"Why are you interested in serving in this country?"

By Lora King
Oct. 2, 2018

During the interview, your placement officer will ask why you’re interested in serving in the country for which you are interviewing. 

Maybe you applied directly to the country or maybe you had it selected for you. Either way, your interviewer can see how you came to be considered for that country and he or she wants to know what it is about serving in this country that interests you.

When people ask me about my service, it’s not the Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela or the raging Blue Nile Falls that I’ll talk about. Nor will I go into detail about the painted angels that adorn a church ceiling in Gondar or catching a rare glimpse of the endangered Ethiopian wolf somewhere deep in the mountains of Amhara. 

These small pieces were very much a part of my service, but they are they not the ones I think about when someone says, “Tell me about Ethiopia.”

Ethiopia is a fresh cup of coffee with my host father, listening to the summer rain on the tin roof as he teaches me about the songs and dances of the different regions. Ethiopia is overhearing the most reserved student in class proudly shouting “Head, shoulders, knees and toes!” in English as they teach their friends what they learned in class that day. Ethiopia is the stories and the histories, the joys and the tragedies, all entrusted to me by the people whom I had the privilege to know. The people who welcomed me wholeheartedly into their country, into their lives, into their homes and into their hearts.

Now I live in Washington, D.C., a city with well-known attractions that draw tourists from around the world. Each country has a place like that, whether it be the Galapagos of Ecuador, the Issyk-Kul of the Kyrgyz Republic or Victoria Falls in Zambia. But the United States is a thriving country beyond her capital, beyond her national parks and beyond the bright lights of her largest cities. The United States has different cultures and people who live full lives in communities all over the country, with different cultures and people that a tourist spending two weeks in the country might never see.

It’s easy to see pictures of a beautiful place and imagine yourself living there, but Peace Corps service is more than what you see in a photograph. It’s not a tourist destination – it's living and working in and with a culture different than your own. So I’d encourage you to take your research of a place one step further: to learn more about the people and the culture that actually live there, not just the beautiful places in which they live.

As you research, ask yourself what it is you’ve discovered that excites you about the opportunity to live with a community abroad. That way, when your placement officer asks, “Why are you interested in this country?” you can tell him or her what drives you to want to commit to spending 27 months living and working with the people of the country for which you're interviewing.

To dig deeper into the culture of the countries where Peace Corps Volunteers serve, I recommend the following resources:

1. Use the Peace Corps website.

  • Each country page has a page titled “Preparing to Volunteer” that details the living conditions and social activities Volunteers experience.
  • Read blogs from current and returned Volunteers who served in the country. (Pro tip: you can filter for a specific country or use the search bar.)

2. Connect with returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs).
Your city may have an RPCV group that can help connect you or you can harness the power of social media to connect with current and returned Volunteers around the world. Another option is to ask family and friends – you never know who knows an RPCV!

3. Check out videos.
Visit our YouTube channel that highlights the experiences of Volunteers around the world.

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

Lora King

No Comments

Add comment