Peace Corps Writers
Talking with Ray Leki (page 2)
Talking with
Ray Leki
page 1
page 2
page 3

Eight years on staff? What about the 5-years-in-up-and-out rule?

That span of years (1982 to 1991) reflects the whole series of jobs I had with Peace Corps. I got every possible extension I could from the 5-year rule and pushed it to 8
     Then a friend suggested I apply for a job in the State Department as a civil service trainer at the Foreign Service Institute — I’ve been here ever since. I am the head of one of the five schools of the Institute — we focus on transitions into and out of the U.S. foreign affairs community, as well as to overseas assignments and repatriation. We provide security awareness training, cross-cultural, protocol, personal adjustment, career planning, and related training, information and counseling services.

Let’s go back to the Peace Corps training for a moment. From your experience in the Peace Corps how well does the U.S. do cross-cultural training?

My first experience with Peace Corps training was what got me interested in cross-cultural training as a career. Like many Volunteers, I had an extended family home-stay experience early in my program as part of the cross-cultural training. I found it humbling, painful, joyful, and fascinating. Later in my career as a trainer for Peace Corps, it was one of the areas that I never tired of — that I always wanted to spend more time on, even when the training program participants weren’t that wild about spending more time on it.
I know that for many governments, NGO, and private sector employees headed for international assignments, interest in cross-cultural training is primarily limited to culture-specific training, that is, people are interested mostly in training to make them more effective in a particular target culture. That’s understandable, but unfortunate: culture-generic cross-cultural training often allows open-minded travelers to explore a higher level of meaning and abstraction, and reap more portable, tangible, and reliable benefits through their efforts.

Who are some of the best Peace Corps trainers when it comes to cross cultural understanding?

I’ve known Craig Storti (Morocco 1970–72) since I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the late ’70s/early ’80s. I have delighted not only in his commercial success as an author of cross-cultural books, but in the development and sophistication of his writing.
American University’s Gary Weaver has influenced generations of cross-cultural trainers. There are many great authors and trainers associated with Peace Corps cross-cultural training and I believe part of the achievement of the Third Goal is not only in sharing an understanding of other peoples and cultures of the world (culture-specific) among Americans, but also in sharing an understanding of how other cultures vary across the gamut of countries, including our own (culture-generic). Peace Corps has a proud role and history in the development of cross-cultural communication and training as a field.

Okay, let’s talk about your new book for a moment? Why this book? Why this title?

Travel Wise: How to Be Safe, Savvy, and Secure Abroad is a title my publisher, Intercultural Press, suggested. We wanted to signal to readers that this was about more than safety and security — it is about maximizing your chances for overseas success, whatever the purpose or mission of your travels.
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