Peace Corps Ukraine: PST University

Peace Corps University... Otherwise known as Peace Corps summer camp. Truth be told when all of group 51 gets together we have a good good time. PST university was this past week from Tuesday to Saturday.

During PST university we have a lot of sessions covering various topics, guest speakers, regional meetings, and most importantly ( or excitingly) site assignments.

Getting to PST University.

Tuesday morning we all had to travel on public transport to the red square in Chernihiv. I brought my backpack and my hiking bag as I knew they would be easy to carry. We had to pack for 10 or so days but for 4 or 5 of those days for a place we didn't know a thing about.

Let me tell you how awkward I felt traveling in the public transportation during rush hour with a 3 foot bubble. I tried my best to not be a bother to people as I backed myself into a wall with my backpack facing the wall and my other backpack in my hands.

Thankfully I got off at the right stop and was able to walk the 3 blocks to the meeting point. Everyone else had the same type of stories where they felt terrible for causing such a disruption on public transportation.

We took two charter buses to PST university. I would definitely say the bus one was a lot cooler than our bus. They had a two story bus and some fancy tables with their seats.

PST University Logistics:

At orientation and staging you are assigned a roommate. At PST university we got to pick our roommates! All of the rooms were totally different. Different bed sizes, room sizes, room arrangements.

We had all of our meals provided for us and let me tell you how excited everyone was walking in the first day ,to see a salad with real lettuce.

Most of the days at PST university were structured more or less the same. First Breakfast. Breakfast was a buffet which was pretty good. They had a good selection of things. Breakfast started at 8 but since it was buffet it was really easy for people to roll in whenever they wanted.

After breakfast we would start our sessions. If we were all together we would have them in this room.

Our sessions were a lot of training on safety and the political atmosphere in Ukraine. We also learned more about PACA tools, had a diversity workshop and met with our regional managers to talk about site logistics. We did not have any language.

If we weren't all together, and if we broke up into CD and YD, YD would stay in the above room and CD would go to this room.

As you might be able to notice, the Peace Corps really likes flip charts.

We would meet until 1 when we would all go down to lunch. Lunch was served usually starting with a salad and a soup of some kind and then followed up with some kind of Chicken with a side. I know some people were a bit tired of the grilled chicken but it was always presented in a different way and I love chicken so no complaints here.

One very interesting thing we got at lunch was a drink that tasted exactly like drinking a campfire. I'm 100% not kidding. Andrew told us it was because they will smoke the fruit before they turn it into compote. Also, side note, my first weeks in Ukraine people kept talking me what I was drinking was compote when I would ask and I would say like juice? and they would also be like no compote. I didn't know that was the English word for it because I didn't know we had this in America.

After lunch we had more sessions. Two of my favorite sessions were the diversity cafe and the other discussion where we met with people on the ground doing humanitarian or development work here in Ukraine. People like Save the children, UNICEF, UN volunteers, FLEX, and so many other amazing groups. The diversity cafe had small groups of people who identified as something and would share their story about living here as that something. I really enjoyed listening to all the Ukrainian groups talk about city life and village life and what life is like as a Ukrainian male. Fun fact ( actually not very fun) Ukraine's population pyramid is super messed up. In their late adulthood women out number men by almost 200%.

Usually sometime during our the afternoon was arguably everyone's favorite official session. Well session is a loose term for it but it was sanctioned. COFFEE BREAK. They brought out so many amazing pastries every day. I've lost a good bit of weight from a more restrictive diet and all the walking but cultural norms like thee are what is keeping my pants up.

After our afternoon sessions we went straight to dinner. I'm pretty sure the first few days our sessions ran considerably over ( which happens all the time in the Peace Corps). For anyone who knows me well it is pretty obvious that I like schedules and food. When both are affected I'm affected.

After dinner we had the nights free. This was where it really started to feel like summer camp!

PST University Free Time:

Every night after dinner the PC staff would organize activities for us. They had language games, soccer, karaoke, movies, and ping pong. Normally people would go play soccer and then join in on the other activities. We had Karaoke two of the 4 nights we were there and it might have made some of my favorite memories of group 51 so far.

I think what made it so special is that we all knew everyone in the room and we all felt pretty comfortable letting loose! I only have one picture of the Karaoke room.

They told us at staging that we would make some of our best friends here and some life long friends. I was a bit skeptical because people say that before a lot of things but... I know for a fact, even being one month in, that I have met people that will be in my life for the rest of it.

This is still our job, and this was technically a job training. A lot of people spent the early evenings on the middle nights working on project proposals and other Peace Corps forms.

I spend two evenings exploring. The first time, Alex and I saw this really creepy looking house from the window of one of the lecture rooms. After dinner a bunch of people went for a walk. Alex, Sam, and myself peeled off to go check out this house. It did not disappoint. I only wish I knew more about it.

The next afternoon, ( fueled by a lot of guild for the amount of cream puffs I ate during coffee break) I went with Sam to this park about a block from the hotel.

I was totally not expecting where we ended up. It was this cute quaint little part covered in the most amazing wooden statues. The entrance was guarded by two towering toy soldiers. The paths were lined with all sorts of sculptures. They had a small play ground for the little littles and then another playgroups for the regular littles.

Behind the park was an old orthodox church with a dome the most beautiful shade of blue I have ever seen. We walked all around the park to get to it. It seemed like it was a work in progress. I ended up climbing the few stairs to the door to see if it was a functioning church and saw the schedule on the door. I assume that is when she saw us.

We had headed back towards the park when this little lady walked up to us and started speaking in maybe Russian, maybe Ukrainian. Shout out to Sam because he was much more willing to try and figure out what she was trying to communicate. I was totally fine with walking back. Somehow in her talking and our attempts at explaining life, I heard the word for inside. We worked out that she was offering to open the church for us to walk around in!

After being in the churches in Chernihiv it was really interesting to be inside this one. It was definitely being redone but was still beautiful in its' own way. I have no idea where she came from or how she saw us but I'm glad that she did. Click the pictures to enlarge.

PST University: The end

We finished PST university by breaking up into travel groups and heading to our sites! Some people went straight to their sites while some of us went to the Peace Corps office.

I'm uploading this picture specifically because of Dillon's face. Days get long in the Peace Corps Y'all. We caught our train at 8pm that night and were headed over the next 12 hours to our site.

#PeaceCorpsUkraine #blog #PSTuniversity #FutureVolunteers #Trainings