What do volunteers DO in the summer?

As a Peace Corps Volunteer in the education sector, my job during the school year is obviously teaching. But what about the summer?

The school year in Kosovo is similar to most schools in the US. All schools here start on September 1st and most end in mid-June, but the end of the school year depends on the student’s age. That leaves two and a half months where we are not teaching.

So do we have all summer off? Do we just sit around sipping Kosovo’s world-renowned macchiatos?

Of course it depends on the volunteer, but these are the main ways TEFL volunteers in Kosovo fill their time in June, July, and August:

TravelTravel periods

Education PCVs are limited with when they can take their vacation days, so many volunteers use the summer to visit the U.S. or to travel. We can only travel during school breaks, but that excludes the first summer of training and the last summer before we leave Kosovo. So the summer at our halfway point is the perfect time to use our annual leave and travel.

Some volunteers are using their vacation days in one giant chunk, backpacking Europe for a few weeks. I decided to split up my allotted leave into several trips, saving days for winter break and next spring break. So this summer I’ve got a few little trips planned, one each month:

  1. Berlin Solo Trip (June)
  2. Albania with my host family (July)
  3. Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro (August)

To learn about how vacation days work in the Peace Corps, check out this post.

Summer Camps

Several volunteers decided to plan a week-long summer camp at their site. Many of us signed up to help at these camps throughout Kosovo. The camps have been a major success and have had themes ranging from global citizenship to health/fitness to environmental awareness.

Earlier this month I helped out at a camp in a small village where another volunteer lives. The focus of the camp was being a global citizen and taking care of the environment. Even though the village is surrounded by beautiful mountains, most of the children had never been hiking before. The highlight of the camp was taking about 60 of the kids on a hike up into the mountains with a stunning view  of their village from above.

The summer camps are not only beneficial for the kids, but they provide a chance for us to see other volunteers’ communities around the country. In addition to summer camps, many PCVs are running English clubs or working on grant writing.

Helping with Pre-Service Training for the new volunteers

Several PCVs are also leading training sessions for the K3s (Kosovo’s third group of volunteers). Pre-Service Training begins in early June and lasts about 11 weeks, taking place in Eastern Kosovo around the town of Kamenice. (Check out my post about training to learn more.) So far all of the Kosovo PCVs have been in the Education sector, but we just had our first group of 10 Community Development volunteers arrive this summer. Kosovo map label

Because the Peace Corps Kosovo program is so new, training materials and sessions are still being developed, and current staff and volunteers are playing a significant role in this process. Over the next few years our PST schedule and curriculum will continue to evolve.

Sadly I live on the opposite side of Kosovo, so I have not had the chance to meet the new volunteers yet. But in August I will be leading a training session and can finally meet them!

I also found out that two new volunteers will be placed in or near Gjakova, so I’ll have a couple other Americans to share my site with!

Camp Characters

Although I never attended summer camp growing up, during college I decided to try working at a camp in Minnesota. I fell in love with it. After counseling high school students for a summer, I returned for the next two years as the director of the high school division. I also had the chance to teach archery, fishing, theater, and riflery for those three summers. Camp jobs are some of the most exhausting jobs out there, but they are one-of-a-kind and never boring.

I decided to post about one small aspect of camp in order to provide a window into my life during the summer. Below are a few pictures of my characters from our camp’s theatrical productions.

The Bible-times fisherman. I caught a few fish earlier that day and strung them around my neck.
The Bible-times fisherman. I caught a few fish earlier that day and strung them around my neck.
Brittany acting in a skit as Dr. Dippin' Dots, the Evil Scientist who eats raw potato popsicles.
Brittany acting in a skit as Dr. Dippin’ Dots, the Evil Scientist who eats raw potato popsicles.
Me as the Museum Curator for our Night at the Museum skit.
Me as the Museum Curator for our Night at the Museum skit.
Getting ready to act as Captain Hook. Every pirate needs plentiful chest hair, right?
Getting ready to act as Captain Hook. Every pirate needs plentiful chest hair, right?
Captain Hook and Mr. Smee were exiled to the outhouse.
Captain Hook and Mr. Smee were exiled to the outhouse.
Me as Moses on the left. Adam and an angel are to my right.
Me as Moses on the left. Adam and an angel are to my right.
brittany rude grinch
The Grinch terrorized campers by chasing them and forcing them to eat a bite of the Grinch’s favorite food: raw onion.
Brittany Rude as the Grinch
After really getting into my character and eating a raw onion like an apple in front of campers, my breath and skin stank like onions for days.
Brittany as Kristof from Frozen
Playing the part of Kristof from Disney’s Frozen.
Brittany the Bald Businessman
Brittany as a depressed and balding businessman.

Want to see a couple more of my peculiar costumes? Check out my 2013 and 2014 Halloween costumes from working at an Alaskan boarding school.