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US Peace Corps

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American Overseas Staff (FY2010): FP 03 (Gray, Mark, S, R, $ 96,552), FP 03 (Kavaliunas, Kristina, A, $ 80,861), FP 01 (Dalton, Anne, Meredith, $ 134,576)

Latest Early Termination Rates (FOIA 11-058):

(2007 30 %),  (2006 36 %), 2005 35 %,  (2008 15 %)

Peace Corps Journals - Azerbaijan Feedicon.gif

Peace Corps Welcome Book

Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Country Director:

Zoltan Szigethy

Program Dates:

2003 - Present

Current Volunteers:


Total Volunteers:


Languages Spoken:

Azerbaijani, Russian, Baku


Flag of Azerbaijan.svg

The government of Azerbaijan invited Peace Corps to work in the country, beginning with a project in the education sector in 2003. The Azerbaijan Ministry of Education (MOE) and the Peace Corps work together at the community level to improve the teaching of English as a foreign language (TEFL) programs at schools and universities. The post launched its second project, the Community Economic Development (CED) project, in 2005.


Peace Corps History

Main article: History of the Peace Corps in Azerbaijan

The government of Azerbaijan has expressed keen interest in having a Peace Corps program since 1997. However, because of intense lobbying efforts by anti-Azerbaijani Armenian-Americans, the Freedom Support Act of 1992 contained a special provision (Section 907) that banned U.S. foreign assistance to Azerbaijan without presidential approval. This act effectively blocked any initiative by the Peace Corps until 2002, when President George W. Bush lifted the provision.

Shortly thereafter, Vilayat Guliev, minister of foreign affairs for the government of Azerbaijan, formally requested a Peace Corps presence. This was strongly supported by the U.S. embassy staff in Baku (Azerbaijan’s capital), and in April 2002, the Peace Corps began an assessment. The assessment team declared Azerbaijan “highly suitable for a new Peace Corps program,” citing the enthusiastic support of the U.S. embassy, Azerbaijani ministry officials, local government officials, Azerbaijani students and teachers, and local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). On the strength of this assessment and the U.S. president’s declared interest in increasing the size of the Peace Corps and enabling citizens in predominantly Muslim countries to interact with Americans, the Peace Corps director approved the establishment of a program in Azerbaijan for 2003.

Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyles

Main article: Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyles in Azerbaijan

As a Volunteer, you will live in a town or village outside of Baku. Peace Corps/Azerbaijan staff, with some consideration of your desires, selects your site carefully, its principal considerations being safety and security and matching the needs of the local community with your skills and aptitudes. We want to ensure that your talents are as fully engaged during your tour of service as possible.

Your housing might be a private room in a family’s dwelling, a shared house, or a small apartment. You will live with a host family during training as part of your language and cultural orientation. Upon being sworn in as a Volunteer, you will again live with an Azerbaijani host family in your assigned community for the first six months of your service. The Peace Corps will select your host family for this period, except that you may choose a different family for the last two months with prior approval by the Peace Corps. Just as we make every effort to select sites that will fully engage you, we expect that you will make every effort to absorb Azerbaijani culture by spending at least one-fourth of your service living directly with a host country family. After this six-month period, alternative housing arrangements may be considered in consultation with your program manager and the medical officer. Many Volunteers remain in host family housing for their entire service. In some parts of Azerbaijan, appropriate independent housing is scarce; you should prepare for the possibility of living with a host family for your entire service.


Main article: 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.

Your Health Care and Safety in Azerbaijan

Main article: Health Care and Safety in Azerbaijan

The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer. Peace Corps medical programs emphasize the preventive, rather than the curative, approach to disease. The Peace Corps in Azerbaijan maintains a clinic with one or two (depending on the number of Volunteers) medical officers, who take care of Volunteers’ primary healthcare needs. Additional medical services, such as testing and basic treatment, are available in Baku at an American-standard hospital. If you become seriously ill, you will be transported either to an American-standard medical facility in the region or to the United States.

Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues

In fulfilling the Peace Corps’ mandate to share the face of America with our host countries, we are making special efforts to see that all of America’s richness is reflected in the Volunteer corps. More Americans of color are serving in today’s Peace Corps than at any time in recent years. Differences in race, ethnic background, age, religion, and sexual orientation are expected and welcomed among our Volunteers. Part of the Peace Corps’ mission is to help dispel any notion that Americans are all of one origin or race and to establish that each of us is as thoroughly American as the other despite our many differences.

Our diversity helps us accomplish that goal. In other ways, however, it poses challenges. In Azerbaijan, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyle, background, and beliefs are judged in a cultural context very different from their own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in Azerbaijan.

Outside of Azerbaijan’s capital, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What people view as typical American behavior or norms may be a misconception, such as the belief that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The people of Azerbaijan are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to cultural differences that you present.

