bag, and went home to take a nap. I held off on telling people for a few hours…I just felt like I needed some time to sit with it by myself before I shared with everyone. But now I’ve told everyone and their brother, it feels like, and it’s on facebook and everything, so it’s official! I’m super excited and can’t believe I’ll be leaving in 2 months!!! It was quite the wait, but it all feels worth it now. So excited to read all about Benin and my placement, but first I need to finish my paper so I can graduate. Peace and love everyone!


Today I got back from class to find an e-mail from the Peace Corps Placement Office waiting in my inbox.  (About time!) 

It was essentially an update, letting me know that they’re starting to look at me for placement (so I guess I jumped the gun a little thinking that they might have been in this process already).  I was asked to send an updated resume, which I did within an hour of receiving the e-mail.  In the process of editing, tweaking, and obsessively triple-checking my resume and then triple-checking it again, I realized I’ve actually gained a lot of relevant experience since I first applied, so I’m glad they are taking that into account. 

I got an e-mail back a little bit after that saying that my application is moving on to the final stage of review (I thought I was already there?) and a “Placement Specialist” will likely be contacting me in 4-6 weeks with some follow-up questions. 

So I am still waiting. But I feel better now that I have a time frame and I know that my application is on track and not just floating out in a bureaucratic sea somewhere. 

In other news, apparently our caps and gowns have arrived and are available to be picked up any time between now and commencement. I guess this graduation thing is actually happening.

Because I don’t have enough other things to be doing….

Surprise!  Christina has started blogging again.  Senior year is in its final stages and my Peace Corps application is in some sort of stage, and the next few entries will probably revolve around these two things.  I’ve been debating beginning to write on here again for awhile now, but generally thought that my life was probably not interesting enough to warrant writing about it.  However, tonight I’ve decided to just go for it for the following reasons:

1) It’s an easy way to preemptively answer the questions that I am being asked all the time regarding Peace Corps

2) I’ve been doing research and have found that it’s trendy to blog about the Peace Corps application process

3) I actually think I might implode from impatience if I don’t have an outlet for it

Here is the updated situation in case I haven’t already told each of you about 8 million times:

I graduate from Tufts on May 22 (this day can’t come soon enough).  My friend Brittany is getting married on June 4, so I’ll be returning home for her wedding at the end of May (my bridesmaid dress is being shipped as I write, which is pretty exciting).  At some point after that, I expect to be leaving for 2 years of Peace Corps service.  I applied during the summer, which was the “deadline” for placements starting this summer.  In the fall, I had an interview at the Peace Corps branch in Boston, which went well.  I received a nomination to do public health work in one of a variety of programs leaving between mid-August and mid-September.  (Keep in mind that any of  this could change–nomination dates, locations, even my job assignment–when I am evaluated for actual placement.)  I completed Medical, Dental, and Legal screening, which was fairly painless except for the part where I had to get my wisdom teeth removed before I could get my dental clearance.  As of sometime in February or March (can’t remember at the moment), I am totally cleared for service.

The next official step in the process is to get an Invitation to serve in a specific country with a specific job assignment.  I’ve been told that I may receive this as little as 6-8 weeks before I leave, in which case I might not get it until June or so.  However, knowing that I told Peace Corps that I could leave as early as June 5 and also that they sometimes give you more notice, I’ve been hopeful that the process might progress around now.  I’ve been doing some research on the Peace Corps wiki (unofficial, but a collection of information provided by volunteers and applicants), and have seen that people are already receiving invitations for August and September.  As you can imagine, this makes me a little anxious and every time I open my e-mail, I hopefully scan the new messages, thinking that there might be a Peace Corps update there.  Alas, no news since I got my medical clearance.

I was under the impression that there wasn’t going to be any more discussion/interaction with me before the Invitation was sent, but some of the blogs I’ve been checking out and information that has filtered to me through friends and acquaintances who know other people who are applying have mentioned being contacted at some point to send a revised resume (luckily I just had to revise my resume for a class, so I’m prepared on that front) and possibly having an involved phone conversation with someone from the Placement office.  Since neither of these things have happened, it’s likely that my invitation won’t be arriving any time soon.  However, I’ve heard stories of people getting theirs without going through these steps.  So it seems that there are very few hard and fast rules about this stage of the process.  It’s a bit frustrating to be in a constant waiting game, but as my recruiter said when she warned me that this stage would come: “It’s a good chance to start practicing some of the most useful Peace Corps skills: patience and flexibility.”  All I really know is that my application is there and they will contact me when I move forward in the process.

Various people have asked me if I’ve been looking into other options in case this doesn’t work out and the answer is basically, “no.”  I’ve come to the decision that this is truly what I want to do after graduation, and I plan to do it, as long as I get the prized invitation.  I’ve been told that if I made it to the nomination phase, I will very likely get an invitation; it’s just a matter of time.  So I’ve thought about a few alternative plans, but I haven’t pursued any of them.  Yes, I’m sort of putting all my eggs in one basket, but I have a good feeling about this basket.

So, I’ll keep you updated.  Meanwhile, life speeds on.  Senior year turns out to be a pretty busy time, and I really shouldn’t have time to obsess over the status of my Peace Corps application, but you know how these things are.  I’m taking some pretty interesting classes, two of which have massive research papers attached to them, so I’ll be increasingly busy as the due dates for those papers approach.  I continue to work with the small non-profit that I’ve been with for two years now, and things there are busy and exciting.  And this semester, as one of the final requirements for my Community Health major, I started a new internship with a large HIV/AIDS organization in the Jamaica Plain area of Boston.  The commute is about 1 hour each way on the T (I have to take a bus and two subways), and I work about 12 hours a week, so it takes up a lot of my time, but it has definitely been worth it.  I’m gaining more knowledge about HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and support services, which was something that Peace Corps had encouraged me to do, since any public health work I do will likely involve some aspect of HIV/AIDS work, and I’m also gaining skills that I think will be useful for public health work that I might do in the U.S. later in life.  Not to mention that I’m cultivating connections that could land me a job post-Peace Corps.

All the same, I just feel like I am ready to be done with this chapter of my life.  I feel like I’ve gotten most of what I am going to get out of my Tufts education and I’m anxious to move on.  Though I never experienced this in high school, I’m definitely struggling with some senioritis.  Speaking of which, I guess it’s probably time to get back to my schoolwork, now that I’ve taken a lengthy detour.  Until next time…CK