January 28 2018

What it costs to join the Peace Corps

The Peace Corps is a volunteer job and although So how much does joining the Peace Corps really cost? The answer to that question will vary for everyone depending on what country you will serve in (do I need a visa?) and what tests/exams the Peace Corps deems it necessary for you to have.  It will also vary depending on what if any medical insurance a person has, and it will vary depending on where you live.  So lots of variables, but I’ll give you my costs so that you may get a general idea of the costs.


Fingerprints–$10   at the local county law enforcement center

Mailing fingerprints–$7.21–at UPS sent certified which requires a signature

Total Legal Cost =$17.21- Peace Corps Reimbursement $0 = $17.21

Passport + Visa

I renewed my passport earlier in the year and have already been to Canada, England and Wales on it.  Also, getting a PC passport the easy way just involves getting passport photos, filling out the forms, and mailing it in.  Getting the passport the hard way, requires blood, sweat, tears, and promise of your firstborn, AND $25 for an ‘execution fee’.  The problem with this is most places that issue passports are unfamiliar with the No-fee government passport, and that is where the headache come in. Originally, I had planned to go to a Nursing conference in Toronto in October. Then I got my invitation and decided to forgo the conference (save that money for other travels). Even knowing that I didn’t NEED the passport for anything, it was still hard to let it go.

Passport photos–$22.98 (+ tax with $2 off coupon code x2).

Mailing passport and visa application–$ 10.12    (once again, sent trackable via UPS)

Total Passport + Visa Cost = $33.50 – Peace Corps Reimbursement $0 =$33.50

[Add $110 if you need to get a personal passport]

Medical + Labs

General Medical Exam

Women’s Health Exam–> I got my women’s health exam done at Planned Parenthood.  I used my regular health insurance that I have through work (which costs about $400/year and this is the first time I have used it) and it was covered at 100% so my cost was $0.  Those $400 in premiums actually paid off this year.

Total Women’s Health Exam Costs = $0

Labs–>HIV screening was a required lab for my assignment [and maybe for all of them?]  and I had it performed as part of my women’s health exam.  On a whim, I asked if they could do my other labs since I knew they weren’t set up as a primary care facility.  They said yes, and amazingly enough, it was also covered at 100%. I did have to have a special lab drawn based on my medical history. I had a physician write a prescription for it and had it done at LabCorp.

Total Lab Cost = $50


Complete dental exam with panoramic X-rays $344.00 – Peace Corps Reimbursement $60 = $284.00

Dental treatments required =$0 Luckily, I didn’t need any treatments, had no cavities, or have anything wrong with my teeth or gums.

Required Vaccinations

Yellow Fever Vaccination [ had to get this one even though I currently have one. Mine will expire on June 4, 2020 so PC is making me get a booster.]

TDaP booster [Working in the hospital the last 15 years has afforded me access to most vaccines, but as luck would have it, my current immunity will run out while in Mada, so another booster it is)]

Total for all things required: $330.71 (current running total)

The Peace Corps does provide a cost share program for some expenses but the expenses are segregated.   What I wish is that they would provide a flat fee of say $500 to pay for these expenses. They will provide up to $290 for a medical exam yet my actual costs were $0, but only $60 for a dental exam (including x-rays). My actual dental costs were $344; I wish I could have used some of that $290 for my dental exam.  I am grateful that I have health insurance and I am grateful for federal laws that allow preventative care to be covered at 100%.  It hasn’t always been like this, and I can only hope that these laws won’t be repealed.

January 14 2018

What’s this about ‘shit-hole’ countries

In about six weeks, I am headed for a shit-hole… if one listens to the current president.  This presents somewhat of a dilemma because why would one voluntarily give up life ‘in the best country in the world’ to go live and work in a ‘shit-hole’ country?  Call me crazy I guess. Some of these countries are struggling right now. Some of them are facing poverty, famine, war, natural disasters, and political strife, but all of the countries on this list are home to citizens who deserve respect and who deserve to be treated without assumption, judgement, or insult. All of them are countries of origin of regular people who are trying their best – either in their home countries or as immigrants – to survive, work hard, contribute to society, and make their lives and the lives of their loved ones happier and healthier.

Of course, I’m not yet there, and of course, my opinion could align with the president, but from everything I’ve heard and read Madagascar is an amazing place with amazing people, incredible biodiversity, and I will truly be lucky to serve on the Great Red Island.

The Peace Corps has three goals, one of which is to promote friendship among Americans and the national of the countries they serve, and thanks to the president, he has made my job infinitely harder.

Current and former non-shit-hole countries where Peace Corps has had volunteers

So, in alphabetical order, here are a few countries whose citizens do not come from shit-hole countries.

