Training in Micronesia
When you first join us in Pohnpei, the capital of the Federated States of Micronesia, you will participate in approximately nine weeks of pre-service training (PST). PST will help you to learn about your host country and island, learn about what it will be like to be a Peace Corps Volunteer in FSM/Palau, and learn about yourself.
The goals of Peace Corps/Micronesia’s training program are to give you a “jump start” in learning about the culture and language of your host island, to help prepare you for community entry into the community in which you will serve, and to train you to be an effective observer/cultural student. PST helps prepare Volunteers to be development facilitators who can help their community prioritize local needs and desires and help initiate efforts to address these needs. During PST, you will learn some skills that will help you begin to get comfortable in a classroom environment. You will be introduced to the concepts of capacity building and sustainable development; you will have the opportunity to learn about local organizations, institutions, and leaders; and you will start to meet community partners. The goal of pre-service training is to help you successfully start a learning process that will continue throughout your service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Micronesia.
Pre-service training consists of two phases. Phase I is conducted in Pohnpei and lasts approximately two to three weeks. This phase focuses on administrative and medical needs, PACA (participatory analysis for community action) introduction, gender and diversity differences, and general skills. Site selection also occurs during Phase I, and trainees will learn which island and community they will serve. Phase II is community-based training that lasts about six weeks. This training is held in each of the FSM states/Palau where trainees will be serving, and focuses on language and cultural skills.
Throughout training and to encourage community integration, trainees spend as much time as possible in a rural community setting away from the town centers. Trainees will live with host families during both phases. They learn about the daily life of Micronesians—their customs, attitudes, beliefs, morals, values, worldview, language, diet, and more.
A set of Peace Corps training competencies (technical, behavioral, cross cultural, medical, safety, and language) will drive activities throughout pre-service training. Evaluations will be conducted during PST so that trainees have ample opportunity to self-assess and to get feedback from training staff. Informal feedback will be given on a daily basis.
Peace Corps/FSM/Palau staff members will do all that they can to give you opportunities to learn about Micronesian culture, attitudes, and worldview. They will work hard to help you immerse in an environment that helps you learn the basics you need to know to become a Peace Corps Volunteer. Ultimately, you will be in control of your learning and have the responsibility to make the most of the learning opportunities you will have.
It is a privilege to become a Peace Corps Volunteer. Trainees who successfully complete pre-service training and are recommended to be sworn-in as FSM/Palau Volunteers have earned this privilege through their perseverance, hard work, and patience.
The richness and quality of your experience over the next two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer will depend largely on your ability to participate in the everyday life of your community and of Micronesia as a whole. This ability depends upon your understanding of and adaptation to the norms and customs of Micronesian society.
Like fluency in a language, fluency in a culture requires that the student understand the basic nature of cultures and how they are used, mastering some general rules of cultural “grammar” and a basic vocabulary. Pre-service training will give you opportunities to begin to become a student of Micronesian culture. As with language, however, fluency itself comes only with practice. Cultural “practice” takes place in Micronesian society, in the infinite variety of situations and settings that are there for you to discover. Your host family, your language and cross-cultural facilitator, your program assistant, and the contacts you make will be your most important sources of cross-cultural “conversation.” The more you make use of these helpful people, the more you will learn.
Throughout PST, cross-cultural training is also woven into training activities focused on technical, language, safety and security, and medical subjects. During Phase II, training is geared toward learning about the culture of your island of service to help improve your skills of perception, communication, and facilitation. Topics such as Micronesian community structure, family structure, gender and development, and traditional and political leadership structures are also addressed.
The best way to integrate into another culture is through language. Knowledge of the local language will help you integrate into your community. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will find that language skills are key to personal and professional satisfaction during your service. Language study will thus occupy the largest segment of training time.
Although many Micronesians speak English and are willing and sometimes eager to speak with you, the extent to which you truly integrate and what activities you can actively participate in will be closely tied to your ability to speak the local language. As many as 18 languages are spoken throughout Micronesia, and Peace Corps/Micronesia provides training in as many as 11 of them. As a Peace Corps trainee, you will begin to study the language of your island of service. Micronesian instructors teach language classes with groups of three or four trainees.
In addition to time in class, you will be given assignments to work on outside of the classroom and with your host family. The goal is to get you to a point of basic social communication skills that you can continue to build on. Prior to your swearing-in as a Volunteer, you will work on strategies to continue language studies during your two years of service.
By the end of PST, trainees are expected to achieve a minimum of level of proficiency. You must successfully meet these minimum language requirements to complete training and become a Volunteer.
Technical training will help you better understand the education and development challenges in Micronesia today. Peace Corps/Micronesia focuses on introducing you to an array of local resources to use as well as experts with whom you may collaborate throughout your service. Training places great emphasis on learning how to identify the needs of the community in which you will live and work, transferring skills you have, and helping your community identify resources to meet its needs.
By the end of training, trainees should have a basic understanding of the education and youth context, methods for investigating and analyzing community interests, teaching English as a second language (TESL) teaching techniques, and educator resources, including tools and manuals.
Goals for Peace Corps/Micronesia’s TESL & education for community development projects will be reviewed. You will learn about PACA, which is a set of tools to analyze community activities and priorities. You will learn about how Micronesian communities make decisions. And you will learn techniques that will help you be successful in the classroom.
During pre-service training, you will be given basic medical training and information. You will be expected to practice preventive healthcare and to take responsibility for your own health by adhering to all medical policies. Trainees are required to attend all medical sessions. The topics include preventive health measures and minor and major medical issues that you might encounter while in Micronesia. Nutrition, mental health, safety and security, setting up a safe living environment, and how to avoid HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are also discussed.
During the safety training sessions, you will learn how to adopt a lifestyle that reduces risk in your home, at work, and during your travels. You will also learn appropriate, effective strategies for coping with unwanted attention and about your individual responsibility for promoting safety throughout your service.
Additional Trainings during Volunteer Service
Peace Corps/Micronesia’s training program aims to provide trainees and Volunteers with ongoing opportunities to continue their learning and development, to share their successes and challenges, and to develop strategies for working through the inevitable bumps that will occur along the way. During your service, there are usually three general types of training events:
- In-service trainings: Provides opportunities to focus on relationship development with host families, agencies, and communities during the first two to six months of service. Host agencies and host families are invited to share their experiences, roles, and responsibilities and to troubleshoot any issues. The focus is on finding creative solutions early in a Volunteer’s service, as Peace Corps/Micronesia recognizes that the first six months of service tend to be the most challenging.
- Mid-service conference: Provides opportunities for Volunteers to review their first year, reassess their personal and project objectives, and plan for their second year of service.
- Close-of-service conference: Provides opportunities for Volunteers to review their Peace Corps service and plan for closure to their Peace Corps experience, preparing Volunteers for the future after Peace Corps service. Training events are integrated and interrelated, from the predeparture orientation in the U.S. through the end of your service. They are planned, implemented, and evaluated cooperatively by the training staff, Peace Corps staff, and Volunteers.