The two main goals of PST are to get Volunteers trained in relevant technical and language skills. So, even if you have no experience in education or health – or have never spoken a foreign language before – PST will help you reach a functional level.
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 is enough to qualify 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’ve seen many candidates worry that the program they are being considered for is beyond their experience. The Peace Corps recognizes that some applicants will not have classroom teaching experience or will not have worked on a farm, which is why all Volunteers participate in intensive pre-service training (PST). Because of this training, Peace Corps is confident that someone who is willing to learn can be a great Volunteer.
Each country’s pre-service training (PST) will look and feel a little bit different, but there are some common threads across all of our Posts. All training is done in-country and facilitated by host country staff. Generally, training lasts 10 to 12 weeks and Trainees stay with host families during that time. The two main goals of PST are to get Volunteers trained in relevant technical and language skills. So, even if you have no experience in education or health – or have never spoken a foreign language before – PST will help you reach a functional level where you can make meaningful contributions in your community.
In addition to language and technical training, PST also includes cultural insights, training sessions on safety and security, medical information, and community assessments through Participatory Analysis for Community Action (PACA). Through these additional sessions, Trainees are equipped with knowledge that will help them integrate once they reach their assigned communities.
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 bombarded 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 will 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. If you have applied and are being considered for a position that you’re uncertain about, remember that you will get extensive training during PST. Peace Corps has a demonstrated history of preparing 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.
Whether you’re taking on a new skill, or harnessing skills developed over a lifetime, we invite you check out our positions, apply to serve where needed most, or connect with a recruiter to learn more.