Below are my definitions of Peace Corps related terms. It can quickly become an alphabet soup of acronyms and abbreviations.
COS – Close of Service – This can refer to the Close of Service Conference that PCVs attend or their actual COS date, the last date as a PCV. The ~60 remaining PCVs in my group (minus those staying a third year) will leave in waves, four dates over 3 months. The Conference was about 6 weeks before the first COS date. During the Conference, we also had our physicals, dental visits, and gave blood and stool samples. Yup, you read that right.
CP – Counterpart – The person we work most closely with in our job. Some PCVs have many CPs, the most I heard was over 20 but I think the average is just a handful. I have only one CP. Her name is Enkhtsetseg, or Enkhee, for short. I believe she has been at the Education Department for 12 or so years. As the Foreign Language Methodologist, she speaks English. Not all CPs do. In fact, maybe most do not.
Goals of the Peace Corps –
1st Goal: to help countries meet their need for trained men and women. Peace Corps makes this decision when chosing which people are invited to serve.
2nd Goal: to promote a better understanding of Americans. This is the one that we do simply by being here. I try to put my best foot forward as representative of our country: I ALWAYS respond to a child’s “Hello” with a smiling “Hello” or “Hi” of my own.
3rd Goal: to promote a better understanding of our host country. Writing this blog, posting pictures, and sending postcards are what I can do currently. Once I’ve completed service, possible 3rd Goal activities could be speaking as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, keeping in contact with my host-family and friends, returning to Mongolia for vacation, and finding Mongolian communities in the US, all of which would keep Mongolian interactions in the present tense.
HCA – Host Country Agency – This is the group you work for. Ultimately, we report to Peace Corps, of course, but our day-to-day work is for our HCA.
IST – In-Service Training – Three months into service at your permanent site, Peace Corps brings all Volunteers, and one counterpart each, to a week-long training. It is a time to have those cultural questions answered; a time to reunite with your sector peers (including PST site-mates) who’ve been strewn across the country; a time to share successes and challenges and course-correct, if needed; conveniently, it is a time to get your flu shot and see the medical staff, if needed. With breakfast at 8am and dinner beginning at 7pm, it is an intense schedule with little down time. Excepting the PCV-only trainings, they were all conducted in English and Mongolian allowing CPs of all English levels to participate. For the work-related sessions, we were grouped with our CPs. For the cultural sessions, we were still in mixed groups, but deliberately not paired with our CPs. For me personally, IST was a goldmine of material for this blog. Note, because our group was so large, IST was given twice, once for TEFLers, once for non-TEFLers.
Invitation – This is the third step in the Peace Corps process. Once requirements following nomination have been met, the nominee is sent an invitation to serve in a particular country. Upon acceptance of the invitation (within 10 days of receipt), the nominee becomes an invitee. However, there are still requirements at this point (revised resume, essays) so that invitee status is no guarantee of service.
LPI – Language Proficiency Interview – This is the formal language assessment taken at the end of PST and at COS. I also had an informal interview during MST. The interview takes 20-30 minutes and is all spoken Mongolian; no reading or writing required. The interview is recorded and scores are usually available within one week.
M23 – The twenty-third group of volunteers in Mongolia. My group. There are 60-something of us. Since volunteer groups overlap one year, this is a good way to keep track of who’s who and to send blanket messages to the right people.
MST – Mid-Service Training – After a year of service, Peace Corps gathers the Volunteers from the far-flung reaches of the country for a physical, dental visit, and a three-day Mid-Service Training. The biggest difference between IST and MST is that MST is PCVs only, no counterparts. It’s a time to reflect on the full year of service, share the positive experiences as well as the challenges, and renew your commitment to service for your second (and final) year. The second biggest difference is that it is not sector-specific, meaning that ALL Volunteers come, not just TEFL, so you get to see the people (Health, Community Youth Development Volunteers) you haven’t seen for a year.
Nomination – This is the second step in the Peace Corps process. After the application, candidates are nominated to serve in a particular region (though I’ve heard from several M23s that their original nominations were to S. America or Africa; the flexibility required of Peace Corps service starts from the very beginning). If you don’t get this step, the journey is over. Even if you do get to this step, there are additional requirements on your part (medical review, obtaining the minimum required experience). If they don’t happen, or if they don’t happen in a timely manner, the application process may need to be restarted.
PST – Pre-Service Training – This is the period, prior to being sworn in as Volunteers, during which we received training and lived with host families. Even married couples serving together live with separate host families during PST. Our PST was about 10 weeks. During PST, we had 4 hours of language training, 5 days a week. We also had 4 hours of Technical Training, 4 days a week. Toward the end of PST, some of that Technical Training was devoted to Practice Teaching.
Site Visit – During this formal visit, the staff member (either the Regional Manager or Regional Assistant) visits you in your home and also with your CP(s) and/or Director at your HCA. These are times to resolve any situations that may exist. They ask about work (ongoing projects, challenges), home (checklist requirements met, safety and/or security issues), and they allow you to talk freely. How are you doing?
TEFL – Teaching English as a Foreign Language – My Peace Corps Sector.
VRF – Volunteer Reporting Form – This is a comprehensive set of questions that we answer 3 times a year (for TEFLs, it is mid way through the school year, at the end of the school year, and after summer). The VRF covers job- and project-related successes and challenges, as well as personal assessments of community integration and language learning. Because it is the same set of questions, it allows us/PC to track progress over time.