  • Afghanistan
  • *Albania
  • Algeria
  • Andorra
  • Angola
  • Antigua and Barbados
  • *Argentina
  • Armenia
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Azerbaijan
  • The Bahamas
  • Bahrain
  • Bangladesh
  • Barbados
  • Belarus
  • Belgium
  • *Belize
  • Benin
  • Bhutan
  • *Bolivia
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • *Brazil
  • Burundi
  • Brunei
  • Bulgaria
  • *Burkina Faso
  • Cabo Verde
  • Cambodia
  • Cameroon
  • Canada
  • *Central African Republic
  • *Chad
  • *Chile
  • *China
  • *Colombia
  • Comoros
  • *Costa Rica
  • Cote d’Ivorie
  • Crotia
  • Cuba
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Djibouti
  • *Dominican Republic
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Dominica
  • *Ecuador
  • Egypt
  • England
  • *El Salvador
  • Eritrea
  • Estonia
  • Ethiopia
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Finland
  • France
  • *French Guiana
  • Fiji
  • Gabon
  • *The Gambia
  • *Georgia
  • Germany
  • Ghana
  • Greece
  • Grenada
  • *Guatemala
  • Guinea
  • *Guinea-Bissau
  • *Guyana
  • *Haiti
  • *Honduras
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • *India
  • *Indonesia
  • Ireland
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • *Jamaica
  • Japan
  • *Jordan
  • *Kazakhstan
  • *Kenya
  • Kiribati
  • Kosovo
  • Kuwait
  • *Kyrgyzstan
  • Laos
  • Latvia
  • Lebanon
  • *Lesotho
  • Liberia
  • Libya
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxomberg
  • Macedonia
  • *Madagascar
  • Malaysia
  • *Mali
  • *Malawi
  • The Maldives
  • Malta
  • Marshall Islands
  • Mauritania
  • Mauritius
  • *Mexico
  • Micronesia
  • Moldova
  • Monaco
  • *Mongolia
  • Montenegro
  • *Morocco
  • *Mozambique
  • *Namibia
  • Nauru
  • *Nepal
  • The Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • *Nicaragua
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • North Korea
  • Northern Ireland
  • Norway
  • Oman
  • *Pakistan
  • Palau
  • Palestine
  • *Panama
  • Papua New Guinea
  • *Paraguay
  • *Peru
  • The Philippines
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Qatar
  • *Republic of the Congo
  • Romania
  • *Russia
  • *Rwanda
  • Samoa
  • San Marino
  • São Tomé and Príncipe
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Serbia
  • Sierra Leon
  • *Senegal
  • The Seychelles
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Solomon Islands
  • *Somalia
  • *South Africa
  • South Korea
  • South Sudan
  • Spain
  • Sri Lanka
  • St Kitt’s and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • *Sudan
  • *Suriname
  • *Swaziland
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Syria
  • Taiwan
  • *Tajikistan
  • *Tanzania
  • *Thailand
  • *Timor-Leste
  • Togo
  • Tonga
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • *Tunisia
  • *Turkey
  • *Turkmenistan
  • Tuvalu
  • *Uganda
  • *Ukraine
  • United Arab Emirates
  • *Uruguay
  • *Uzbekistan
  • *Vanuatu
  • Vatican City State
  • *Venezuela
  • Vietnam
  • Yemen
  • *Zambia
  • *Zimbabwe

and last but certainly not least,

The United States of America

January 7 2018

Application, timeline, and clearance

It was nearly 18 months since the time I first submitted a Peace Corps application until I got on the plane to Philadelphia for staging.
September 2016: I officially decide to submit a peace corps application nearly 20 years after hearing about the program for the first time.  My application was immediately selected as ‘under consideration’ for Peace Corps | Lesotho for Healthy Youth. Not overly excited but decide if selected, I would go.
January 4, 2017: Peace Corps interview.  Quite possibly the worst interview ever. I interview at home via web cam in scubs after 24 hours of being on call/work.  I was barely coherent and only remember that  the interview lasted 45 minutes when I was told it would most likely last 90.  Probably not a good sign.
March 1, 2017 : I was notified that I was no longer under consideration for Peace Corps | Lesotho for failure to receive recommendations on time. I was not surprised based on the atrocious interview and one missing recommendation. Found out one of recommendation writers never received the form.  Begin new application for Peace Corps, and submit with an updated resume, and different recommendation writers. Hit ‘submit’.
March 8, 2017: Once again, I am placed ‘under consideration’. This time for Peace Corps | Madagascar–Community Health.  I am much more excited about this opportunity.  Talk to recruiter by phone and says interviews won’t start until the application cycle ends… so July 1st would be the earliest opportunity. Tell my recommendation writers not to expect anything until then.
May 4, 2017:  Recruiter was wrong. Interviewed for PC | Madagascar.  Interview went much better than the last time lasting almost 1.5 hours. Feel much better about my chances, but realize the know by date is September 1, 2017. So I’m still not getting my hopes up.
May-July, 2017:  Check my email about once a week [usually on Saturday night while I am at work] as to not miss anything and to not be obsessive. And to preserve my sanity.
July 27, 2017: Receive invitation. Almost miss it due to the ‘checking email once a week’ strategy.
July 29, 2017:  Formally accept invitation.
August 2, 2017:  Received a bunch of tasks to complete with a deadline of September 30, 2017 5:52pm.
August 4, 2017: Get fingerprints and mail off fingerprint card for legal clearance.
August 4, 2017:  Make dental and medical appointments for later in August.
August 5, 2017: Get passport photos and fill out requisitions for Peace Corps Government Passport and Madagascar visa
August 9, 2017: Received notification fingerprints have arrived and the FBI is opening a file on me.
August 24, 2017: Dental visit…Teeth are in good condition.
August 29, 2017:  Medical Exam.  Body in good condition
September 15, 2017:  Have special lab drawn that could not be drawn
October 6, 2017:  Finish my last activity for my Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing. Graduation isn’t until December, but I’m not attending.
October 2017:  On going saga with med office about a missing lab. Frequent communication with PC med office about missing lab.  Deadlines extended for lab.
November 6, 2017:  Received final medical and dental clearance so as long as nothing happens between now and then, I’m in the clear.
December 29, 2017: Receive final  legal clearance
December 30, 2017:  Receive more ‘tasks’ in a new portal.  Paperwork very similar to starting a new job with banking info required, emergency contacts, press release info, ect.