Peace Corps service is not for everyone. Early Termination (ET) is defined in the volunteer handbook as any event that results in the termination of a PCV's service prior to the completion of service (COS) date. Peace Corps categorizes ETs into four different types: resignation, medical separation, administrative separation, and interrupted service. Once the decision is made to go home, you complete a final medical evaluation and you are on a plane to the U.S. the next day. It's that fast!
When we first arrived in country, our trainers told us that usually about 10% of every training class will not complete their service. Our training class of both agriculture and environmental volunteers started with 54 and by swear-in six of us had returned home. The first trainee left during our third week of training right after we went on the PCV visits. She said to her friends that it just wasn't the right time in her life to do Peace Corps. The next trainee to leave was a pretty big surprise to everyone. He was the veteran of the group having served as a PCV in Panama a few years back. He had come to Paraguay as part of the Master's International program. We all thought he would be the super volunteer with answers to every question. Before our second month of training he returned home to take care of some legal matters.
A few days before our site assignments were given out, our trainers spoke to us as a group about our commitment to Peace Corps service. They told us that now is the time to think seriously about whether or not Peace Corps is right for us. It is best to make the decision before future site visit out of respect for your community. Each community goes through a long process when asking for Peace Corps volunteers. During future site visit the whole community is excited to meet the volunteer who will be living and working with them for the next two years. How do you think they feel, when after site visit their volunteer decides to ET? They begin think... What is wrong with us that makes the volunteer not want to work with us? It can be heart breaking for a community to lose their volunteer.
In the end, we had 5 from environment and 1 from agriculture leave during training. A month after swear in, we had 2 more go home leaving us 46 strong. I think one of the biggest reasons for leaving is that their expectations of Peace Corps service did not match up with reality. While this did not happen in our experience, we have heard that some recruiters and placement officers have been stretching the truth or giving misguided information to applicants. Every volunteer's service is different and the most valuable asset you can have is flexibility. Let go of your preconceived notions of "the perfect" Peace Corps experience. Let your Peace Corps service take you on an adventure. Let it open the doors of your life to new and exciting places. No matter what your service is like Peace Corps will transform you for the better. All you have to do is let it.