Welcome to the #365Firsts Podcast and the Expert Advice Before Your First Time Series. The show aims to encourage, prepare, and inspire you to do things you’ve never done before and complete your #365FirstsChallenge list.
In each episode of this series, we give you tips and advice to set you up for success, for specific firsts and new experiences. The guests and topics are as varied as the options and possibilities of new experiences.
Whether you’re trying to learn a new skill, improve your health and happiness, work on your self-development, add excitement and adventure to your life, or simply have first times, you’re going to love our podcast.
In This Episode
We recorded this episode before the Covid-19 pandemic created the need for the shut downs, border closings, stay-at-home orders, and social distancing; for this reason, the information might not be the most updated. However, the episode is still full of rich advice and the first-hand experiences of someone who volunteered for the Peace Corps. Volunteering is a great way to spend your time connecting with people, learning new skills, and making an impact on the community.
In this episode, we were lucky enough to be joined by a person who transformed her life by volunteering for an organization known as the Peace Corps. If you haven’t heard about the Peace Corps before, they’re an American government organization that specialize in providing social and economical development all around the world.
The projects that the Peace Corps volunteers work on can vary immensely, covering everything from cultivating land and fishing, to working on business and education. The project lengths can vary too, but on average, they will take two years.
Our guest for this episode, Jen McFarland, had some wonderful insights to share about the Peace Corps and provided us with some great information for potential first time volunteers.
The Guest Expert
As we’ve noted, Jen had some wonderful experiences with the Peace Corps. She first heard about the organization in college, and knew immediately it was something she wanted to do. However, it wouldn’t be until a few years later that she finally got involved.
Some time after college, Jen found herself serving in the Peace Corps. She was living and working as an English teacher in Kazakhstan for two years, alongside her husband.
Her time in the Peace Corps helped her to find the direction she needed for her life, and provided a great foundation for what she is doing with her career now. Jen is a business consultant, speaker and podcaster at Women Conquer Business. No matter what type of project you’re undertaking, Jen and her team can help you succeed.
As you’ll hear, the Peace Corps had an overwhelmingly positive effect on Jen’s life, which made her the perfect expert to consult for this episode.
What You Need To Know About Volunteering For The Peace Corps For The First Time
Jen started off the episode by noting that it’s never too late to consider volunteering or joining the Peace Corps. Absolutely anybody can join it, no matter what their age or experience. Jen went off to the Peace Corps at age 30 with her husband, and that they were not the only married couple volunteering. There were also plenty of other couples volunteering together so don’t think being single or doing this alone is the only option.
The Application Process
In terms of the application process, Jen advised it can go very quickly and that it is different for single people versus married couples. There is a lot of discussion surrounding medical conditions and health, as the people who leave the Peace Corps early tend to leave for medical reasons specifically.
There is an interview during the application process so you have the opportunity to discuss why you want to volunteer and in what capacity. Rest assure, during the whole process, you’ll be in touch with a recruiter who will keep you up to date on everything. Jen added there is the opportunity to request a specific locations around the world – if this matters a lot to you.
Jen recounted her own application process, and said it took longer due to the fact she was applying with her husband. It took her roughly a year, which did get frustrating for them at times, but she was quick to say, it was absolutely worth it. Some people go on multiple tours with the Peace Corps and Jen noted that her and her husband are keeping that option open.
Training. Getting Ready. What to Expect.
Jen moved on from this to talk about the training that Peace Corps volunteers receive. She described 3 months of training; covering everything from culture and language, to medical work. Jen noted how the training won’t prepare you for everything but that it was still very effective, and it provided a great place to talk to the other volunteers too.
Jen highlighted how everybody is connected by cell phone or internet, after the training ends. You can text friends or contact the office, if you need additional help or assistance. There are some regulations that Peace Corps volunteers have to abide by in terms of contact and movement, just in case of extraneous events like civil unrest.
Jen emphasized how there was a lot of support from the Peace Corps, and that they are always in contact with volunteers – but you are also left to your own devices. Most volunteers will be given a contact or a family to work with, but support levels will vary from country to country. There are expat communities and embassies to be aware of, too.
Jen encouraged first time volunteers to pay off any outstanding bills or credit cards before heading out on a trip, to minimize costs wherever possible. The Peace Corps covers living costs and travel, but it is not a money making venture.
It’s worth noting that many creature comforts and luxuries will not be available when volunteering for the Peace Corps. It can be quite an adjustment for some people, as they may have to live without internet, gaming or streaming, for example.
The Volunteer Work
When it comes to volunteering, Jen encouraged people to be open minded when considering what they would be doing during their time in the Peace Corps. She gave the example of her husband, who ended up playing in a rock band during his work. Amazing and unknown opportunities might very well present themselves.
One of the things we enjoyed most about this episode was hearing Jen talk about her love for her experiences, the relationships she built and how her volunteer work helped her to identify what she wanted to do with her life. She described how she worked on a grant for $500, to work on an English festival for her students, which turned out to be a fabulous event.
During her volunteer work, Jen picked up on the fact she loved planning projects and working on management tasks. She used this knowledge to her advantage when she came back from her trip and shaped her career with it.
We did ask Jen about how the experience impact her relationship with her husand. She explained they got to know each other even more than before. It was challenging at times, but helped them to grow even further together as a couple.
Something many volunteers struggle with is homesickness, and Jen discussed how she met family at the halfway point in Europe instead of heading home to the States. Many people who went home to see their families would often end up leaving the Peace Corps early, or struggling with intense homesickness.
Overall, volunteering for the Peace Corps is an intense and fulfilling experience. Jen encouraged people to head to www.peacecorps.gov to find out more, and to speak to as many people as possible to learn more about the experience.
Get In Touch With Jen
We loved recording this episode, and it was great to get a chance to speak to Jen about her experiences. If you want to find out more about her work, her website is www.jenmcfarland.com and her social media links are as follows;
If you want to learn more about what Jen does, we’re sure that she would be more than happy to hear from you so feel free to check out her site and drop her a message.
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What’s Coming Up Next Time?
New episodes of Expert Advice Before Your First Time are released every Thursday, and we’ve got a wonderful roster of guests lined up to give you more expert advice.
Coming up on the 28th, we’ll be speaking with Nathan Hirsch about hiring a virtual assistant for the first time and this will complete Season 1 of Expert Advice Before Your First Time Series. Season 2 will return in September.