I have been planning on doing Peace Corps for over 5 years, and here I sit, with less than 90 days to depart on this incredible adventure. There’s so much to do, but I feel an overwhelming sense of excitement!
A little about me: I am currently a Peace Corps Master’s International Student at Georgia State University earning my degree in Public Administration. I’ve finished all my coursework and will apply this in the field through a directed readings class. Then all I need to do is complete Peace Corps, write a paper, and hopefully graduate a month after my COS (close of service)! I left a great job in DC working in international development for PCMI, and I haven’t regretted it once.
I graduated from Hiram College in Ohio (my home state- OH-IO!) several years ago with a dual degree in Communication and International Relations. During my time, I went on two study abroads- one in Turkey and Greece in May 2011, and one in South Africa in December 2009 (woot!). After graduating, I went to work in international development in DC. I met and worked with some incredible people, but my heart has always been in field work. I had the great opportunity to go to Kabul, Afghanistan at my last job, and I had an amazing time. Working in the field with the people who are on the frontlines was such a wonderful experience after so much time behind a desk in DC. As I was trying to navigate how to bridge the gap from administrative to technical work AND from home office to field office, I stumbled upon the PCMI program. It was perfect. I began looking at grad schools that partnered with an MPA program, narrowed it down to my top three to apply, and then visited. Georgia State was the clear winner, so I packed up most of my belongings in a U-Haul and drove 13 hours to Atlanta with Emily, a truly selfless human being who pretty much made that trip possible.
Grad school has been a great experience. I have a fellowship with one of the centers on campus, and I’ve had the opportunity to work on some really interesting economic development research. Classes are difficult, but mostly in a good way. I kept waiting for Peace Corps to post positions departing this winter, and I was finally rewarded when I saw the South Africa Community HIV/AIDS Outreach position. I applied, interviewed, and was notified way back in April that I was accepted! This is extremely early; I can only imagine it’s because I’ll be one of the last few PCMI cohorts.
Since then, I’ve filled out a million forms (often the same forms multiple times). Fair warning for other FPCVs: don’t ever assume you filled out the medical forms correctly the first time, and your life will be much easier. Recently I was worried because I had submitted my legal kit in April and still hadn’t heard back on my pre-clearance, but I emailed Peace Corps and found out I received clearance in May. Oh, Peace Corps! As of this point, I have one more dental task left (either a crown or a root canal, yay!) before I can receive my medical clearance. And then I’m throwing myself a big old party, because this has been a LONG process.
Things People ask me a Lot
So when do you leave? I’ll depart for staging, which is a ceremony held somewhere in the U.S. (they’ll tell us a month beforehand) in late January. Staging is 1-2 days, then my entire cohort will board the plane to SA for pre-service training (PST).
Where are you going in country? Excellent question! I’ll spend my first 3 months in country in PST, which is not the place I’ll spend the next 2 years after it. The cohort trains together in local languages, safety and security, and technical health outreach skills during PST. I also don’t know where PST will be yet. During PST, I’ll work with PC country staff to determine my site placement, which will be based on things like needs, my skillset, language skills, etc. So essentially, ask me sometime in March and I might know.
Can I send you stuff? Yes please! Letters and care packages are MUCH appreciated. I don’t have any address information yet, but if you email me at kuhnlm (at) gmail.com, I’d be happy to keep you posted.
Can I come visit? Also yes please! However, please don’t plan to visit during my first 6 months in country. The first 3 months, as previously explained, are PST. The next 3 months I won’t be able to leave my host village (other than shopping for food and such) to help me acclimate (sort of like when they tell you not to go home every weekend for the first few months at college). After July though, you’re most welcome! Just remember that seasons are reversed in SA- July is winter and January is summer. Also, I likely won’t be living in an urban city; most probably, I will be in a village in accommodations suited to that lifestyle, so if you’re not up for roughing it, plan to spend some money on a hostel. The cities in SA are not particularly cheap!