Partial Transcript: Peace Corps Oral History Project interview with Brian Arganbright, November 15th, 2005, interviewer Jack Wilson.
Segment Synopsis: Arganbright spent his early life in Wisconsin until his parents divorced and he moved with his mother to Arizona. He went to college at Northern Arizona University with a dual degree in business administration and French. He felt somewhat lost after undergrad and applied to various jobs and graduate school programs, eventually deciding to go to Penn State for French. He spent a year teaching English at a French university. After earning his master's degree, he applied to Teach for America and Peace Corps. He was interested in Eastern Europe for Peace Corps and was accepted to Czechoslovakia.
Keywords: Aimless; Aimlessness; Purposeless; Purposelessness; Teaching English as a second language
Subjects: Arizona; Business administration; College teaching.; Czechoslovakia.; Education, Higher.; Education.; English language--Study and teaching--Foreign speakers.; Europe, Eastern.; Foreign study.; France; French language.; Lyon (France); Northern Arizona University; Oshkosh (Wis.); Peace Corps (U.S.); Pennsylvania State University; Scottsdale (Ariz.); Teach for America (Project); Teaching.; Wisconsin
Map Coordinates: 44.024167, -88.561111
Map Coordinates: 44.5, -89.5
GPS: Scottsdale (Ariz.)
Map Coordinates: 33.5, -111.933333
Map Coordinates: 34, -112
GPS: Northern Arizona University
Map Coordinates: 35.188, -111.653
GPS: Pennsylvania State University
Map Coordinates: 40.796111, -77.862778
Map Coordinates: 47, 2
GPS: Lyon (France)
Map Coordinates: 45.76, 4.84
GPS: Czechoslovakia [Czech and Slovak Federative Republic] [now Czech Republic and Slovakia]
Map Coordinates: 50.083333, 14.466667
Partial Transcript: So when did you actually go? How did that--and how did that start, with training, or staging, or?
Segment Synopsis: Arganbright says most of his training occurred in Dobruska, Czech Republic. After a few weeks of training, he found out he was going to Slovakia. The training consisted of language training, cultural training, and teacher training. Arganbright had a weekly tutor for the Slovak language. His job was to teach English and he was assigned to a university as part of the philosophical faculty. He taught practical English and business English and taught alongside a Slovak professor of English. He discusses different grading systems and the way in which exams were given. He mentions that there were Fulbright scholars from time to time in that location.
Keywords: Business English; Conversational English; Cross-cultural training; Dobruska (Czech Republic); Practical English; Teaching English as a second language
Subjects: Cross-cultural orientation.; Czech Republic; Czech language; Dobruška (Czech Republic); Education.; English language--Business English.; English language--Study and teaching--Foreign speakers.; Occupational training.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Slovakia; Prague (Czech Republic); Slovak language; Slovakia.; Teachers--Training of.; Teaching.; Training; Tutors and tutoring.
Partial Transcript: Uh, and what was your living situation like?
Segment Synopsis: Arganbright describes his living situation. He lived on the faculty floor of a student dormitory. There was a kitchen on the floor, but he was on a meal plan and ate at the student cafeteria. He lived there for the first year, but found an apartment for the next two years. He had electricity, plumbing, and heating. He was taught how to use email while in Slovakia, but had no one to message. He wrote letters if he wanted to communicate with people. He ate lunch at school and cooked dinner at home. For recreation, Arganbright kept busy on outside projects such as helping a fellow English teacher who taught at a poorly funded school. He also helped another Peace Corps volunteer by going with him to various schools and teaching English courses. He also helped out in a Romani community that was very poor. He also went swimming at the university pool. He was also on a library committee for the Peace Corps.
Keywords: Dormitories; Dorms; Living conditions; Living situations; Low income schools; Low-income schools; Roma; Romani people; Teaching English as a second language
Subjects: Cooking.; Czech Republic; Dormitories; Education.; Electricity.; Email; English language--Study and teaching--Foreign speakers.; Food habits.; Heating; Hobbies.; Labor.; Leisure.; Letter writing.; Libraries.; Low-performing schools; Occupations.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Slovakia; Plumbing.; Poverty.; Prague (Czech Republic); Recreation.; Schools.; Slovakia.; Sports.; Swimming pools.; Swimming.; Teaching.; Work.
Partial Transcript: What about, uh, adjustment? What did you find the, the most difficult thing to adjust to?
Segment Synopsis: Arganbright states he did not have a difficult time adjusting to life in the Peace Corps. He discusses how he found his calling for teaching via his experience teaching at various levels, from the elementary to university level. He says his students' passion helped him discover his passion. The Peace Corps filled a demand for learning English after the end of communism. He put in a request to stay a third year and describes how he came to this decision. He describes where he traveled while in the Peace Corps, including the High Tatra Mountains. He describes a summer camp program he helped organize. He describes how he concluded his time in the Peace Corps and how he transitioned back to the U.S., including applying for graduate school programs for getting his PhD in French. He decided to go to New York University, stating he experienced more culture shock at being in New York City than he did at arriving in Slovakia. After finishing his PhD, he got his current job at Transylvania University.
Keywords: High Tatra Mountains; High Tatras; High Tatras Mountains; Summer camps; Teaching English as a second language
Subjects: Bratislava (Slovakia); Budapest (Hungary); Camps.; Communism and education.; Communism.; Culture shock.; Czech Republic; Education, Higher.; Education.; Elementary schools; English language--Study and teaching--Foreign speakers.; French language.; Learning and scholarship.; Learning.; Multicultural education.; New York (N.Y.); New York University; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Slovakia; Poland; Post-communism.; Prague (Czech Republic); Schools.; Slovak language; Slovakia.; Students.; Summer schools; Tatra Mountains (Slovakia and Poland); Teaching.; Transylvania University; Travel.
