Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Margaret Dickson, October 26, 2004

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Personal background / Years as a stay-at-home mom / Finishing college

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Partial Transcript: Peace Corps Oral History Project for the University of Kentucky, interview with Peg Dickson October 26, 2004. Would you give me your full name please?

Segment Synopsis: Wilson asks Dickson about her family background and upbringing. Dickson discusses growing up on a dairy farm 50 miles from New York City and 50 miles from Philadelphia in New Jersey. Dickson states that she is happy with how her childhood turned out and that it may have influenced her love of the outdoors. Dickson talks about receiving her early education at a consolidated school through the eighth grade and then the rest at a nearby high school. Wilson asks Dickson where she went to college. Dickson replies that she attended Hope College in Holland, Michigan for two years, and then got married in Michigan and had children before her family moved to New York State. Wilson asks Dickson what she studied in college. Dickson answers that she didn't graduate from Hope College, but that she basically studied liberal arts while she was there, not officially graduating from college until 2000 at Kentucky State University. Wilson asks Dickson about her time as a stay-at-home mom. Dickson discusses what it was like to be a stay-at-home mom and how she became an English tutor for Vietnamese immigrants who had come to New York during the Vietnam War before getting involved in long-term care as an activity director. Dickson states that her family moved to Virginia where, after getting a divorce and her children graduating from high school, she decided that she needed a change in life and joined VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) since she had enjoyed her English tutoring days. Dickson adds that she obtained an education award while working for VISTA in Frankfort, Kentucky which allowed her to finish her degree in child development and family relations.

Keywords: Childhood; Education; English tutors; Family; Family life; Frankfort (Ky.); Hope College; Hope College, Holland (Mich.); Kentucky State University; Peace Corps; Peace Corps volunteers; Ukraine; Upbringing; Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA)

Subjects: Dickson, Margaret; Dickson, Margaret-- Interviews; Family life.; Hope College; Kentucky State University; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Anecdotes; Ukraine.; Volunteers in Service to America

00:09:46 - Peace Corps application / Peace Corps training process

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Partial Transcript: So tell me something about the application process, uh, when--

Segment Synopsis: Wilson asks Dickson what the Peace Corps application process was like for her. Dickson responds that she didn't think it'd ever end because it took her almost two months to complete it. She explains that it was difficult because there were a lot of essay questions along with several hoops to jump through in getting documents you needed together. Dickson discusses the interviews she had with the Peace Corps and the frustration she had with the medical forms she needed to fill out for the Peace Corps. Wilson asks Dickson if she had a choice or option to state a preference for assignment in a certain country. Dickson replies that she indicated a preference for Eastern Europe because she really wanted to go to the former USSR. She discusses how she was originally offered an assignment in the Philippines before being offered one in Ukraine. Wilson asks Dickson about the training and orientation she went through after joining the Peace Corps. Dickson responds that training lasted three months and that all of the 48 volunteers gathered in Washington D.C. before flying out together to Kiev, Ukraine. Dickson explains that the rest of the training took place in a city that was three to four hours from Kiev called Cherkasy. She describes what the bus ride the volunteers took to the city was like. Dickson mentions that there was a welcoming ceremony where all volunteers were introduced to their host families before going home with them. Wilson asks Dickson if there was a cultural component to her training. Dickson replies that there very much was and talks about how living with a host family helped to culturally educate her. Wilson asks Dickson about the language that was most spoken with her host family. Dickson states that she was lucky because her host brother and mother both understood a little bit of English and her host mother often helped her with her Ukrainian homework. Dickson discusses the testing that occurred at the end of her twelve week training in Ukraine.

Keywords: Cherkasy, Ukraine; Cultural training; Host families; Language learning; Language training; Peace Corps; Peace Corps application process; Peace Corps applications; Peace Corps orientation; Peace Corps testing; Peace Corps training; Peace Corps volunteers; Ukraine

Subjects: Cherkasy (Ukraine); Dickson, Margaret; Dickson, Margaret-- Interviews; Language transfer (Language learning); Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Anecdotes; Training.; Ukraine.

00:22:41 - Assignment in Ukraine / Lifestyle in Ukraine

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Partial Transcript: And so you were assigned where and what was, was your job?

Segment Synopsis: Wilson asks where and to what Dickson was assigned. Dickson replies that her job was as a teacher trainer associated with the school board for the city of Khmelnytski, Ukraine that consisted of roughly 33 secondary schools. She adds that part of her job was to help English teachers develop their skills and another part was to help develop a resource center. Wilson asks Dickson what her living conditions were like where she was assigned. Dickson explains that she had her own one room apartment that consisted of a living area (bed and living room), a kitchen, and a bathroom. She mentions that her living arrangements were very unusual to Ukrainians since very few could afford to live by themselves. Dickson elaborates that there was a convenient trolley stop by her apartment and that she felt very safe and comfortable in her apartment. Dickson describes some of the utilities and appliances in her apartment. Wilson asks Dickson to describe what a typical day was like for her. Dickson explains that she would get up early, have breakfast, and get ready to leave for school which started at 8:00 am. Wilson and Dickson discuss the types of foods she ate. Dickson discusses her schedule of visiting various schools and what she did in her evenings. Wilson asks Dickson about what her most difficult adjustment was and what she thought she was least/best prepared with for living in Ukraine. Dickson replies that being so far away from family, friends, and anything familiar was the hardest thing to adjust to because she didn't know anyone when she first moved to her city. Dickson adds that she thinks the Peace Corps did a great job with their language and culture training. She remarks about how different the teaching style was in Ukraine and how observing teaching before her assignment was very helpful.

