Training in Senegal
Pre-service training is an essential part of Peace Corps service. The objective is to provide you with solid technical, language, and cross-cultural knowledge to prepare you for living and working successfully in Senegal. The training uses an experiential approach wherever possible; thus, rather than reading or hearing about Volunteer activities, you will practice, process, and evaluate actual or simulated activities.
A welcome committee led by the Peace Corps country director and the training director will meet you at the airport. The committee will help you collect your baggage, go through customs formalities, and load your baggage on rented buses.
Because trainees’ baggage has occasionally been left somewhere en route, we advise you to carry essential items, toiletries, and enough clothing for three days in your carry-on
luggage. Be certain to clearly and securely label all your baggage before checking it at the airport.
After leaving the airport, you will take a two-hour bus ride to Thiès, the location of the training center. You will stay at the center for your first three days in-country, when training will focus on an orientation to living with a host family; survival classes in Wolof, a local language; safety issues; a medical orientation; language placement interviews; and “getting to know you” activities.
At the end of the fourth day, you will travel upcountry to spend two or three nights in a village with one other trainee and a Volunteer host. You will have an opportunity to talk about the Peace Corps experience with your host and experience firsthand some of the skills required to succeed as a Volunteer. When you return to the training center on the eighth day, you will discuss your upcountry experience. You will then meet your host family at the training center, who will take you home to begin the home stay program.
You will have your own room, but the furniture in the room
will be minimal, just what you need to sleep. Trainees generally consider the home stay to be the most valuable training activity. Because the families do not speak English, we strongly recommend that you acquire at least a basic understanding of French prior to arriving in Senegal, whether through adult education courses, cassette tapes, or other means.
The training week is long and demanding, so come prepared to work hard. You will start at 8 a.m. and work till 6 p.m., with breaks throughout the day. On Saturdays, you will have classes from 8 a.m. until noon, with afternoons free. In general, language classes are in the morning and technical classes in the afternoon. You will have breakfast and lunch at the training center and dinner with your host family. You will walk to and from the training center every day, but organized transportation will be provided for the first couple of weeks to give you time to become familiar with the town. Pre-service training has four components: language, technical, cross-cultural, and personal health. Safety training is integrated into all these components, but particularly the cross-cultural and medical components. To facilitate language acquisition, the primary language spoken at the training center is French, a method known as language immersion. While immersion in French is the rule at the start of training, when trainees begin to learn African languages toward the end of training, they may speak both French and local languages at the center. Cross-cultural training is both hands-on and theoretical, with sessions to help you gain insight into and appreciation of Senegalese culture. Technical training also consists of theoretical sessions in the classroom and a lot of hands-on activities. Health training is delivered by a Peace Corps medical officer. The training staff will be available for support throughout the program and will provide feedback on your progress. You must attain required competencies all four components to be sworn in as a Volunteer. The key to a successful training is effort.
Members of the Peace Corps medical staff will visit the training center at least two days a week to offer consultations and facilitate sessions on personal health care. They will also vaccinate you against the various endemic diseases in the region. If an emergency occurs when members of the medical staff are not at the center, the training center staff will contact them by phone.
During training, when you are not doing fieldwork, you will be expected to wear neat, clean, and conservative clothing. Pants, shirts (including T-shirts), skirts, and dresses are fine, but shorts are appropriate only for recreational activities (e.g., jogging or soccer). You can receive mail at the training center’s post office box, but the center’s telephone is for official business only. You can make calls to the United States at the post office for approximately $7 per minute. Mail will be collected from the post office once a day on workdays. You will have to pay customs taxes of about $4 to $7 for any packages, depending on the items’ value. Peace Corps service is not for everyone. Training is a time for you to reevaluate your commitment to two years of service. Although training is very intense, it can also be a lot of fun. Be flexible and maintain a good sense of humor, and you will have a rewarding and enjoyable training experience.
Technical training prepares you to work in Senegal by building on the skills you already have and helping you develop new skills in a manner appropriate to the needs of the country. Peace Corps staff, Senegalese experts, and current Volunteers will conduct the training program. Training places great emphasis on learning how to transfer the skills you have to the community in which you will serve as a Volunteer.
Technical training will include sessions on the general economic and political environment in Senegal and strategies for working within such a framework. You will review your technical sector’s goals and will meet with the Senegalese agencies and organizations that invited the Peace Corps to assist them. You will be supported and evaluated throughout the training to build the confidence and skills you need to undertake your project activities and be a productive member of your community.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will find that language skills are the key to personal and professional satisfaction during your service. These skills are critical for your job performance, they help you integrate into your community, and they can ease your personal adaptation to the new surroundings. There-fore, language training is the heart of the training program, and you must successfully meet minimum language requirements to complete training and become a Volunteer.
Senegalese instructors teach formal language classes six days a week in small groups of four to five people. Your language training will incorporate a community-based approach. In addition to classroom time, 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 so that you can practice and develop language skills further on your own. Prior to being sworn in as a Volunteer, you will work on strategies to continue language studies during your two years of service.
As part of your pre-service training, you will live with a Senegalese host family. This experience is designed to ease your transition to life at your site. Families go through an orientation conducted by Peace Corps staff to explain the purpose of pre-service training and to assist them in helping you adapt to living in Senegal. Many Volunteers form strong and lasting friendships with their host families. Cross-cultural and community development training will help you improve your communication skills and understand your role as a facilitator of development. You will be exposed to topics such as community mobilization, conflict resolution, gender and development, nonformal and adult education strategies, and political structures.
During pre-service training, you will be given basic medical training and information. You will be expected to practice preventive health care 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 Senegal. Nutrition, mental health, safety and security, setting up a safe living compound, and how to avoid HIV/AIDS and other STDs are also covered.
During the safety training sessions, you will learn how to adopt a lifestyle that reduces your risks at 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
In its commitment to institutionalize quality training, the Peace Corps has implemented a training system that provides Volunteers with continual opportunities to examine their commitment to Peace Corps service while increasing their technical and cross-cultural skills. During your service, there are usually three training events. The titles and objectives for those trainings are as follows:
- In-service training: Provides an opportunity for Volunteers to upgrade their technical, language, and project development skills while sharing their experiences and reaffirming their commitment after having served for three to six months.
- Midterm conference (a second in-service training): Assists Volunteers in reviewing their first year, reassessing their personal and project objectives, and planning for their second year of service.
- Close of service conference: Prepares Volunteers for the future after Peace Corps service and reviews Volunteers’ respective projects and personal experiences.
The number, length, and design of these trainings are adapted to country-specific needs and conditions. The key to the training system is that training events are integrated and interrelated, from the pre-departure orientation through the end of your service, and are planned, implemented, and evaluated cooperatively by the training staff, Peace Corps staff, and Volunteers.