Negative experiences?

topic posted Thu, May 19, 2005 - 3:56 PM by  Siren
I just applied to the Peace Corps and a friend warned me that I should do my homework first. He said that he had heard negative things about the Peace Corps. However I have traveled the earth extensivly and have never, ever met a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) that has disliked what they do. Every PCV has only raved about their ecperience.

So are there any PCVs in this tribe that can shed light on the negative side of serving?

Thank you in advance.
posted by:
Puerto Rico
  • Re: Negative experiences?

    Thu, May 19, 2005 - 6:06 PM
    Just thought Id mention a book someone recommended to me about some of the less positive aspects of the peace corps, called Alternatives to the Peace Corp.
  • Re: Negative experiences?

    Fri, May 20, 2005 - 7:54 AM
    Hi, Jennell.

    I'm actually serving right now, in Bolivia. I've been in country about a year, so I'm about halfway through my service. It's full of ups and downs. There are some days I love it and other days that I think was crazy to come here. Overall, though, it's felt worthwhile. I can't think of a better way to get to experience a different culture and learn a new language. I've had some crazy, life changing experiences and met some fantastic ┬┤people, and of course learned about myself etc etc.

    A friend recently put it well when someone asked him if he'd enjoyed the peace corps. He said, "I 'enjoy' iced tea. I don't exactly enjoy peace corps, but it's still been worthwhile." It's not always fun or easy, but some of the best experiences never are.

    I think part of the key is to have realistic expectations. Or at least, as realistic as is possible, given that you're jumping into such a foreign and extreme situation. If you're been talking to other PCVs, that's a great start!

    Prepare yourself for lots of downtime and living conditions that might be different from what you expected (either better or worse than you were expecting). Prepare youreslf mentally for the very real possibility of getting sick, having thigns stolen, feeling isolated and homesick, getting frustrated by the incredible beaurocracy of the third world and the even worse beaurocracy of the US government. Be aware that you might not get that much measurable stuff done.

    From what I've seen, some people come into this very unrealistic expectations, or just aren't ready for the experience of living in a foreign country. This leads to a bad experience. Also, depending on the country, the PC administrators can be challenging to deal with. I have a friend serving in Africa right now and it sounds like the people running the program are terrible.

    But as I said, it can also be an incredible opportunity for growth, for learning about another culture and development work.

    Um, I'm sort of rambling. I hope this helps? If you have any specific questions, feel free to email me. I'm in the city for a few days with access to email, otherwise it might be a few weeks for a response.

    Good luck!
    • Re: Negative experiences?

      Fri, May 20, 2005 - 12:59 PM
      I'll check out the book Mela. Thanks for your post Alice but you like everyone else really likes the Peace Corps.

      My BA is in French and I have a TEFL so there is no doubt that I will be placed in French West Africa teaching, which would be toyally fine with me. I am not worried about the living conditions as I have been to Africa 7 times. I have visited the north, the west, the east, and southern Africa. I just returned a couple weeks ago after spending 8 months in Eastern and Central Africa including living in a villiage in Malawi with no electricity or running water. I know I can hadle it.

      I guess what I am looking for is some horror stories about the Peace Corps. Kind of what your friend id experiencing in Africa right now but with details. There has to be a bad side. If there is not then I am not complainijng.
      • Re: Negative experiences?

        Sat, May 21, 2005 - 8:56 AM
        "My BA is in French and I have a TEFL so there is no doubt that I will be placed in French West Africa teaching, which would be toyally fine with me."

        Possible, but be aware that nothing is gauranteed and the placement process is pretty screwy. I spoke fluent french and had also traveled in Africa before applying and ended up in Latin America. That's one definite issue with peace corps, you don't get to pick where you go, and the placement process is fairly arbitrary and opaque.

        OK, horror stories. Since I've been here two women have been raped, and a friend recently had to get a site change after her local boyfriend threatened to kill her. Someone was recently medically separated with brain worm. I've met/heard of a few people who've been run out of their sites for political reasons. There are also a few people who the PC administration here has tried to get rid of, for various reasons. Many people (myself included) get placed with counterparts who aren't interested in working with us/don't understand why we're here.

        For more info, there's a yahoogroup on Peace corps that's pretty good, lots of discussion from RPCVs and other folks in the application process. PC is very different from country to country.
        • Re: Negative experiences?

          Mon, May 23, 2005 - 3:37 AM
          Oh no Alice don't tell me that. You speak fluent French and they placed you in Latin America. Did you speak some Spanish when you applied?

          I have no desire to be in Latin America. I don't have to be placed in French West Africa but I really want Africa.

          Thanks for the info on the Yahoo group. I have had really good luck with Yahoo groups. I just joined PeaceCorps2. I hope that is the one you were talking about.
          • Re: Negative experiences?

            Tue, March 1, 2011 - 10:53 AM
            One of the first things you should know about Peace Corps is they place you where they want you. I think they don't give you as much say as some people think because the point is to go where you're needed. You are there to learn as well. While I agree being able to pick somewhere you already know the language is appealing, isn't going somewhere completely unknown just as cool? This is the heart of what Peace Corps is. You are able to learn a new language and culture. Your experience isn't quite the same if you're doing something you already know. Being able to run with what you're given and adapt is crucial. Your first test is being able to wrap you head around going where they want you. Peace Corps is full of having to adapt your plan, go with the flow and being super flexible. If you want to handpick where you go then Peace Corps is not for you. Go on vacation or find another volunteer opportunity.

            I served in Africa my two full years and have been back about 3 months now. I would say that I wanted to go home about 60%-70% of the time. Looking back on it, yeah, the times that made me the most frustrated are the ones I miss. You will never find anything that challenges you the same way. Nothing will match that terrified excitement, I-don't-know-what-the-hell-I'm-doing-here... 14 minutes later having something so simple and innocent make you day, Peace Corps experience. Nothing. You will never forget and will forever miss the people that become your friends through that experience either, whether is host country nationals or other volunteers. This is Peace Corps. It's not the country you get to choose.
  • Re: Negative experiences?

    Fri, September 30, 2005 - 10:45 PM
    I've heard two stories:
    In one a girl was in an accident where she broke her leg or arm and ended up having to have the limb amputated because they couldn't treat the severity of the break fast enough.

    In another, a girl had a blood clot or something develop in her leg and go to her brain and ended up being paralyzed because they could not get her to a facility equipped to treat something like that quickly enough.

    There are also people who have been hustled out of areas due to their being in danger because of local conflict, military uprisings and what have you, and the possibility as a woman of being mistreated or raped by someone or multiple people in the host community.

    You have to keep in mind that it is a job, not a vacation, and you could end up living the whole time in a dusty grass tent, shitting in a hole in the ground and drinking brown silty water. Also if you have a lot of preconcieved notions, or you have your heart set on going to one country and don't end up going there, what could have been a great experience could end up being a really crappy time just because you're disappointed in your assignment.

    Yes, bad things can happen. But bad things can also happen a block from your house.
  • Re: Negative experiences?

    Mon, December 12, 2005 - 10:57 AM
    I was a volunteer in Kazakhstan (2002 - 2004) and my two years in PC was definitly not a negative experience. At times it is challenging but that only builds a stronger person. Overall you get out of PC what you put in. It will be hard at times and the best experience of your life at others.

    It is funny but now when I look back at my service, although it was only a year ago, the difficult situations as much as the positive ones are the memories that make me miss Kazakhstan the most.