Keywords: Appliances; Difficulties; English teachers; Housing; Khmelnytski, Ukraine; Lifestyles; Living arrangements; Peace Corps; Peace Corps assignments; Peace Corps jobs; Peace Corps volunteers; Social isolation; Teacher observation; Teacher trainers; Teaching styles; Ukraine; Ukrainian teachers; Utilities

Subjects: Dickson, Margaret; Dickson, Margaret-- Interviews; English teachers; Housing.; Lifestyles.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Anecdotes; Social isolation; Ukraine.

00:34:50 - Travel within and outside Ukraine / Social interactions with Ukrainians and Americans

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Partial Transcript: Were you able to, um, travel some while you were there in the country or outside? And did you do that?

Segment Synopsis: Wilson asks Dickson about the traveling she did while she was in Ukraine. Dickson states that she did a lot of traveling since it was one of the perks of being a teacher trainer because other volunteers would call her when they were putting on teacher conferences. Dickson discusses traveling to Slovakia, Czechia (Czech Republic), Poland, the Baltic states, and Russia while on vacation during her time in the Peace Corps. Wilson asks about what kind of transport Dickson used to get to these places. Dickson explains that her transportation often involved trolley buses (marshutkas) and hitchhiking since there was a practice of negotiating a fee with a driver that was usually cheaper than taking a taxi. Wilson asks Dickson about the interactions she had with Ukrainians both professionally and socially. Dickson describes her interactions with Ukrainians as wonderful, particularly her interactions with the teachers she worked with who she still keeps contact with. Wilson asks Dickson about her interactions with other Americans in Ukraine. Dickson discusses her encounters with several American families at the internet cafe who were there to adopt Ukrainian children and her rare meetings with other volunteers at the university English club in her city or at monthly social gatherings. Wilson asks Dickson about any meaningful stories she has about her time in Ukraine. Dickson talks about her interactions with babushkas (grandmas) who she entertained by practicing her bad Ukrainian language skills on them.

Keywords: Americans; Anecdotes; Colleagues; Hitchhiking; Marshutkas; Narratives; Peace Corps; Peace Corps volunteers; Social interactions; Taxis; Teacher conferences; Teacher trainers; Transportation; Travel; Trolley buses; Ukraine; Ukrainians; Vacation travel

Subjects: Dickson, Margaret; Dickson, Margaret-- Interviews; Hitchhiking; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Anecdotes; Transportation.; Travel.; Trolley buses; Ukraine.

00:43:21 - Return to the U.S. / Impact of the Peace Corps on Ukraine, herself, and family

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Partial Transcript: So your tour was from 2000--

Segment Synopsis: Wilson asks Dickson about what coming back to the U.S. was like. Dickson states that it was wonderful to be back and talks about how much weight she lost while in Ukraine and the joy of being around American food again. Wilson asks Dickson about readjustment to life in the U.S. Dickson describes what it was like to go about her daily routine and notice what would be considered wasteful behavior in Ukraine. Dickson mentions that she enjoys getting together with Peace Corps volunteers to talk about world issues with them. Wilson asks Dickson what she thinks the impact of the Peace Corps has been on her. Dickson responds that it broadened her outlook and caused her to see herself and her lifestyle differently. Wilson asks Dickson about the impact she thinks she had as a volunteer on Ukraine and the people she worked with. Dickson replies that she probably had an impact on five to ten people in Ukraine and hopes that in her interactions with them, she made a little bit of a difference. Wilson asks Dickson if she has any ongoing contacts with people she met in the Ukraine. Dickson explains that she stays in email contact with Ukrainians and a Peace Corps volunteer who is still living in Ukraine. Wilson asks about the impact of Peace Corps on Dickson's family. Dickson thinks her family is glad to have her back in the country, but she doesn't think they really understand why she went to Ukraine or the impact that it had on her life. Wilson asks Dickson if her experience has impacted her career and about the activities she has been a part of since returning home. Dickson talks about being offered a job in Frankfort before she returned and the help it was in helping her readjust to life in the U.S. Dickson states that she gained a lot of confidence in her ability to do things and handle situations. Dickson mentions that she would like to travel internationally again and teach English once she retires.

Keywords: American lifestyle; Communication methods; Contacts; Cultural readjustment; Email; English teachers; Frankfort (Ky.); Lifestyles; Peace Corps; Peace Corps impacts; Peace Corps volunteers; Personal impacts; Perspective; Readjustment; Social contacts; Ukraine; Wasteful behavior; World outlook

Subjects: Communication.; Dickson, Margaret; Dickson, Margaret-- Interviews; English teachers; Lifestyles.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Anecdotes; Perspective.; Ukraine.

00:54:51 - Overall impact of the Peace Corps / Future role of the Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: A little broader question: what, uh, what do you think the impact of Peace Corps, uh, has, has been--big Peace Corps?

Segment Synopsis: Wilson asks Dickson what she thinks the overall impact of the Peace Corps has been. Dickson talks about the disconnect she feels between the government and citizens in all countries and how the Peace Corps has helped build a bridge between officials and citizens. Wilson asks Dickson what she thinks the role of Peace Corps should be in the future. Dickson discusses how she thinks the Peace Corps should be more involved in helping people become professionals so that there is someone to pick up from where a volunteer left off in their work. Dickson and Wilson talk about more issues that she thinks the Peace Corps can help contribute towards. Dickson and Wilson briefly discuss closing topics such as communication, safety, interaction with the Peace Corps administration, and closing anecdotes from Dickson.

Keywords: Anecdotes; Communication; Future outlook; Narratives; Peace Corps; Peace Corps future; Peace Corps impacts; Peace Corps roles; Peace Corps volunteers; Safety; Safety issues; Ukraine

Subjects: Communication.; Dickson, Margaret; Dickson, Margaret-- Interviews; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Anecdotes; Safety.; Ukraine.