How to transform from Peace Corps invitee to Volunteer

By John Satterfield-Doerr
July 1, 2021

Preparing for Peace Corps service, whether it’s a traditional, 27-month term of service, or a Peace Corps Response’s three to 12-month assignment, can be tremendously stressful. It can be a challenge to figure out what you need to do and find the time to accomplish all the legal and medical tasks invitees are asked to complete.

When I was preparing to depart for service in the Kyrgyz Republic in 2015, I felt overwhelmed. My departure date was quickly approaching and I had a lot to accomplish in a short time. As with many challenges, the perceived pressure was a product of my perspective.

With everything from reading through the Global Policy Handbook, to deciding whether or not I should pack that second sweater (it depends on where you’re serving), I felt like tasks and decisions were coming at me from every direction. It was hard to know where to begin.

With this in mind, here are a four areas to focus on as you navigate the transition from invitee to Volunteer:

  1. Communications: Make sure the Peace Corps has the correct email on file and be sure to check your email early and often for updates and tasks. You may update your email address by contacting [email protected].
  2. Priorities: Some tasks may need to be completed before others, so be sure to read through communications you receive and look out for timelines.
  3. Friends and family: Nearly all of my memories before departing for service involve spending time with family and friends. Sharing your experiences, even from predeparture, may help you and those closest to you have a clearer understanding of the journey you are beginning. By sharing what you're learning about your new host country and about Peace Corps, you are fulfilling one of Peace Corps’ goals without even trying.
  4. Making an impact: Peace Corps service is a tremendous opportunity that many people seek, but it is not granted to all who wish to serve. A lot of work goes into ensuring that Volunteers are able to depart for their country of service. The tasks you complete directly affect your eventual departure and service. All of the tasks that you are given serve a purpose. For example, predeparture language training can create a solid foundation for integrating yourself into your community from your first day.

Hopefully you’ll look toward service with a renewed sense of excitement and purpose. A lot goes into becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer, and a lot more goes into the actual time spent in your country of service.

The days I spent preparing for service are a hazy mix of images and emotions. Meanwhile, my service feels like it ended yesterday, despite it actually ending nearly four years ago when I stepped out of the Peace Corps Kyrgyz Republic office for the final time.

Where I went and what I’ve done over the past several years was, in some ways, as unexpected as my service, and it wouldn’t have happened without serving in the Peace Corps. Everything my service made possible, from an internship at the agency following my service, to my current spot in a master's program at American University in Washington, D.C., can be traced back to the tasks and paperwork I undertook as an invitee.

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