Staging is generally a 3-5 day, all-expense-paid, training session that occurs in a major U.S. city before your immediate group departure to your host country. This is a time where you do group activities relating to culture shock, fill out last-minute legal/medical papers, get initial vaccinations (that will continue once you reach your host country), and meet the new trainees that will be in your group. These will be the people you spend the full 27 months with, and you will make friendships that will be stronger than any college or professional experience. My roommate from Staging is still a close friend of mine (Amy, the PCV on Boa Vista Island – see photo gallery). We have done many projects together, and will probably get together once I go to Japan and she goes to Korea (post-Peace Corps service).
My Staging was in Philadelphia, and then they transported us on a bus to JFK for our flight a few days later. I remember listening to people on the bus thinking that they were so different than me. Many sounded and acted like recent college graduates, although I would later discover that many were more interesting and mature than I had imagined. This is funny to say, but given that people change a lot between 21 and 25, I was hesitant to befriend many ‘recent graduates’ who joined merely because they had no idea what they wanted to do with their life. I had walked into Peace Corps as a stepping-stone into a career in international development, and was going to take it quite seriously In the end, I became a much more laid back person if you can believe it. You will find that everyone who joins also does it for a different reason from wanting an extended two-year vacation in a ‘developing’ country to feeling the need to save the world or just challenge themselves.