The one where Whitney comes home

I’ve been home for nearly a month now, so it’s about time I gave some sort of final update to my time in Ukraine. I can’t keep using jetlag as my excuse because I’m sleeping on a normal schedule and have way too much time on my hands now.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve kept myself busy with helping around the house, substitute teaching, applying for jobs and catching up with friends and family I haven’t seen in two years.

My last week at site was bittersweet. I was so excited to be heading home and seeing my family but saying goodbye to my students and my friends in my village was so incredibly difficult. The week was filled with laughter and tears. We finished our book report contest. I was so incredibly impressed with my students’ work. Over 150 students participated and submitted reports. We had a hallway decorated with all of their work and it was a joy to see them point out their projects to their friends. I loved the pride in their little voices.

Of course, you can’t have any sort of contest in Ukraine without certificates. We passed out certificates and prizes for the students whose projects went above and beyond the basic requirements. My parents helped provide pizza for all of the students that participated, and it was a smashing success.

Some students surprised me with gifts, I packed, cleaned and generally prepared more and more to leave. I spent one of my last weekends at site in the city saying goodbye to the other volunteers in my area who had helped me so much during my service. We had a fantastic, life-giving weekend together and I will forever be grateful for them.

I said goodbye to my village very early in the morning, dragging my suitcase one last time down my dirt road to catch the train to the city. That night I took the train with some friends to the capitol city. I spent a few days there, running around to meet with different people in the Peace Corps office. You have to basically do a scavenger hunt before they’ll let you leave the country: making sure you return equipment, your grants and accounts are closed, etc. In between all of that, I was able to spend time with other volunteers who have become friends and even family during my time.

We went to a Kiev Dynamo game, which was something that had been on my Ukraine “bucket list,” but was something I didn’t really want to do alone. Luckily, I have a fantastic group of friends who were ecstatic to join me. I picked our tickets assuming we were on some sort of balcony and it turned out I’m still bad at reading maps and they were the second row to the field. It was a great game.

I also spent a crazy 24 hours in Vinnitsya, went to concert, missed a bus and barely caught a train. When I finally got back to Kyiv, it was 6 in the morning, I had a few hours to clean myself up and ring the bell, officially closing out my Peace Corps service. Below is what I said in my ceremony:


After the ceremony, I packed up my stuff, ubered to the airport and caught a flight to Paris where I spent a glorious couple of days exploring museums and wandering around before heading home to a surprisingly sunny Seattle.

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