A Peace Corps Theory

Kate, Bledian, Country Director Darlene, and Beloved Beha
By Kate Wallner
May 15, 2019

Have I told you my theory? This is a common question I ask my peers.

Peace Corps has been endlessly transformative.

During a deep low of service (around month 8), while seeking motivation, I reflected on my

experiences in Kosovo up to that point. Considering the rollercoastering ups and downs I went

through in a month, week, or day, I took inventory of what I knew to be true. I was getting

better at the local language, but nowhere near perfect. My counterpart and I were becoming

friends, but still we were mysteries to each other. My host family was so patient with me, but I

felt I was making mistakes left and right. These mixed feelings led me spiraling into a thought.

Peace Corps service is like a mini-lifetime within a lifetime.

I'll spare you the details, so please bear with me. As a Trainee flying into my country of service,

it was as if I was born into a new world. Everything was fresh and unknown - smells, sounds,

sights. I was like a baby unable to verbally explain all that I sensed in those initial moments as I

took everything in with wonder. Really I could only do three things: smile, awkwardly walk from

the airport to the bus, and watch as the mountains rolled by.

Once at the 3-month long Pre-Service Training (PST), I started to gain footing in the village

streets. Living with a host family, taking language classes, and participating in training sessions

contributed to an intense and incredibly helpful education. Socializing became more natural

with my neighbors, cohort members, and staff. I started understanding the history and culture

of Peace Corps and Kosovo step by step. This reminded me of my adolescence and high school

years: learning how to adequately express myself, tween-esque concerns and mishaps, and

early existential questions. At the same time, there was a satisfying joy in the process of

becoming more comfortable in a foreign land and role.

At the end of PST my cohort swore-in as Peace Corps Volunteers! To me this felt akin to

graduating from high school. We had learned all we could, grew in unique ways together, and

once it was all said and done we pledged our commitment to Kosovo and the USA. Training

seemed simultaneously like forever and a blink, but either way we left the nest for our

individual sites. Off into the future we flew, knowing we could accomplish many things - yet not

knowing exactly how it would turn out.

The first year of service at site was like transitioning into higher-education. At the beginning, I

felt confident enough to serve, but still had a great deal to discover. I did not know what

projects to focus on (what my major should be) or how to be utilized in my community (what

skills to build on in college). Some friendships shifted along the way, some convictions

challenged, and some realities shook. Sometimes I wondered Is this worth it? but then a small

victory or learning experience would happen again, and I was re-engaged. After that first year, I

realized that integrating into my community was not a breeze, but it became smoother as I

slowly found my purpose through connecting with the community's strengths, hopes, and


This is not the end to my theory, nor is it the only theory, but you get the general idea. I share it

for this main reason: as a Volunteer, highs and lows are inevitable - but that’s life! Through this

theory, I found myself cherishing moments of struggling and striving since I grew so much from

both. And quite simply, time flies, which made me appreciate the time I had even more. Each

bite of pite, each joke with my host siblings, each makijato with my best friend has become

precious. Service can feel long, but upon looking back it's as though decades pass by in a flash. I

want to remember every detail, delicious and hard to stomach, since every one provides

perspective into understanding who I am, who others are, and how to move forward in the

world together.

Peace Corps has been endlessly transformative. I am so thankful to have volunteered in such a

complex, special place filled with tremendously kind and hospitable people. Once I finish

service and start whatever comes next, I hope to be reborn as a better version of myself - ready

to take on any challenge with grace. As long as I carry the lessons Kosovo taught me in my

hands, mind, and heart, it can be done. Kismet .

More student activities....jpg
Student activities
Traveling with the Host Sisters
Traveling with host sister
Kate Wallner