In July of 2014, Kyle and I got a call from a Peace Corps recruiter letting us know that their application process had changed, and inviting us to submit applications under the new system. The changes Peace Corps made streamlined the process of applying, and also allowed potential volunteers like us to choose preferences for countries and job sectors. The new application took just about an hour to complete, and before we knew it we’d been selected for an interview with a placement officer.
When you apply to the Peace Corps as a couple, it’s an all-or-nothing scenario – either you are both accepted, or neither of you are. Because of the logistics of finding two placements in the same location, there are fewer slots open for couples than there are for individuals, and less than 10% of Peace Corps placements are filled by couples. The interview process also includes an additional section where you talk with the placement officer together (between our individual interviews and this part, the whole thing lasted almost 4 hours). We were originally told we were being considered for Moldova; a couple of weeks after our interview we got a call from our placement officer, who told us that there weren’t any couple placements available in Moldova, but that we could be placed in Macedonia. Macedonia had been our top choice all along, so we jumped at the opportunity. In mid-October, just about two months after applying, we had completed this part of the process and had received our invitations to serve.
Now comes the fun part – the legal and medical clearances. It’s a ton of paperwork and doctor’s appointments and vaccinations and fingerprinting and endlessly scanning and sending things to the medical team, and we didn’t receive our final medical clearance until June (although some of this lag time is due to the fact that certain appointments can’t have taken place before a certain date to count for medical clearance). We also had to submit paperwork for new Peace Corps specific passports, which look just like regular passports but say that you’re with the Peace Corps on the inside. In the meantime, we were able to meet some of the people we’d be serving with, including our Training Director, Evelina, who just happened to be on a work trip to DC just after we’d found out we were headed to Macedonia.
After we had all of our paperwork completed, it was basically a waiting game until staging. Staging is when the Peace Corps gathers all of the people who will serve together in one place a day or two before departure to go over some basics about the Peace Corps, give the new trainees a chance to meet one another, and try to set the group up with some idea of what to expect out of 27 months of service. Our staging was in DC, which was nice because we got to say one last goodbye to the city we’ve called home for the last five years. Our group’s official name is MAK20 – we are the 20th group of Volunteers to serve in Macedonia (or Македонија in Macedonian, hence MAK).
After leaving the US in mid-September 2015, we went through ten weeks of intensive language and technical training, and officially became Volunteers on December 4th, 2015. We both worked in the Community Development sector with local NGOs, and served with approximately 90 other volunteers in Macedonia working with local government offices, schools, and organizations all over the country. We left the Peace Corps for medical reasons in July 2016.
For more information about the Peace Corps, Peace Corps Macedonia, and the region, visit these websites:
Peace Corps: http://www.peacecorps.gov
Peace Corps Macedonia: http://macedonia.peacecorps.gov
For a comprehensive summary of the current political situation in Macedonia and the events that have led to the ongoing Colorful Revolution, check out this article: Macedonia is Reaching a Crisis Point and the West is Looking the Other Way
For a look at how current events in the EU are impacting Balkan countries, including Macedonia, take a look at this article from Foreign Affairs: Backing the Balkans
The content of this website during my service as a Peace Corps Volunteer is based on my own experiences and opinions, and does not reflect those of the United States government, the Peace Corps, or other organizations.