To ease the transition and adapt to life in Azerbaijan, you may need to make some temporary, yet fundamental compromises in how you present yourself as an American and as an individual. For example, female trainees and Volunteers will not be able to exercise the independence available to them in the United States; political discussions need to be handled with great care; and some of your personal beliefs may best remain undisclosed. You will need to develop techniques and personal strategies for coping with these and other limitations. The Peace Corps staff will lead diversity and sensitivity discussions during your pre-service training and will be on call to provide support, but the challenge ultimately will be your own.

Overview of Diversity in Azerbaijan

The Peace Corps staff in Azerbaijan recognizes adjustment issues that come with diversity and will endeavor to provide support and guidance. During pre-service training, several sessions will be held to discuss diversity and coping mechanisms. We look forward to having male and female Volunteers from a variety of races, ethnic groups, ages, religions, and sexual orientations, and hope that you will become part of a diverse group of Americans who take pride in supporting one another and demonstrating the richness of American culture.

What Might a Volunteer Face?

Possible Issues for Female Volunteers

Although Azerbaijan’s culture is more secular than that of most Muslim countries, it remains largely patriarchal. Men are accorded more leeway than women in most supervisory and leadership roles. In schools, however, most language teachers are women. Volunteers find that, while on the surface

Azerbaijani culture seems to give women more freedom (in dress and some careers), women are carefully “protected” in that they don’t go out alone and don’t go to many places in town (e.g., teahouses, cafes, and certain parts of the baazar). This often appears restrictive to Americans entering the culture.

Female Volunteers may find that Azerbaijanis think it is strange for a single woman to live alone. They will receive more unwanted and inappropriate attention from men than they do in the United States. Female Volunteers will not be able to have male visitors in their home-stay rooms or apartments in villages. They may have to work harder than male Volunteers to gain the respect of Azerbaijani counterparts in the workplace. And they will need to keep a low social profile and practice discretion in public (i.e., not smoke in public or drink in public) to avoid developing an undesirable reputation in the community.

Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color

Azerbaijan has an ethnically diverse population and a long history of interaction with peoples of Central Asia.

Still, a person of color may be the only minority trainee or Volunteer in a particular program. You may work and live with individuals with no experience or understanding of your culture. You may not receive, or be able to receive, the necessary personal support from other Volunteers and may be questioned about socializing exclusively with other minority Volunteers. Finally, you may not find minority role models among the local Peace Corps staff.

African-American Volunteers may be evaluated as less professionally competent than nonblack Volunteers. They may be called “Negroes,” not necessarily in a derogatory sense but as the local word used to describe black people. They may be the focus of staring, pointing, or comments. Hispanic American Volunteers may not be perceived as being American or may be the subject of stereotyped perceptions of Hispanic cultures other than their own. Asian-American Volunteers may be the subject of stereotyped perceptions based on behavior observed in films. Like all Volunteers of color, they may be identified more by their cultural heritage than by their American citizenship.

Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers

Respect comes with age in Azerbaijan. Younger Volunteers may have to work harder than their older colleagues to be accepted as professionals. Older Volunteers may feel isolated within the Peace Corps community in Azerbaijan because the majority of Volunteers are in their 20s. In training, seniors may encounter frustration in not having their needs met for an effective learning environment in areas such as timing, presentation, and style. They may need to be assertive in developing an effective individual approach to language learning. During their service, seniors may work and live with individuals who have little understanding of, or respect for, the lives and experiences of senior Americans. Older Volunteers may find that younger Volunteers look to them for advice and support. While some seniors find this to be very enjoyable, others choose not to fill this role.

Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers

In Azerbaijan, homosexuality is generally considered immoral for religious and cultural reasons. There are certainly homosexuals in Azerbaijan, but their level of acceptance is very low. While there is some evidence of gay culture in Baku, it is quite discreet and underground. However, in the regions where you will be placed, homosexuality is definitely not accepted. Even certain styles of hair and clothes, earrings on men, and certain mannerisms that are accepted in the United States may be viewed with suspicion or disdain in your community. Your basic civil liberties may be ignored, or you may be hassled in bars or on the street.

You may not find the support you desire within the Peace Corps community in Azerbaijan. Homosexual or bisexual Volunteers may serve for two years without meeting another homosexual or bisexual Volunteer. Relationships with homosexual host country nationals can happen, but as with all cross-cultural relationships, they are not likely to be easy.

Lesbians, like all women, may have to deal with constant questions about boyfriends, marriage, and sex. Wearing an “engagement ring” may help. Gay men, like all men, may have to deal with machismo: talk of conquests, girl watching, and dirty jokes.

Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers

Azerbaijanis frequently ask Volunteers about their religious affiliation, but this is more out of curiosity than out of any challenge. Ninety-three percent of Azerbaijanis are Muslim, and mosque attendance and other religious observances are generally greater in rural areas. If you wish to visit a mosque, ask your host family or counterpart first, and be guided by their response. Azerbaijan has a long tradition of tolerance toward and coexistence with other faiths, with the exception of Armenian Orthodoxy, an outgrowth of the ongoing tensions between Azerbaijan and its western neighbor. Proselytizing of any kind by Volunteers is prohibited.

Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities

As a disabled Volunteer in Azerbaijan, you may find that you face a special set of challenges. In Azerbaijan, as in other parts of the world, some people hold prejudicial attitudes about individuals with disabilities and may discriminate against them. Some people may mistake you for a war veteran at first. In addition, there is very little of the infrastructure to accommodate individuals with disabilities that has been developed in the United States.

As part of the medical clearance process, the Peace Corps’ Office of Medical Services determined that you were physically and emotionally capable of performing a full tour of Volunteer service in Azerbaijan without unreasonable risk of harm to yourself or interruption of your service. Peace Corps/ Azerbaijan staff will work with disabled Volunteers to make reasonable accommodations in training, housing, job sites, and other areas to enable them to serve safely and effectively.

Possible Issues for Married Volunteers

Azerbaijanis welcome married couples, so being married per se should not cause any problems. Difficulties for married Volunteers do sometimes arise, however, in the areas of language training, living with a host family, and placement.

If one spouse has superior language learning skills, the other spouse may not work as hard at learning the language or come to rely on his or her partner’s language skills. But to integrate into the host community it is essential that both learn Azerbaijani. Furthermore, everyone must successfully meet minimum language requirements to complete training and become a Volunteer.

Couples may find that the privacy they have become accustomed to is in short supply when living with an Azerbaijani family. You will be expected to participate in the family’s life, especially during and after dinners. Arranging for private time and space in a culturally acceptable manner may require some sensitivity and flexibility on your part.

Spouses should expect to be separated during pre-service training, especially if spouses are placed in different programmatic sectors.

Frequently Asked questions

How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Azerbaijan?

Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges for transport of baggage that exceeds this allowance. The Peace Corps has its own size and weight limits and will not pay the cost of transport for baggage that exceeds these limits. The authorized baggage allowance is two checked pieces of luggage with combined dimensions of both pieces not to exceed 107 inches (length + width + height) and a carry-on bag with dimensions of no more than 45 inches. Checked baggage should not exceed 100 pounds total with a maximum weight allowance of 50 pounds for any one bag.

Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take pets, weapons, explosives, radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted), automobiles, or motorcycles to their overseas assignments. Do not pack flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers. This is an important safety precaution.

What is the electric current in Azerbaijan?

Azerbaijani electrical outlets accept plugs with two round prongs and operate on 220 to 240 volts and 50 cycles. Inexpensive adapters for U.S. equipment are readily available at places such as Radio Shack and travel supply stores. Be aware that the supply of electricity may be weak or sporadic, particularly in the winter months.

How much money should I bring?

Volunteers are expected to live at the same level as the people in their community. They are given a settling-in allowance and a monthly living allowance, which should cover their expenses. Often Volunteers wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. If you do choose to have additional funds available to you for vacation travel, bringing credit cards or traveler’s checks would be less risky than bringing a large amount of cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.

When can I take vacation and have people visit me?

Each Volunteer accrues two vacation days per month of service (excluding training). Leave may not be taken during training, the first three months of service, or the last three months of service, except in conjunction with an authorized emergency leave. Family and friends are welcome to visit you after pre-service training and the first three months of service as long as their stay does not interfere with your work. Extended stays at your site are not encouraged and may require permission from your country director. The Peace Corps is not able to provide your visitors with visa, medical, or travel assistance.

Will my belongings be covered by insurance?

The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage for personal effects; Volunteers are ultimately responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. However, you can purchase personal property insurance before you leave. If you wish, you may contact your own insurance company; additionally, insurance application forms will be provided, and we encourage you to consider them carefully. Volunteers should not ship or take valuable items overseas. Jewelry, watches, radios, cameras, and expensive appliances are subject to loss, theft, and breakage, and in many places, satisfactory maintenance and repair services are not available.

Do I need an international driver’s license?

Volunteers in Azerbaijan do not need an international driver’s license because they are prohibited from operating privately owned motorized vehicles. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses and minibuses to trucks, bicycles, and lots of walking. On very rare occasions, a Volunteer may be asked to drive a sponsor’s vehicle, but this can occur only with prior written permission of the country director. Should this occur, the Volunteer may obtain a local driver’s license. A U.S. driver’s license will facilitate the process, so bring it with you just in case.

What should I bring as gifts for Azerbaijani friends and my host family?

This is not a requirement. A token of friendship is sufficient. Some gift suggestions include knickknacks for the house; pictures, books, or calendars of American scenes; souvenirs from your area; hard candies that will not melt or spoil; or photos to give away.

Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?

Peace Corps trainees are not assigned to individual sites until after they have completed the majority of their pre-service training. This gives Peace Corps staff the opportunity to assess each trainee’s technical and language skills prior to assigning sites, in addition to finalizing site selections with their ministry counterparts. Peace Corps/Azerbaijan tries to build a tentative site visit into its training program for the sake of early orientation and another opportunity for trainees to assess their commitment to Peace Corps service. If feasible, you may have the opportunity to provide input on your site preferences, including geographical location, distance from other Volunteers, and living conditions. However, keep in mind that many factors influence the site selection process and that the Peace Corps cannot guarantee placement where you would ideally like to be. The most important considerations will be the Peace Corps staff’s judgment about the safety and security of the site and a good match between a community’s needs and the trainee’s skills and abilities. Most Volunteers live in towns or in rural villages and are usually within one hour from another Volunteer. Some sites require a 10- to 12-hour drive from the capital. For the first six months as a Volunteer, you will live with a host family, although you may elect to live with a different host family for the last two months of this period with the approval of the Peace Corps.

How can my family contact me in an emergency?

The Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services provides assistance in handling emergencies affecting trainees and Volunteers or their families. Before leaving the United States, you should instruct your family to notify the Office of Special Services immediately if an emergency arises, such as a serious illness or death of a family member. During normal business hours, the number for the Office of Special Services is 800.424.8580, extension 1470. After normal business hours and on weekends and holidays, the Special Services duty officer can be reached at 202.638.2574. For nonemergency questions, your family can get information from your country desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 800.424.8580, extension 2423.

Can I call home from Azerbaijan?

International telephone service is available in most cities, but it can be expensive—as much as $2 per minute by cellphone and $6 per minute by land line for a call to the United States. The land line system is often overwhelmed, however, and disruptions in service are frequent. Having friends and family call you is considerably more cost-effective. Volunteers also can send relatively inexpensive text messages internationally.

Should I bring a cellular phone with me? Most American cellular phones are wired to operate exclusively in the United States. Cellular systems in Azerbaijan, which cover virtually the entire country, are GSM compatible and work on different frequencies than American phones. Peace Corps/Azerbaijan will provide you with a Peace Corps-issued cellphone that you must return after two years and in good condition. You will be responsible for paying for the costs of your calls from your living allowance.

Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?

A growing number of Internet cafés or other businesses in the capital and in some of the larger cities offer Internet access. Because of the weak telephone and electrical infrastructure in outlying areas, Volunteers in rural sites may be limited to sending and receiving e-mail on occasional visits to the capital or regional hubs. Before departing for overseas service, many prospective Volunteers sign up for free e-mail accounts that they can access worldwide, such as those offered by Yahoo and Hotmail.

Many Volunteers bring laptop computers and find them useful for work and relaxation. If you bring a laptop computer, you will be responsible for insuring and maintaining it. The Peace Corps will not replace stolen computers and strongly encourages those who bring them to get personal property insurance. Because of the high value of laptops, owners significantly increase their risk of becoming a victim of crime. You probably will not find the same level of technical assistance and service in Azerbaijan as you would at home, and replacement parts may take months to arrive. Moreover, gaining Internet access via your laptop is probably a remote possibility because very few Volunteers have telephone lines in their homes or adequate lines in their communities or workplaces. If you bring a laptop, be sure to bring a high-quality surge protector—electrical lapses and surges are common.

Packing List

This list has been compiled by Peace Corps/Azerbaijan and Volunteers and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You obviously cannot bring everything we mention, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. You can always have things sent to you later. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have a weight limit on baggage. And remember, you can get almost everything you need in Azerbaijan.

Luggage should be durable, lightweight, and flexible; a duffel bag or a hiking backpack is a good option. When choosing luggage, remember that you will be hauling it in and out of taxis and trains, and often lugging it around on foot.

General Clothing

You can buy clothing in Azerbaijan, but much of it is made of synthetic materials and may not meet your taste. You can also have clothes made locally, but bring what you will need until you know where the best tailors are. Variety in clothing is not as important as how it looks and how sturdy it is. Following are some suggestions for what to pack.

Note: Keep in mind the only dry cleaning is in Baku. So you’ll be washing everything by hand, but you still need to look professional.

You will still be an American when you live here, so if you have a style of dressing, plan on keeping it, just making the modifications necessary in this culture. This means NO exposed midriffs or backs; any sleeveless tops should be VERY modest, NO short skirts, and clothes should not be too tight.

For Women

For Men

Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items

Pre-Departure Checklist

The following list consists of suggestions for you to consider as you prepare to live outside the United States for two years. Not all items will be relevant to everyone, and the list does not include everything you should make arrangements for.





Personal Papers


Personal Effects

Financial Management

See also

External links

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