Only small, flat envelopes (no boxes, pouches, or packages) can be delivered to trainees over the course of pre-service training. Mail takes a minimum of two weeks to arrive in Ukraine. Your address during training will be:
U.S. Peace Corps/Ukraine PCT (Name of trainee)
P.O. Box 204 01032
Once you become a Volunteer and move to your permanent site, you may receive mail there, either at a post office box or at your office.
Nearly all Ukrainians use cellular phones. Peace Corps Ukraine provides you with a SIM card upon arrival. You are welcome to use this SIM card in your personal U.S. smartphone; however, please make sure that that your cellphone is unlocked prior to your departure.
As computers may not be available at your workplace, bringing your own laptop would be very helpful. Although some Volunteers have purchased laptops in Ukraine, the selection is limited and generally more expensive than in the U.S. If you decide to bring a laptop or a tablet, make sure you bring the necessary power converter, surge protection, and plug adapter. The Peace Corps encourages you to insure your computer against theft.
Housing and Site Location
You will be assigned a site during training after providing input on your site preferences. However, many factors influence the site identification process, including the needs of the host community, and the Peace Corps cannot guarantee placement where you would ideally like to be. During training, you will stay with a host family to enhance your language learning, cultural integration, and safety. For many Volunteers, homestays will extend beyond training and last throughout their two year assignments. Other housing options include a dormitory or an apartment provided by your worksite. You will be provided with most of the furnishings you need, along with a settling-in allowance for additional items. Your regional manager will work with you and your Ukrainian counterpart to ensure that you can obtain necessities. Many towns ration water and electricity, and hot water may not be available. Ukrainians usually keep buckets of water and candles available. Heat in towns and cities is centrally controlled and is turned on and off according to finances and the calendar, not the weather. Volunteers are issued space heaters when they move to their sites. In some communities Volunteers are expected to heat their houses using a wood or coal-burning stove.
Living Allowance and Money Management
Volunteers receive a monthly allowance in local currency that is sufficient to live at the level of the local people. The allowance covers food, housing, household supplies, clothing, transportation to and from work, utilities, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses. Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to live at a level that is comparable with that of their host country counterparts. The Peace Corps discourages Volunteers from supplementing their living allowance with funds from home. However, Volunteers often wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. For this, credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.
Food and Diet
During training, your host family will provide you with most meals, so you will have plenty of opportunities to become familiar with Ukrainian food. The Ukrainian diet relies heavily on meat (mostly pork and chicken), potatoes, beets, onions, and cabbage in the winter. The traditional diet can be high in fat and cholesterol. Vegetarians may find it challenging to maintain their usual diet because of the lack of fruits and vegetables at certain times of the year. Still, there are many types of Ukrainian salads, consisting of cabbage, beets, carrots, and other seasonal and year-round vegetables. In addition, an increasing number of soy products are being imported from Europe. Grocery stores similar to those in the U.S. are appearing all over Ukraine, but most PCVs shop in open-air markets and small shops that sell produce and all the other necessities of life, from wonderful black bread and vegetables to live chickens and clothing. These bazaars allow you to taste many items before purchasing them. It is unlikely you will find fresher products anywhere else and they open early so you can shop before you go to work for the day.
Ukraine has a very well-developed public transportation system. Every large city and regional capital is connected to the extensive national railway network. Buses and minibuses operate between shorter distances. Many of the trains are overnight trains, so Volunteers can leave their sites at night and arrive at their destinations in the morning. An alternative that is gaining popularity is a luxury bus network, which also provides service to many cities. Most cities and towns in Ukraine have a comprehensive public transportation system of buses, trolleys, and trams; Kyiv and several other cities have subways. Public transportation is efficient and inexpensive, but vehicles can be very old and very crowded. In addition to taxi services, most cities have direct-route taxis that look like vans. In towns and villages without public transportation, people get around by bicycles and on foot. Roads in Ukraine are in generally poor condition. Given the state of roads and the weather conditions, travel between cities by buses and vans at night and in the winter can be particularly treacherous. The Peace Corps prohibits all Volunteers from owning or driving vehicles of any type, including scooters, mopeds, and motorcycles. Volunteers who ride bicycles must wear a helmet. Violation of this policy may result in termination of your Volunteer service. During pre-service training you will have an opportunity to familiarize yourself with the public transportation system in Ukraine and learn how to navigate in your training community. In Kyiv, you will learn where to buy tickets and how to choose the safest and reliable travel option.
The life of a Volunteer is filled with learning and networking 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Having a cup of tea with a Ukrainian neighbor is as much a part of the Volunteer experience as teaching a class or seminar. Social activities vary depending on where you are located and may include taking part in festivals, weddings, funerals, parties, and local celebrations. Ukrainians are very hospitable people and will welcome you into their social circle. Many regional centers have cinemas or theaters. Most towns and cities have cafes and restaurants for evenings out, however, it is more typical of Ukrainians to socialize at home with their family and friends. In smaller towns and villages, activities tend to focus on spending time with extended family, neighbors, and friends. Socializing typically includes lots of tea drinking. Chess, basketball, soccer, tennis, badminton, and Ping-Pong are popular sports activities, as well as hiking and exploring local historical sites. In addition, although the Peace Corps encourages Volunteers to remain at their sites as an essential strategy for integrating into their communities, some Volunteers occasionally visit nearby Volunteers on weekends.
Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior
The Peace Corps expects you to behave in a way that will foster respect toward you in your community and reflect well on the Peace Corps and on the United States. Peace Corps Volunteers serve at the invitation of the host country, and must be respectful of and sensitive to the habits, tastes, and taboos of our hosts. Personal appearance is very important in Ukraine, and dressing professionally helps Volunteers gain trust and credibility. For women, professional attire includes dress pants or skirts paired with blouses or sweaters, or dresses, with dress shoes. Although the majority of Ukrainian women wear high heels, flats are also appropriate. For men, dress slacks or khakis paired with sweaters or polo or button-down shirts are appropriate. A jacket and tie are not required for daily wear, however they are important to have for more formal occasions. It is also important that clothes be clean and ironed, and that shoes are kept clean and polished. Ukraine styles are somewhat different than in the United States, but clothing acceptable as business or professional dress in the U.S. will be accepted as such in Ukraine.