FAQ

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Q: Are current CED members mostly post undergrad or professionals?


I noticed that this new group that came in was a lot of younger fresh out of college crowd, over 70% of them were right out of school. In my cohort we have a wide mix of volunteers some armed force veterans, some master students with federal experience and some right out of undergrad! I would say that almost everyone has some kind of business experience.

Q: Are you a college graduate, and if so what was your major?

I left to the peace corps a week after graduating/receiving my bachelor degree in Marketing. I was a mediocre student at best I had no volunteer experience, 2.8 GPA and went to a public university in Florida(FIU) but my native language is Spanish. Although I was fresh out of school I had 5 years business management experience for a multi-million dollar private company.

Q:Did you apply post undergrad or were you already in the professional world?

Both! I was a full time student and full time worker for 5 years. My application weighed heavily on my struggles accomplishing the many hurdles in front of me because of my first-gen status. Mostly I was candid and honest about what I was hoping to provide and what I had to offer. I also did not select Colombia as a country of interest, in the new application I picked no country of preference but I only wished to be nominated for CED programs. Best thing to remember is that these people in the PC see many applications so by being YOURSELF you stand out from the crowd. Try to find something that will make them remember you. For me during my applications I told my story about overcoming poverty and different cultural norms my family holds for women. I was honest in the fact that I told them peace corps would open doors and opportunities for me that would never happen otherwise(personal, professional, educational). I guess the theme of my application was that in America there is a lot of diversity and many minorities don’t get the chance to have the credentials or self-esteem to apply for these programs. I wanted to be an example and a voice that yes, many hard working non-elite lower income Americans are worthy enough for the PC.

Q:In your honest opinion does a post undergrad have a shot at getting this?

Absolutely! As I said in this new group it seems almost every volunteer is fresh out of undergrad.

Q:What difficulties have you had that you weren’t expecting?
 
Being a minority(specifically hispanic) and a female in a world of business I was confident that I would not be affected to the culture of “machismo” or racism.  I was wrong, it has been very hard for me to accept that I go through things as a female that male PCV’s will not and that as a hispanic individual the bar of resiliency is held higher for me in the eyes of the Peace Corps (in my post). I have a big personality and am a very artistic person, in the beginning it was hard for me to accept that the Peace Corps is not the place to speak up about certain things. And I mean that in the most respectable way possible, we aren’t holding normal job and so the voice I have as a PCV is much different than the voice I had working as part of the management team in the private business sector. Living without running water is also not fun, I am like one of the very few volunteers that NEVER has running water. Some have only for a few hours in the morning or so on, I never ever have it but I’ve gotten used to it.
Q:What would you recommend for an incoming PCV, or wished you would have done in retrospect?
 
Save money to travel during your service, write yourself a letter that clearly states why you’re committing to do this to read to your future self when you’re having rough times during service. I left with the intentions of never moving back to my hometown so I basically sold all my stuff and am never looking back, still have no regrets about it. I spent a lot of time with my family and friends, would recommend to just eat all the food you love, do anything you wont be able to do over here and take/print lots of pictures to remind you of the people you love. Don’t left anything unsaid or done, you’ll have lots of time to think when you get here and it just might drive you crazy.

Q:What have you liked the most about your service?
 
Meeting all kinds of different people, from host country nationals to fellow PCV’s. It’s a truly unique experience and because I was a hard working full time student and worker for many years before I joined I’m really enjoying the ultimate extra curricular activity I never had time to do before. The part of Colombia where PCHQ is the same as where my Colombian family is from so I get to hang out with them when I’m willing to make the 4 hour bus trip, my grandpa is getting old and I think he’s really enjoying the extra time with me. Accepting the lesson of humility has been a huge one for me.

Q:
How difficult was it to get acclimated early on?
I feel I’m not the best person to answer this because my native language is this regional dialect of Spanish and would consider myself more in touch with Coastal Colombian traditions than “American” ones. Maybe it was hard for me just moving away from home for the first time in my life and not dealing with personal struggles of poverty that had plagued me for many years. The running water again….took me a while. 

Q:Are you crazy for moving to Colombia?

A: No, I know Colombia very well as I frequented it often as a young girl growing up. In addition, I live in a rural pueblo which is located on an isolated stretch of mountains. It has it’s cons just like any where else in the world, but for the most part the people are inviting and warm and its a peaceful lifestyle. I would say all in all, living in Miami was likely more dangerous than what I’m exposed to here during my service.

Q:What is a typical day for you like?

A: This has to be the most frequent question I receive from locals, family and friends. My CED program is a pilot, so I expected that there would be some room to figure out exactly what exactly my daily groove would be. We have a national partner, who I am supposed to partner up with to promote financial literacy among other goals. As life would have it my arrival to San Jacinto was in early November as the holiday season was commencing so that set back my “launch” to the community. Mostly I take on the responsibility of meeting active members of my community to serve as a connector to other members who might be able to help each other out. I have the freedom to go about that how I wish so it usually includes waking up making breakfast, walking around town to be seen then coming home for the local mid day nap and catch up with my host family later at night. I just got to site about 4 months ago, so im still assimilating.

Q: What do you eat?

You have the choice to either purchase meals from your host family or cook for yourself. I love cooking and like all other Colombian mothers, my mom back in the US, worries about me being too thin and sends me packages of all my favorite non perishable ingredients. To name a few Kraft Mac n Cheese, Wheat thins, Triscuits, pilaf rice mix, I have lots of family here in the coastal region of Colombia so it was not a new thing for my family to adjust sending things over here from Miami.

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In my defence, my family has always sent stuff to BAQ so im just another person on the list!

Q: How do you feel about not making any money?

Honestly, I graduated University 3 days before I started my service. I am extremely proud of the fact that I was able to work my way through uni, I graduated at maybe $1,500 in my account and no debts so I take it as a win. I was more than self sustained and I do miss going to the shopping mall and buying whatever I want. At the same time Im learning many other valuable lessons that make me feel great in many different ways. I’d say im both 50% happy im not making money 50% not happy making money.

Q: Do you think its possible to be vegetarian during service?

Yes. I on the other hand was a veggie for 5 years until my service. I’m extremely busy so I can’t imagine putting the time into vegetarian meals. Not to mention my metabolism has really been on over drive since I got here so I can never seem to eat enough. Carne empanadas at every corner, during the hot blazing sun when you have a lot of walking to do. If at that time you REALLY still want to be vegetarian, you can and I commend you! But I would literally pass out in the middle of the pueblo and probably have to be medically evacuated so I’m gonna keep eating the meat empanadas.

Q: What do CED volunteers in Colombia actually do?

Long story short:

  1. Form and stimulate Community Savings Groups within our municipalities. Using an Asset Based Community Development approach is always preferred.
  2. Working with SENA in Articulación con la Media, in some kind of way.
  3. Working with SENA in Fondo Emprender/SER, in some kind of way.
  4. *Optional* Help local business strengthen their business plans.

If you have an agricultural background I would imagine you’re likely to work with a program called Cacao for Peace (Cacao para la Paz). But this is just an assumption.

We’re a pilot program…bare with us!

 

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