Tales from the Peace Corps: Learning from Cultural Encounters


Tales from the Peace Corps will also be found throughout the first seven sections of this guide. Like Critical Incidents, they provide samples of situations that illustrate some important aspect of crossing cultural boundaries. Tales from the Peace Corps are taken from Returned Peace Corps Volunteers’ accounts of what they learned during their service overseas. Peace Corps Volunteers typically spend two years abroad, often in developing countries, and their experiences and reflections are very useful to those contemplating study abroad because the challenges they faced are quite universal. These Tales will have a familiar ring to anyone who has attempted to enter and function in a new culture.

Just as a critical incident is an occurrence that in some way raises questions and leads the reader to think about “what happened” in the situation described, some Tales from the Peace Corps deal with how intercultural misunderstandings occur. Others show how complex some aspects of culture are and why simple solutions may not always work. Some give examples of how different cultural frames-of-reference can lead to conflict or make communication difficult. They are included, like critical incidents, because they represent the collective wisdom of others who have been abroad before you. They all have something important to say about the kinds of situations you yourself might face overseas some day. Most of all, they are cautionary tales, albeit often rather funny, about what to look out for as you attempt to learn culture and adapt as a study abroad student.