Newbie Week: What to Expect When You’re Expecting (to Move to Kosovo)

I’m devoting this week’s posts to useful information for the next group of Kosovo volunteers, who are starting to get their acceptance letters for the Peace Corps. –April

The following is a timeline of my experience in 1) getting to Kosovo and 2) my first few months here. Your experience may differ from this, but it’ll still give you a clue as to what to expect. (You can see my pre-departure timeline here.)

Staging
“Staging” is the term Peace Corps uses to prepare you to go to your host country. My group (Kosovo 3, from this moment forward to be referred to as “K3”) was the first group to do everything totally in-country. This means we did not meet for a few days in the U.S. before flying to Kosovo. I first met my fellow volunteers at Dulles Airport, the day we departed all for Kosovo. It’s funny … I have very distinct memories of meeting select people, and no memories at all of meeting others. Now, of course, I know and love my whole group. (We’re very close. Hopefully your group will be close, too.)

The First Four Days
Oh, the first four days. I think back to everything that happened my first four days in Kosovo and I think, “How did all of that happen in only four days?” Here’s what you can expect:

  • Once you land in Pristina, the group will be greeted by staff, loaded into a van, and driven to a hotel about an hour away. (You can see my very first photo of Kosovo here.)
  • You will be assigned a roommate. You and your roommate will share a very tiny hotel room. (You can see a video of my hotel room here).
  • After hauling your luggage to your room, there will be a welcome speech/some kind of ice breaker activity. You will likely be tired/delirious/cranky. There will be a little free time, dinner, and then you can sleep. Zzzzz
  • All of your meals will be provided by the hotel. The food is not terrible. Expect a lot of meat and French fries.
  • You will spend the next three days in training all day.
  • There will be some language training, though likely not with your permanent LCF (that means “language and cultural facilitator,” in Peace Corps speak). You will get to meet your permanent LCF, though.

Moving to Your Pre-Service Training (PST) Site
On your fourth day in Kosovo, you and your group will re-pack all of your luggage, say goodbye to your tiny hotel room, and load back onto the van. You will now be moving to your training site. There are four adjacent villages that your group will be divided into.
This is the day you will meet your temporary host family. I have literally never been so terrified in my life. I remember getting into the car with my host father and thinking, “WHAT HAVE I DONE?” (Forever to be known as, “That Time I Went Home with a Strange Man … and Lived with Him for Three Months.”) Luckily, he turned out to be a lovely person, and obviously did not murder me. You can read all about my experiences meeting my PST family here.

Life During PST
You will have training 5 full days per week, plus ½ on Saturdays. Training will be a mix of language classes, mandatory Peace Corps training (safety, medical stuff, etc.), Kosovo-specific trainings, and TEFL/CD training. You can read about a day in the life of PST here.

The Peace Corps will give you money to then give to your host family. The amount for PST is pre-determined, so there is no haggling (there will be later, once you get to your permanent site). You can read more about the money situation here.

There are several bigger activities that happen during PST. They include:

  • A project.
  • A visit to Novo Brdo.
  • A visit to Pristina.
  • A mid-PST language test.
  • Practicum. If you are a TEFL volunteer, you’ll teach a 6-day summer camp for kids. If you are a CD volunteer, you’ll do …something else. I don’t know. I’m not in that program. You can read about my experiences teaching here.
  • A cultural day trip within Kosovo. My group visited Istog, Kosovo.
  • An end-of-PST language test. It was very stressful. I cried before mine. A lot of people cried before/during their test. This isn’t baseball, it’s the Peace Corps, so crying is totally allowed.
  • A final project and a “thank you” party for the PST families. You can read about that here.

Week Five
Week Five is stressful. There’s no getting around it. During week five, you will find out where your permanent host site will be. You will also meet your TEFL/CD counterpart for the first time. As another volunteer put it, it is a “blur of heat and misery.” You can read more about my experience here.

Swearing In
Once you complete PST, you will officially swear in as a member of the Peace Corps! And move in with your permanent host family. All on the same day. You can read about my swearing in ceremony here.

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