Do I have to say "I’ll go anywhere"?

By Lora King
May 30, 2020

Many returned Peace Corps Volunteers may tell you that finding out which country they were being invited to was half the fun of applying. 

The long-held belief that an applicant must say they are willing to serve where they are needed most has been passed along to new generations of Peace Corps applicants like some big secret. But the Peace Corps application process is different than it used to be. The idea that you must say you’re willing to serve anywhere comes from our Core Expectations for Peace Corps Volunteers. Expectation #3: "Serve where the Peace Corps asks you to go, under conditions of hardship if necessary, and with the flexibility needed for effective service."

Where the Peace Corps asks you to go

Whatever your reasons for applying to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer, its okay to have to preferences. While some applicants are truly comfortable with the ambiguity of choosing “Serve Where Needed Most,” for others, stating preferences can help the Placement Office identify a country that may be a relevant fit for you.

Whether you want to use your years of French study in Guinea or gain experience teaching a classroom full of eager students in Myanmar, there is a Volunteer position out there for everyone.

By being up front about any preferences, the Placement Office can more effectively match you to a program that would be a good fit. Wherever that is, trust that the Placement Office has you under consideration for a country that can benefit from your skills and experience.

Under conditions of hardship, if necessary

People have varying levels of comfort in their livings conditions and Peace Corps programs vary widely. All of our Volunteer Openings include descriptions of the living conditions. Read and research these further.

If you are unable to live without regular communication with friends and family, an isolated island with no internet might not be the best fit. Or if you can’t imagine living in a room in someone else’s home for an extended period, maybe a country that requires a 27-month home-stay shouldn’t be your top choice.

We share these living conditions because it’s a two-way street. As much as we want you to be the right match for our program, we also want the program to be the right match for you.

With the flexibility needed to effective service

Life throws us curve-balls and Peace Corps service is no different. State preferences if you have them, but also recognize that sometimes things don’t work out as planned. Sometimes certain expectations can’t be met in a specific country (such as living in an urban community when all the potential placements are extremely rural) or maybe your background and experience could be put to better use in a different country.

While a specific Volunteer position in a specific country may sound like it is your dream job, with the Peace Corps receiving a high number of applications it’s likely there are other applicants who think the same thing. Your Placement Officer may ask if you are willing to be considered for other programs more in line with your skills and experience. Preferences can help guide the Placement Office to what you want, but in turn we may try to guide you to where we think you have the best chance of success as a volunteer

It’s okay to have preferences and to share those with us. However, it’s my hope that there is also some flexibility and you can trust us to place you in a program where you can be an effective and content Peace Corps Volunteer.

Ready to start your Peace Corps journey? Connect with a recruiter today.

This blog was updated from its original version by Morgan Cunningham. Morgan served as an environment Volunteer in a small town in the Panama Canal Watershed from 2016 to 2018. She currently works at Peace Corps Headquarters in D.C. as a Placement Officer, sending Volunteers to Guyana and Botswana. A water lover and proud dog mom, she lives with her pit-mix and pug near the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.

Lora King

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