FAQs

FAQs

How long were you gone?
What did you do in Mexico?
Where did you live?
When did you find out where you would work?
Why is the Peace Corps so vague about all of the details?
Did you choose to serve in Mexico?
What if you do not like it there?
What is training like?
Isn’t Mexico dangerous and unsafe??
What did you think about the Rosetta Stone Program for learning Spanish?
How was Peace Corps language training?
What is with the blog name?
I want to travel to Mexico! Where should I go?

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How long were you gone?

18 months. Three months of training in Queretaro followed by one year and three months in the state of Hidalgo.

What did you do in Mexico?

Protected Areas Management. My job title was Natural Resources Management Specialist. This is the job description as listed on the PC website:

Volunteers provide technical assistance and training in natural resource conservation, generally in close affiliation with national parks or other reserves.

• Provide technical training to park managers, guards, and guides
• Promote community-based conservation, such as sustainable resource use
• Promote ecotourism and other income-generating activities for communities living near protected areas

Where did you live?

In a small city in eastern Mexico, with about a 45 minute commute to my office in a National Park.

When did you find out where you would work?

Not until I arrived in Mexico! Would you accept a job before you know where it is located, having only a vague job description?? Probably not, right?

Let me rephrase the question. Would you accept that same job if you knew that of all of the people who had done that job already, 90 percent of them rated their experience as excellent, and 98 percent would recommend that their own child, grandchild or other close family member do it? Because that’s what the latest Returned Peace Corps Survey says, and it has 50 years worth of data behind it.

Why is the Peace Corps so vague about all of the details?

Among the many good reasons, they want the site and position to be a good match for each volunteer’s skills and personality, and they need to evaluate that in person.

Did you choose to serve in Mexico?

Not exactly.

When I was applying, the Peace Corps asked about personal preferences during the interview. If the region or position was important to applicant, Peace Corps tried to accommodate. However, it was a bit of give and take. Allow me to explain: If Fiji was the top choice, your job options and departure dates are limited to that program. Or, if teaching English was the most important thing, you would not be placed in Jordan since they don’t have an English program.

In my case, I wanted to work as a Natural Resources Management Specialist. However, the Peace Corps first offered me a position as an Aquaculturist. I said a kind “thanks, but no thanks,” so they counter-offered with my desired position in Mexico.

What if do not like it there?

Volunteers can request to be relocated if their job is not working out, or they can quit and return to the United States, anytime.

What is training like?

In brief: training is eleven weeks of EXHAUSTING!

Volunteers live with a host family for language and cultural immersion. In Mexico, training takes place in a lovely city called Queretaro, and lasts around 3 months.

For a significant portion of training, volunteers are in Spanish class, with language homework too.

In addition, there are lots of powerpoint presentations: health and safety, cultural basics and survival skills specific to Mexico. There are sessions on diversity, rules about conduct, and time to set up bank accounts and cell phone services. There are even FIELD TRIPS! A big highlight is a job-shadow trip where trainees get to see current volunteers in action at their work sites.

I made a handy break-down on training – by number of hours – here. (Info from Peacecorps wiki.)

Isn’t Mexico dangerous and unsafe??

It’s hard not to be disquieted about Mexico’s drug cartel violence.

Here is thing one: While it is unwise to visit certain areas, most of the country is safer than many American cities. To me, it seems short-sighted to assume that a country of 761,606 square miles is homogeneous in any way: ethnically, linguistically, politically, and definitely not homogeneous in terms of safety. Just like the United States!

And here is thing two: Safety is kind of a big deal to the Peace Corps. For over 50 years, they have maintained pretty strict standards on assessing and maintaining volunteer safety. One of their big things is keeping volunteers out of dangerous areas.

Want to know more? Check out the Peace Corps website; they have some good info.

What did you think about the Rosetta Stone Program for learning Spanish?

Before arriving in Mexico, I had never officially studied Spanish. I did, however, prepare for my new life via Rosetta Stone’s program. When I arrived, I was placed in the “advanced basic” level Spanish class. Not too bad, but a little discouraging considering how many hours I had studied with the program.

In my opinion, it is as good as any online learning tool. I also enjoy a free online program called Duolingo that I feel is quite comparable.

How was Peace Corps language training?

I was very impressed with Peace Corps’ language training! Not only did I jump many language levels during the 11 week training, I lost all fear of making mistakes and just got out there practicing. This is, in my opinion, the best way to learn to communicate in a different language.

Are you interested in checking out some of Peace Corps’ language learning materials? Here is a website full of materials, free of charge! Created by a former Peace Corps volunteer, it is an aggregate of more than 90 different language learning programs. Go get your learn on!

What is with the blog name?

Mexico” is a short form of the country’s original name, Mexico-Tenochtitlan. When you break down the original Nahuatl words, the meaning that emerges is “the place of the Mexica people among the stone-cactuses.” Sounds like Aztec poetry to me.

I want to travel to Mexico! Where should I go?

Great decision. Mexico is an amazing place to travel as long as you follow the current recommendations from the US State Department. The majority of states across the country have no travel advisory in effect and are well set up for tourism.

If you want to get away from the resorts in Baja, Cancun, and Acapulco, and I highly recommend that you do, I suggest a trip to Central or South Mexico. My favorite trips were:

  • Relaxing in small coffee producing towns in the Sierra mountains of Puebla and Oaxaca states

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  • Exploring the colonial cities of Oaxaca, Queretaro, and Guanajuato. They are full of coffee and art shops and Baroque architecture

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  • Camping and hiking the volcanoes surrounding Mexico City

WorldViewinMex

  • Discovering any of the 80+ Magical Pueblos that are dotted across the country. They are a guaranteed great weekend away. Here are some photos of a few Magical Pueblos to wet your appetite!

 

For more photos of traveling in central Mexico, check out my post titled Couchsurfing across Mexico.

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