“Colder than a polar bear’s toenails” was a line from the famous Outkast song that immediately flew to the front of my mind when my wife and I learned we were chosen to be Education sector volunteers in Ukraine, Eastern Europe. We knew it was going to be quite an adjustment for our Las Vegas, Nevada bones, but we were up for the adventure. Though we weren’t initially interested in serving in Eastern Europe, it ended up being one of the best experiences of our marriage. For both of us, we had a strong desire to live and work abroad, and the Peace Corps was a great way to share our skills with a community in need while also being exposed to a vastly different culture than our own.
Serving as a university instructor at a Ukrainian in western Ukraine allowed me to share my love of incorporating foreign policy, hip hop, and critical thinking skills in a classroom environment with 1st and 2nd-year students and gave me the benefit of working with new and veteran university instructors searching to expand their teaching repertoire. The instructors learned how to engage students in conversant ways, which in turn gave students and instructors a lot of confidence in themselves, the ability to practice English with a native speaker, and a lot of funny, matter-of-fact discussions about comparative culture, music tastes, relative upbringing, and national history respectively.
Ukraine was an extremely cold place, but once people warmed up to us, it was easy to see the beauty in the former soviet country and its culture.