The Application and My Personal Statement

Once I decided that I really was interested in joining the Peace Corps, it was time to begin the application. Recently, the Peace Corps has streamlined the application process. Before, if you wanted to become a volunteer, you had to apply, get accepted as a volunteer, and they you were placed in a program based on your skills. Now, you apply and fill out where you want to go/what you want to go (go anywhere and do anything is an option). Next, you’re alerted once you have been put under consideration for a position. From there, placement officers review your application and decide whether or not to offer you an interview. By the know by date for the specific program you are under consideration for, the placement offer will either grant you an invitation to serve, put you on a waitlist, or tell you to re-apply again in the future.

The application has also been streamlined in the past few years. There’s the basic information: citizenship, contact info, legal history, educational background, foreign language experience, etc. The real meat of the application is the resume, personal statement, and recommendations. For my resume, I used my existing CV including my work experience, certifications, presentations, with an added skills section at the top and volunteer section at the bottom. PC requests two recommenders, one personal and one professional. For my personal reference I asked my friend and lab mate from my master’s program. My professional was the director of my lab, who was also my professor and with whom I attended multiple conferences. I’m including below both the prompt and my personal statement for the reference of any future applicants.

“Peace Corps service presents major physical, emotional, and intellectual challenges. In the space below, please provide a few paragraphs explaining your reasons for wanting to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer and how you plan to overcome the various challenges associated with Peace Corps service. This essay is the writing sample Peace Corps uses to assess your professionalism and maturity as a candidate. Please spend time editing your essay/writing sample (less than 500 words).”

“I care about our world’s fisheries. There was a time when I would have started this paragraph by simply stating: “I care about our world’s fish”. Although the latter statement still holds true, my perspective has expanded. Fish do not need human beings to survive and in fact, would be better off without us. Human beings, however, are extremely dependent on fish and other marine life by way of global fisheries.

When I was eight-years-old, I decided to become a marine biologist. As my vision took shape in college, I began to feel less confident in my vocation. I knew I loved learning about marine life and thirsted to know more, but I was persistently nagged by one internal question: “So what?”. I began to realize that I could not solely dedicate my life to the pure pursuit of knowledge. I wanted to make a direct and observable impact on communities and help to improve society.

The desire to make a difference led me to the study of fisheries science, a field with a certain practicality that enabled me to answer, “So what?”. Fisheries science deviates from the traditional objectivity of science and instead, subjectively places human beings within the natural world. When attempting to solve a fisheries problem, there is rarely one “right” answer. Instead, solutions come somewhere at the intersection of scientific advice, human interest, and feasibility.

While in graduate school, I narrowed my interest to the development of global fisheries. The bounty of the world’s oceans has helped to sustain human life for thousands of years, particularly in certain regions. Many of these regions are now in trouble, often for reasons out of the control of the people dependent on them. Marine environments are changing faster than many people are able to adapt; we must develop creative solutions to face this crisis head on and prepare for the future. The search for an answer to this crisis is an area of research that effectively satisfies my own question of “So what?”.

I am applying to the Peace Corps to do my part to support fishery-dependent coastal communities. But, more importantly, I am applying so that I can learn from such communities. I want to experience the real struggles people in different parts of the globe have to deal with due to dwindling marine resources.

I realize in order to make significant impact within a community, there must be a willingness to share and exchange information. I would first need to open myself up to experiencing a new culture with different value systems. Even then, I know progress will not be easy. I know it will take time, patience, and determination to simply recognize appropriate goals. Still, this is a struggle I want to face. Rising up to challenges, of physical, intellectual, and emotional natures, has always been a part of my life. I see this opportunity as a challenge on all fronts, but that is what makes it interesting.”


Author: Cara Simpson

Fish enthusiast. Virginia born. Maryland educated. Philippines Peace Corps Volunteer.

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