Step Eight

Training is an arduous three-month period when the staff tries to weed out people (i.e. trainees) who will not stay the full 27 months, while also preparing those who will stay for their jobs and cultural adjustment. Peace Corps Cape Verde requests about 35 new volunteers annually, but gets sent only about 30. Out of those 30 that arrive, about 5-10 will leave in the first 6 months in-country. Training consists daily language and technical classes. If you are TEFL in Cape Verde, then you also have model school where you teach summer classes with real Cape Verdean students. If you are community development (CD), your technical component includes organizing some real workshops for community members with computers, etc.

Most CD volunteers find that the training is big on soft skills and short of hard skills. I, personally, got very tired of the ‘Let’s-break-into-groups-and-make-a-list-of-what-attributes-make-a-good-leader’ activities. I wanted to know how to rig a drip irrigation system, or how to write an effective funding request in Portuguese.

The language training was useful for me, which was broken into a few weeks of Cape Verdean Creole and a few of Portuguese. I had already studied Portuguese quite extensively in college and Brazil, so I found that I was too advanced for their most-advanced class. This is generally not the case, given that most volunteers going to countries with an uncommon language, such as Armenian or Aymara, will all be on the same page when they arrive.

Training is probably the most frustrating part of Peace Corps because it feels like attending summer school as a middle school student. Your host family will most likely pack your lunch or you will go home to eat, and sessions will rotate daily and weekly with trainers as your teachers. You will be given spending money, which isn’t much, especially if you like to drink or party, which wasn’t an issue for me, but was for others. I actually saved some money during training, which is quite rare. You will also be required to fill out tons of self-evaluation forms during training, which gets very redundant.

After the three-month training period, your Peace Corps trainers will or will not recommend you for ‘volunteer service.’ I have never heard of people not being recommended, although Peace Corps staff will try to pressure you to leave on your own if they feel you will not be a good volunteer. I was actually told by my trainer that she thought I would not make a good volunteer because I had worked in Corporate America and probably wouldn’t be able to handle the slow-paced, ambiguity of rural life. I was completely offended and decided I didn’t really trust the Peace Corps staff after she told me this. It ends up that many people they never expected to leave DID, and people like me who they saw as likely to leave STAYED the full two years. During training last year in Cape Verde, about five people left for reasons from medical to long term relationships they left behind to general unhappiness.

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