What is Peace Corps’ training like?
For more than 60 years, the Peace Corps has sent Volunteers throughout the world to provide service to others. Our programs span six sectors and a wide variety of job requirements.
For many of our programs, having a college degree or five years of work experience and an interest in the sector will qualify you to serve. Core Expectation 2 asks our Volunteers to “commit to improving the quality of life of the people with whom you live and work and, in doing so, share your skills, adapt them, and learn new skills as needed.”
It can be daunting to think about learning new skills in a new culture. As a placement officer, I often remind applicants that Volunteers participate in a broad range of training throughout their 27 months of service, starting with pre-service training (PST).
Pre-service training will look and feel a little bit different in each country, but there are some common threads across all of our posts. All training is done in-country and facilitated primarily by host country staff. Generally, training lasts 10 to 12 weeks and Trainees stay with host families during that time. PST includes sessions on technical, linguistic, cross-cultural, health, safety and security and community assessments through Participatory Analysis for Community Action (PACA).
Through these sessions, Trainees are equipped with knowledge that will help them integrate once they reach their assigned communities. Trainees are required to demonstrate competence in each of these areas in order to swear in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Training in these topics do not stop after PST, and Volunteers continue to learn and grow in these aspects throughout their 27-months of service.
For many, PST functions as an important transition period from your previous life in the United States to your new reality as a Volunteer in a different country and culture. PST is an intensive experience because you will be presented with new information, words, skills, and new friends. During your PST, you get to know the Peace Corps staff, as well as your fellow Trainees. The bonds that you make during these initial weeks have the potential to blossom into important connections throughout your service, and even after you’ve completed your 27-month commitment.
One thing that I loved about my PST in the Philippines was the way that culture was incorporated throughout the training. In high school, my language courses were very much about memorizing conjugations and lists of vocabulary words. In PST, my language teacher, Emie, made learning Hiligaynon interactive and always demonstrated Filipino cultural points to us. Her lessons were crucial to my understanding of how my host family functioned. She made our training a safe space to ask questions about cultural observations, and taught us how to present ourselves positively in our community. Our technical training reinforced these cultural points with a focus on the workplace.
If you are considering service with the Peace Corps, don’t be intimidated by taking on new technical skills or a learning a new language. Peace Corps has a demonstrated history of helping prepare thousands of Volunteers each year to make meaningful contributions to their communities. For many Volunteers, their 27 months of service allows them to grow existing skills, while also expanding their repertoire. PST, and other Peace Corps-sponsored training, is an important factor in our Volunteers’ success. Remember, even before you depart for service, you can gain additional skills and increase your preparedness for service through professional or volunteer work.