Pre-Service Training is like the Peace Corps’ version of basic training, but with a lot less push-ups. (But just as much sweat thanks to no air-conditioning.)
These 11 weeks of in-country training conclude with a formal ceremony, where trainees take an oath and become official Peace Corps Volunteers.
Our Swearing-In Ceremony was on Saturday, August 22nd, 2015. The night before we were busy re-packing our bags and eating our final meal with our PST host families. I was also busy practicing for the speech I was asked to give at the ceremony in Albanian. My host family probably thought I was crazy as I paced my room, packing and mumbling in Albanian.
The day began extremely early. I woke up by 5:00 AM to get ready and finish packing. The ceremony was being broadcast by several television stations, so we were told to look our best. I left the house at 5:45 with all of my bags to meet in the center of Kamenice, where we all boarded a bus to the capital Prishtina, where the ceremony was being held.
Before the ceremony we were given instructions on how to enter, the order of speakers, how to receive our certificates, and how to take the Oath of Service. It felt a lot like rehearsing for graduation. We also signed copies of the oath and were addressed by our Country Director.
The ceremony began at 10:00 AM and it was a pretty fancy affair. All of the Peace Corps Kosovo staff were in attendance, along with our PST host families, numerous government officials, and lots of news reporters. The ceremony included a speech by our Country Director, the new U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo Greg Delawie, and President Atifete Jahjaga. We then took our oath of service:
An individual, except the President, elected or appointed to an office of honor or profit in the civil service or uniformed services, shall take the following oath:
I,_________, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
After being sworn-in, Brett & I took the stage to give our speech on behalf of the volunteers. My primary goal was to not throw-up on the President on national television. There were several news stations broadcasting the ceremony, especially because it was the first public event for the new U.S. Ambassador.
It is with great relief that I report that I did not embarrass myself on TV! The speech was definitely a success, and it even brought several Kosovars to tears. You can see a couple of the short news clips here:
At the conclusion of the ceremony I was able to chat with the President, got interviewed by a news station, and then took pictures with the other volunteers and my host family.
After saying our tearful goodbyes we were responsible for traveling to our permanent sites on our own. It was a surreal moment. After being together as a group for 11 weeks, suddenly we are thrown out of the PST nest and told to fly. It’s a frightening and exciting moment. I’ll also say that moving 150 pounds of luggage in a dress and heels through Kosovar bus stations was quite the challenge.
Now begins two years of service as an official Peace Corps Volunteer!
If want to read a summary of the end of PST and my first week at site, read PST August: Training Ends, Service Begins!