What to do after Peace Corps Early Termination
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*the writer wishes to remain anonymous
It’s already tough to figure out what you should do after Peace Corps.
What happens when you add early termination to the mix?
ETing is sometimes involuntary, which can be traumatizing for volunteers who have invested so much in their service. One volunteer’s* medical officer ETed her even after she had met health improvement requirements.This is her story.
“…Although my ET was a medical separation, it still imbued me with an immense amount of shame.”
Throughout my six months of service, I had almost nonstop stomach issues that made eating painful. I wasn’t sure of the source, and nothing I tried seemed to make it better. I doubted it was the stress of being in a foreign country; I’d previously lived in China, central Africa, and South America without issue. But suddenly, eating anything more than a few bites made me feel ill. I continued with my daily activities, but felt discomfort or pain multiple times a day, and started losing weight.
The Medical Office
I was in very regular communication with one of the Peace Corps nurses, who was extremely kind to me and had me come to the capital for various medical tests, none of which revealed anything conclusive. I started working with another medical officer when she took a leave, and he took over arranging appointments and follow-ups for me. At one point, though, he suggested that the whole thing was a recurrence of anorexia, which I’d had eight or so years prior. I insisted that it wasn’t, as I had been doing everything I could that the medical officers and nurses said I should do in order to gain back weight. I didn’t want to lose weight.
Eventually, I was told that if I could achieve a certain weight in a month, I could stay. I considered this seriously. I could be in pain for a month, I figured, and not disappoint all the kids I had been working with at the school. Or I could have less pain but have to go home. I decided on the former.
At the end of the month, I had met the weight gain goal the medical office had set for me. Nevertheless, the nurse and medical officer decided that I should go home anyway. Everything happened very quickly. One day they informed me of their decision, and the next day I was traveling back to my village to pack. I only had one night in the village, so I was only able to say goodbye to the principal of the school and to my homestay family. The next day, I was on a plane.
Life After Early Termination
I don’t typically like to broadcast my negative experiences, or even label an experience as a bad one. But the whirlwind of those months, and especially those last few days, is something I rarely wish revisit, even now, five years later. I felt tremendously appreciative of how many staff members put so much time, energy, and heart into helping me. But at the same time, I kept thinking of all the kids whom I felt I had failed. I had told them what we’d be doing the following semester. They wrote me get-well notes. And then I wasn’t there for them, without explanation. Their faces stayed in my head for a long, long time. My thoughts of them eventually decreased from every day, to weekly, to monthly. But I doubt they will ever disappear.
Advice to Others
It’s really hard not to feel guilt or shame, but, unless you break the rules, shit happens that is oftentimes it’s no one’s fault. It doesn’t say anything about you as a person, or mean that you can’t do x, y, and z in the future. It’s important not to make it bigger than it is.”
ET Volunteers need more support. That’s why we’re proud to offer Transition Advising to all Peace Corps affiliates, no matter how long it’s been since Peace Corps.