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4/10 Peace Corps Applicant FAQs

I've been getting some offline questions from applicants, and I thought I'd share my answers with you all. If you have more questions, feel free to email me or post them in the comments section. :)

I've been nominated for Peace Corps and have been waiting nine months for my invitation. However, after completing the medical paperwork and being cleared, I'm beginning to worry ... what if my placement officer decides I'm not "highly qualified" and I don't get placed when they told me I would??

Take a deep breath. Getting nominated is hard. For some, getting medically cleared is harder. But if you've cleared those hurdles, it's just a matter of patience.

Two things to do to assuage your fears: (1) Visit your "toolkit" online and verify that you have, in fact, cleared all the hurdles. If any are outstanding (legal, dental, whatever), make a note of it. Then (2) call your placement officer. Ask about the outstanding issue, if there is one. If there isn't, say something about how happy you are to have been fully cleared, and how eager you are to be invited. Peace Corps staff are human. Sometimes they drop things between the cracks, and need to be reminded. Don't hound your PO night and day, but don't be afraid to call him/her, either. At the very least, your PO will be reminded of an eager nominee who's hungry for a posting.

Do you know if one could refuse vaccinations and still be accepted? Our family all have religious exemptions to vaccines.

You should definitely check with your recruiter - policy might have changed - but two years ago, when I was where you are now, that was not an option. That's why I had so very many vaccinations to go through: I'd never been vaccinated for *anything*, and suddenly I had to get them all at once. Hence the polio shot and "booster" shot only a few months apart. Blech. The clinic I went to almost refused me, because they don't usually give polio vaccinations to adults, but I explained to the RN why I needed it, and she went ahead and gave it to me.

As I understand it, exemptions only apply to legally required vaccinations. Nobody is requiring you to join Peace Corps, so the religious protections don't apply. I grew up under the umbrella of religious exemptions, too, so a big part of my decision to join Peace Corps was deciding to let myself get stuck full of needles. I haven't regretted it. When Henry IV was told he'd have to convert to Catholicism to assume the throne of France, he said, "Paris is well worth a Mass." I'd say, "Peace Corps is well worth
some shots." :)

Where are most PCVs in Morocco sent?

Depends on your sector. YD volunteers are in medium-to-largish cities. If you're in YD, you'll be speaking Darija in a town of at least 25,000, with guaranteed 24/7 electricity, running water, etc. You'll almost certainly have internet at home, a hot water heater, a fridge, and all the other amenities of Posh Corps. If you're in Health or Environment, you'll probably be in rural regions, likely in the mountains, since those are the regions still in need of Health and Environment support. If you're in SBD, anything is possible. SBD is trying hard to reach out to the rural co-operatives, so some Volunteers are put in some pretty rural areas, but others share YD sites, with all the amenities at their fingertips.

I've read that Moroccan Arabic is almost unintelligible to most Arabic speakers. Do Moroccan volunteers get to learn much Classical Arabic? French?

Yes, Moroccan Arabic (Darija) *is* very different from Modern Standard Arabic (known here as "Foos'ha"). The "th" sounds all become t's, the vowels are shortened or removed entirely, and there are lots of words borrowed from French and Spanish. That said, Darija speakers are very well positioned to learn Classical Arabic or Foos'ha, since they're written the same and probably 80% of the vocabulary is the same.

But there's no guarantee you'll learn Darija. Youth Development Volunteers do, but the other sectors all have a chance of learning Darija, Tamazight, or Tasuseit (the latter two being Berber dialects). Tam and Tash (as they're known) are useless anywhere outside of Morocco. In fact, they're pretty useless if you go more than 200 km from your site, since as unwritten dialects, they vary *hugely* even from one mountain valley to the next.

But is there opportunity to learn Classical or Foos'ha? Absolutely. Peace Corps will give you money for tutoring, which you can spend however you find most helpful. Also, anyone who has been to school (read: anyone who lives in a city, the majority of men in the rural areas, and a handful of rural women) speaks Foos'ha, so there are countless opportunities to practice it. Ditto for French.

I have a lingering fear that if I join Peace Corps, I may well be saying yes to two years of celibacy. Is this accurate in your opinion?

Most of us accepted that we'd be celibate for two years when we signed on. For some, that was an accurate prediction. For some, it was not. The Peace Corps Office of Medical Services claims that 90% of PCVs request condoms during their service. Some are probably given to our friends and neighbors (we're officially forbidden to distribute them, but I'm sure some PCVs do.) Also, condoms are useful for demonstrations during health and SIDA lessons, for home-brewing wine, for pranks, and various other purposes, so some are probably requested for these reasons.

Do you have much influence on which region of the country you will be sent?

It varies. Peace Corps' priority is matching your skill set to a community's needs, so they'll try to make the match *they* want, regardless of your preferences. Of course, their other priority is keeping you productive and in-country, so they don't want you miserable. You'll have a meeting with your program staff, early in stage, where you'll talk about this. They asked me if I'd be willing to live in the mountains, and whether I'd rather be in a cold region or a hot one. I said I grew up in mountains, and I can tolerate cold but hate the heat. I got the coldest, highest-elevation site in the country. When my ceiling leaks in the winter, the drip-water puddle freezes on my floor. But at least I don't have to buy a fridge! :) In other words, they do listen to what you have to say, but they have their own priorities, too. So, like in so much of Peace Corps service, flexibility is key. :)

But also, prepare for things to be *better* than what you expect. I love my village, my host family, my mountains, even my meters of snow. I love that I speak a language known by less than a million people. (Probably less than 100,000 people, for that matter.) None of this was what I'd imagined originally. Keep your eyes open for the unexpected good - the serendipities of service.


  1. Thanks for this post. As a nominee who is anxiously (albeit impatiently) awaiting medical clearance, it's nice to have some reassurance and useful info in the meantime.

  2. You're welcome! And if you're looking for more info, follow the Labels links for FAQ, PCinfo, and timeline. :D


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