Peace Corps Ukraine: A typical week in PST
We have finished our second official week of PST ( Pre- Service Training) ( we aren't counting in country orientation) so I figured this week I would post about what a typical week looks like in Training. But Katie you are only two weeks in how can you speak about a typical week with such a small sample size?!?! I can because we have a schedule and all the weeks are structured the same... Plus I was told I wasn't allowed to post my blog about how I ended up on a film set until the film comes out ... so you get this blog.
General PST overview
Pst will last for 3 months. During that time we are broken up into groups of 5 or 6 called clusters. Each cluster is facilitated with a TCF and an LCF ( technical cultural facilitator and language cultural facilitator (I think))
Most clusters have a link. Our cluster doesn't so I don't actually know what you do with your links.
During orientation we were given a packet with a a schedule for the whole three months of training. To be honest it is a little bit difficult to figure out and is definitely subject to change. Ukraine is one of the more lax countries I've seen when it comes to keeping a schedule. Please see below for the totally easy to understand PST schedule week.
We follow this as a general guide and then create a schedule just for our clusters with our TCF and LCF. That schedule looks like this.
Each week we have language training, technical training, minihubs, personal health days, tutoring, SDL (self directed learning) and a meeting with our PST organization.
Language training occurs in 4 hour chunks 3 times a week. We take a 15 minute break after 2 hours and then break for lunch at 1 for 1 hour. (sometimes this gets replaced for something else so FPCVs make sure you have food stashed somewhere)
My cluster, as I have mentioned in previous posts is the "advanced language group" which I got put in as a challenge. (the placement officer told me that. He was like you don't speak enough foreign languages to really be in this group but I think you will do okay, so lets see). Our LCF speaks only in Ukrainian for most of the whole class. Thankfully when my deer in the head lights look gets too overwhelming she will repeat it slowly and use more gestures. If I still don't get it or have clarifying questions she will answer in English.
Our training room looks like this. It is the sitting room of our LCF's apartment. As far as I know all the groups meet in their LCF's apartment.
We have a lot of different activities throughout our time. The classes follow the same structure that they teach us to use when we run clubs or meetings. Motivation, Information, Practice, Application.
A lot of what we do is hands on which is a really helpful way to learn a language. We will physically do the activity of a new verb or we will practice putting dialogues in order.
Our language classes also take us on field trips. Our first one was to the market. We had been learning food words and verbs so at the end of the week we walked to the local bazzar to test out our speaking skills.
When we got back we cooked a meal together to utilize our cooking words. Field trips are really fun. They can be daunting because we have such a limited command of Ukrainian and don't know for sure that the person won't just start speaking in Russian. A pretty big reality during PST is that I feel fully confident in asking a lot of questions and forming a lot of questions on my own. However, interpreting the answer that is given to me... is a totally different story.
Tutoring & SDL
You are required to do 2 hours of self directed learning a week. In truth, you most definitely do more than that. Sometimes I do 2 hours of SDL a day. I have to work a lot harder than the rest of my group (which is fine) so on Sundays before each week I will make note cards for all the new vocabulary that week. The schedule has what vocab section we will be in so I use that to get the right words. I break them up into 5 groups and learn a stack each day through out the week. Other times I will do homework that was assigned to us in our language manuals or look through one of the other books they gave us, like verbs or grammar.
Tutoring takes places on Saturdays and is not required. It works like college office hours. This is a new change to the PST schedule. They used to have field trips or classes on Saturday. I am super thankful they don't because come Friday afternoon I am mentally exhausted. Tutoring is to be utilized if you have a specific question or need help with a specific problem. I went this past Saturday with help determining when to use the grammar cases.
Mostly SDL looks like this:
Technical Training & CD modulus:
Each week you have technical training sessions. During these sessions they familiarize us with our PACA books and other tools to do the jobs we have been assigned. PACA stands for (the peace corps has more acronyms than the military I swear) Participatory Analysis for Community Action.
PACA is basically a set of guidelines on how to gather information, design a program, run a program, and be able to document your efforts for research using evidence based methods.
During PST we are also partnered with an organization in Chernihiv and we has to use PACA and our other tools to create a project with them by the time we finish training. (YD looks a little bit different but they have a similar project requirement).
We meet with that organization once a week and then do work outside on our own time if necessary.
As part of our technical training we will also meet with the local government and other organizations. Our organization is an NGO so our second week we met with a governmental organization. Below are picture of the city council and the governmental organization.
Normally on Tuesdays we have a CD module. During these the whole CD training class is together. We hear from our Lead Specialist Roman ( who is also super great) about topics concerning our sector and the general business atmosphere of Ukraine.
These usually last for most of Tuesday. They have been starting around 11 so we have one-on-one language meetings before. We meet at the hotel we stayed at for orientation and are now all well versed in what to expect from their coffee breaks!
Personal Health Sessions
We all got pretty excited when we saw personal health days on our schedule. We assumed these would carry the same meaning in Ukraine that they do in America. We were wrong.
On personal health days, you get shots. It actually isn't that bad. For us we all have to get the full 3 rounds of rabies shots. While we are waiting to get the shots we have lectures about some aspect of health. Those range from sexual health (FPCVS prep your self for a little bit of an awkward afternoon) to mental health to what the major health risks in our country of service are. We just get up one by one during these sessions to meet another doctor to get our shots.
Our PCMOs (peace corps medical officer) tell us that our health days are pretty chill compared to the briefing volunteers get in Africa or other such places, as they have a lot more things to worry about.
Weekends are generally free. Some clusters will spend time in the morning on Saturday doing some sort of field trip but that is because they wanted to do it during that time. The Peace Corps lets you have that time to recharge.
Currently most volunteers spend the weekends exploring the city. Chernihiv is SUPER old and has a ton of amazing Churches. The volunteers that live in the surrounding villages can't travel into the city alone yet and we can't travel to them. But once that restriction is lifted ( about a month after PST begins) I'm sure we will start exploring the villages and playing soccer with the local kiddos as well.
I usually structure my weekends so that on Saturday I set aside minimal time for Studying and maximum time for fun. Where as on Sunday I spent a maximal amount of time studying or doing Peace Corps related work.
By the time the weekend rolls around, I think I can speak for everyone and say we are pretty spent. What I've heard from many chats with other volunteers (usually over chocolate) and have experienced myself is that you feel so exhausted all the time because you are "on" 24 hours a day. You use so much brain power trying to take in as much information as you possibly can and then when you get home you have to study, navigate new foods, as well as try and communicate with a host family that doesn't speak much of your language.
Although PST is exhausting and as hard as every other blog I have read says it will be, I can genuinely say I am loving it. I definitely have bouts of homesickness. But that homesickness isn't that I want to quit and go home, it is more that I want my home people to be here with me. Every day I feel God's reassurance that this is the path for my life, but every now and again I could really use a cat cuddle of a nice long hug from familiar arms.