Training in Azerbaijan
Following a brief pre-departure orientation (staging) in the United States, you will participate in an intensive 11-week pre-service training program in Azerbaijan. Peace Corps/ Azerbaijan uses a community-based training model that is designed around real-life experiences and emphasizes community involvement. Trainees live with host families in one of several training villages around a central training facility outside the capital. The goals of community-based training are: (1) to provide experiential learning in settings similar to those at Volunteer sites; (2) to give trainees the best possible opportunity to gain competence in technical, cross-cultural, language, and health and safety areas in a culturally and linguistically appropriate context; and (3) to guide trainees in self-directed learning so they can continue independent learning at their site.
Pre-service training contains six main training components: technical, Azerbaijani language, cross-cultural, health, and safety, and the opportunity to visit your potential site. Most of pre-service training time is spent on the first three of these components.
Technical training will prepare you to work in Azerbaijan by building on the skills you already have and by helping you develop new knowledge and skills in a manner appropriate to the needs of the country. The Peace Corps staff 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; therefore, you should expect to spend a large percentage of your time observing how things work in the Azerbaijani context.
Technical training will include sessions on the general economic and political environment in Azerbaijan and strategies for working within such a framework. You will review your technical sector’s goals and will meet with the Azerbaijani 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 to your job performance, they help you integrate into your community, and they can ease your personal adaptation to the new surroundings. Therefore, language training is the heart of the training program, and you must successfully meet minimum language requirements to complete training and become a Volunteer. Azerbaijani language instructors teach formal language classes five 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 an Azerbaijani host family. This experience is designed to ease your transition to life at your site. Families have gone 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 Azerbaijan. 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 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 Azerbaijan. Nutrition, mental health, safety and security, setting up a safe living compound, and how to avoid HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (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. Some of you may be asked to assume the role of wardens (i.e., points of contact for small groups of geographically clustered Volunteers).
After approximately one month of pre-service training, you will visit a current Volunteer’s site along with one or two other trainees. This visit will give you your first glimpse into the Volunteer experience. You will meet the Volunteer’s friends and contacts and visit the Volunteer’s workplace.
Subsequently, approximately three-quarters of the way through pre-service training, you will be informed of the site to which you will be assigned. At this time, supervisors from your future site are invited for a conference to meet you and travel with you to your future site for an orientation visit. Upon completing this visit, you will return to continue the balance of training.
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 increase 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.
- Mid-Service conference (done in conjunction with technical sector in-service): 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 their respective projects and personal experiences. The number, length, and design of these trainings are adapted to country-specific needs and conditions. The Peace Corps currently allows a maximum of 15 in-service training days during a Volunteer’s two years of service.
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.