Monday, August 20, 2012

You Really Have To Want It (Monday, April 30, 2012)

As I started this blog to keep interested parties updated on our journey to (and through) the Peace Corps, I suppose I should probably actually use it in this capacity at some point.

As of last week, I sent in all of my medical forms to the Peace Corps. Amanda and I are picking up the last of her forms tomorrow morning and mailing them off soon thereafter. It's almost completely out of our hands. This good news has its downsides though. Although Amanda's medical bills came out to slightly less than mine, the total for me came out to $1013, with a $101 charge for a test requested by neither myself nor the Peace Corps. (Christie Clinic is supposed to call me back about that one.) My insurance might cover some of the costs but likely only the Td booster if anything at all. They didn't seem keen on covering unnecessary lab work and immunizations when last I spoke with them. So after I've been denied coverage, and I'm left with a roughly $900 bill, Peace Corps will reimburse me up to $125, which means I will hopefully only have to dish out 7 or 8 hundred to pay for everything. But wait, there is indeed a silver lining.

One of the prerequisites to making it this far in the application process is to write a personal statement regarding your financial situation if there are loans that are not deferrable in your assumed substantial student debt. Between my own non-deferrable loans and those of Amanda, we had a fairly hefty chunk of money to pay off last fall. However, we've been putting roughly half of our income toward paying these off since then and were even on schedule to have it all paid off... and then the medical bills happened. At this point, you're probably thinking that I seriously misused the phrase "silver lining." Well, it would be quite ironic to have spent tens of thousands on an education in English just to misuse so common a saying, and I assure you that is not the case. So here it is (the silver lining, that is): I called the Peace Corps, and I don't have to have everything paid off. In addition to the fact that I've paid more than three years in advance, I guess I can put up to about $200 a month toward loans while serving. Granted, if I don't spend that money, then I get it at the end of service, but I'll take one less hurdle to jump over if it's offered.

I think at this point the title of this entry is rather self-explanatory, but I'd like to elaborate a little nonetheless. You see, I heard several returned Peace Corps volunteers say something along these lines ("You really have to want it."), but I rather thought they were referring to the large amount of paperwork and lengthy waiting process. The last couple months have cleared up that misunderstanding. The Peace Corps is a wonderful thing, but you simply couldn't do it if you were poor. You need a college degree, which is of course accompanied by debt (sometimes non-deferrable), and enough money and/or good enough insurance to cover the multitude of tests and immunizations required. CLEP exams to determine language abilities run about $100 a piece, and fingerprinting costs about 40 bucks. And if you're working your way through all of these expenses, good luck keeping up with payments on everything when you have to take time off in order to get all of these things done. Put simply, a lot of people just don't have the means to get through the first year leading up to departure. Considering the boost having served in the Peace Corps lends to your resume (even if that isn't the primary motivation for going), it's just not particularly fair that only those with money have access to it...

 Which makes me start thinking long term: maybe this is a project for us when we return from the Peace Corps and start raking in the big bucks as a high school teacher and park ranger. It would be great to establish some sort of fund for underprivileged applicants that otherwise wouldn't have this door opened to them. Considering the immense success the US military has had in recruiting people who don't have the financial backing to further themselves, it would be a wonderfully stark contrast to send some of the same underpriveleged young Americans abroad in the only consistently good foreign policy this country has ever had. But I'll not get so far ahead of myself just yet; we haven't even received our official invitation to our country. I'll keep you all posted.

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