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Jenny T.

“Watching how easily and naturally my family and colleagues handle both major and minor disruptions has been eye-opening for me. Although it’s difficult for me, I have been trying to emulate them in my own life too.”

Jennifer T headshot

1. What got you interested in Peace Corps?

I have been interested in living in the Kyrgyz Republic for a long time. I used to have relatives who lived here, and I visited them several times over 15 years. Each time, I loved this country and wished I could stay longer. I finally decided to try to relocate here more permanently, and when I researched which organizations came to the Kyrgyz Republic, the Peace Corps showed up right away. Its mission in this country was immediately attractive to me, especially living in a village and integrating into society as much as possible.

2. What projects are you working on with your community?

I am currently working with the Peace Corps and my community to purchase new English textbooks and update our English classrooms. For upper grades, most students currently are responsible for buying their own books every year. For some grades, there are no modern books available and we must use extremely outdated books. Our students’ parents all agreed to collect money towards buying new books, and we are really excited to try them out in the classroom! We’re also going to replace the old blackboards and get some basic classroom technology so that it will be easier to implement engaging activities during class.

Peace Corps Volunteer Jenny T. teaching English in Kyrgyz Republic
Peace Corps Volunteer Jenny T. teaching English in the Kyrgyz Republic.

3. What strategies have you used to integrate into your community?

Language exchange and cooking have been great for integration. Informally, teaching each other our languages creates opportunities to connect. I also participate in formal language exchanges that allow me to regularly meet with friends, learn, and have equal relationships with others. Cooking and exchanging recipes has been a great way to connect with my host family. More recently, I’ve started cooking at school with our English club. We have been trying new cuisines from all over the world!

4. What is a highlight of your time in service so far?

A highlight of my time in service is all the spontaneous, joyous moments that occur regularly here, especially among children. I love that my students constantly display natural acts of kindness and celebration. It makes my day when they help each other out in class or enjoy each others’ company. An example would be our 7th grade English club. During one of our meetings, we discovered it was a student’s birthday so we spontaneously started a dance party and filmed congratulatory videos.

5. What have you enjoyed most about the community where you are serving?

I love how everyone is so laid-back and friendly. It’s nice to walk down the street and greet each other. All children are happy to see you. I like that people here seem happy with their lives and are constantly connected with one another. In times of hardship, people naturally pull together and help each other out. Despite living in an uncertain world, people’s connections with each other makes our village feel safe and warm.

6. What are some of the most important things you've learned from your community?

One of the most important things I’ve learned from my community is how to roll with life’s uncertainties. Village life is dictated by nature, family, and neighbors, which means your own schedule is often out of your control. Watching how easily and naturally my family and colleagues handle both major and minor disruptions has been eye-opening for me. Although it’s difficult for me, I have been trying to emulate them in my own life, too. Often this means letting go of the need to plan everything out, being more humble in my expectations, relying on each other, and getting more creative in the moment.

7. How do you spend time when you are not working on a project?

I like to learn languages (Kyrgyz, and now Russian) through language exchange and classes. I also like exploring and drawing this country and its amazing nature. I like spending time in the nearby town, networking with other teachers and professionals. I relax with my host family over tea. Finally, I connect with friends and family back home through video chats.

8. What are you looking forward to in your remaining time as a Peace Corps Volunteer?

I can’t wait to see the new textbooks in our classrooms! It will be really fun to start implementing them with my counterparts and exploring how to use audio resources. I’m looking forward to celebrating Nowruz (the new year) in the spring with my community, since I wasn’t in town for it last year. I’m glad I will be here for the 11th grade class graduation. And, I will meet my host sister’s new baby soon!

9. Once you finish your service, what will you do differently when you return to the U.S. (or elsewhere)?

I hope when I finish my service, I will embrace the spontaneity, joy, kindness, and connectedness that my community has modeled for me. I hope to continue living in the Kyrgyz Republic, so I’ll have the privilege of living with people who know these habits in their bones. I’ve also learned to live with much less materially, and it’s very freeing. This time has helped me understand what’s really necessary for living. Finally, I’m acutely aware of how much children have to show us and how they remind us of what it means to be fully and unselfconsciously human. I want to focus my career on working with school age children, encouraging their potential and affirming their value.