In 1997 President Clinton sent me a letter inviting me to join the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps is a volunteer organization sponsored by the federal government. The application process took one year. There were countless hoops to jump through, the application itself, medical exams, dental exams, essays to write and an interview. I was originally told when I first called to find out how to apply that I should not even try as the application process was too competitive for the degree I had received in college. The woman I spoke to on the phone was very discouraging. Joining the Peace Corps was a life long dream of mine and after thinking it over I called again and requested an application. I had tutored refugees in English a few years previous and that I think is what pushed my application forward.
When you join the Peace Corps you do not get to choose where you are sent. They do ask for your preferences, but even those are vague. I received a letter that I would be going to Latvia in Eastern Europe. At that time not too many Americans had been to Latvia. It was hard to find information. The internet was not what it is today and I could find no language book except for a small one for travelers with important sentences in it.
In June my boyfriend drove me to the airport at 4 AM and I boarded a flight for Chicago. In Chicago a large group of volunteers going over seas gathered for an introduction into the Peace Corps itself. We spent a few days downtown at a large hotel. I went exploring on my free time and some friends and I went to an Italian restaurant for dinner. The food in Chicago is wonderful. After the few days were up I boarded a plane for Stockholm, Sweden.