Map Coordinates: 49.75, 15.5
Map Coordinates: 52, 20
GPS: Budapest (Hungary)
Map Coordinates: 47.4925, 19.051389
GPS: Bratislava (Slovakia)
Map Coordinates: 48.143889, 17.109722
GPS: Prague (Czech Republic)
Map Coordinates: 50.083333, 14.416667
GPS: Tatra Mountains (Slovakia and Poland)
Map Coordinates: 49.166667, 20.133333
Map Coordinates: 48.666667, 19.5
GPS: New York University
Map Coordinates: 40.73, -73.995
GPS: New York (N.Y.)
Map Coordinates: 40.71274, -74.005974
GPS: Transylvania University
Map Coordinates: 38.0522, -84.4936
Partial Transcript: What do you, what do you think, uh, the impact of, of your Peace Corps service was on the country where you served, on Slovakia?
Segment Synopsis: Arganbright hopes he had a lasting impact on the people he interacted with during his time in the Peace Corps. He tells a story of seeing one of his students from Slovakia in New York City, which caused him to stay in contact with her. He considers the Peace Corps a life changing experience for him. He has spent time in Paris related to his graduate studies. He also co-taught a short class in France. He comments on the quick judgments of people just passing through a country, versus the experience of actually living there. He wants people to realize there are important events happening outside of the U.S. As an institution, he thinks Peace Corps provides a needed service, partially by providing exposure to other cultures. Arganbright mentions the separation of Czechoslovakia as a memorable event he experienced.
Keywords: Dissolution of Czechoslovakia; Personal growth; Velvet Divorce (Dissolution of Czechoslovakia)
Subjects: Cognition and culture.; Communication and culture.; Cultural awareness.; Cultural pluralism.; Czech Republic; Czechoslovakia.; Ethnocentrism.; Intercultural communication.; International relations; Interpersonal relations.; Language and culture.; Maturation (Psychology); New York (N.Y.); Paris (France); Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Slovakia; Prejudices.; Slovakia.; Transylvania University
Map Coordinates: 48.666667, 19.5
GPS: New York (N.Y.)
Map Coordinates: 40.71274, -74.005974
GPS: Paris (France)
Map Coordinates: 48.856613, 2.352222
GPS: Transylvania University
Map Coordinates: 38.0522, -84.4936
GPS: Czechoslovakia [Czech and Slovak Federative Republic] [now Czech Republic and Slovakia]
Map Coordinates: 50.083333, 14.466667
GPS: Czech Republic
Map Coordinates: 49.75, 15.5
WILSON: Peace Corps Oral History Project interview with BrianArganbright November 15, 2005 interviewer Jack Wilson. Brian if you would please give me your full name and where and when you were born.
ARGANBRIGHT: Brian John Arganbright. I was born in Oshkosh, WisconsinApril 24, 1965.
WILSON: Okay, tell me something about your growing up. Was it allthere? Did you go to school there? And something about your family if you like--
ARGANBRIGHT: Yeah, I was the fifth child of six in a family living inOshkosh until I was about 10. That's when my parents divorced and I followed my mom to Scottsdale, Arizona where she wanted to escape the winter cold. And for no other reason she headed to Scottsdale, 00:01:00and then that's where I went to elementary school and high school and eventually college, started college there.
WILSON: So you would have graduated from high school in Scottsdale when?
ARGANBRIGHT: 1983 is that right? Yeah 1983.
WILSON: And you went to school there, college?
ARGANBRIGHT: Then I started, yeah I went to college in Northern ArizonaUniversity in Flagstaff, Arizona so it's just two hours north of Scottsdale, so that was my first sort of departure from home and family life.
WILSON: And what did you study there?
ARGANBRIGHT: Well I studied business and French. Business was my dad's00:02:00idea; French was my idea. And it was a compromise. He was helping pay for college and he wanted me to well, encouraged me to study business. And I liked it okay but I didn't really develop a passion for it, whereas French I just happened to take, had to take a French class. So I took my very first French class in college and enjoyed it, wanted to continue, eventually got up to the level where they were talking about the next courses would be literature and history courses in French. And was excited about that, and just kind of kept going with French and eventually double majoring in French and business with the intention of going into international business; I was thinking very practically. And with discussions with my father we thought that this 00:03:00would be a good way to land a good job.
WILSON: And so you graduated then in '80--?
ARGANBRIGHT: I graduated in '88. I went for five years because I tooka year, well five years because I was double majoring. Actually it wasn't even a double major; it was two separate degrees that I have. It's not quite the same thing as a double major. And so I fulfilled all of the requirements for the bachelor of science in business administration and then all of the requirements for a bachelor of arts in French. But I had also taken a year off to study abroad. There I spent, that year I spent one semester in Spain and then one semester in France. But after college that there was a summer, I guess it was the summer of 1988 when I graduated I interviewed for some jobs. 00:04:00I remember interviewing for some financial institutions and some insurance companies. I had an interview with State Farm, just some random jobs associated with business that I really had no interest in. And I was also applying for graduate school in international business and was accepted to study at Thunderbird, which is a very well known school of international business in Glendale, Arizona. And so that was my plan until I received a call from the French department. Let's see how did that work? I can't--I had applied also to, yeah the French department recommended that I apply for graduate study in French and they recommended Penn State University. So almost at the last minute I sent out an application to Penn State University. And that summer 1988 00:05:00I got a call from Penn State saying we need a teaching assistant, we'd like to take you, we'd like you to study French here, and we'll give you a tuition remission and you teach a couple classes and study, take graduate courses in French. And so I had to make a decision. I can't remember exactly how much time I had to make that decision, but it was pretty quick. I had to decide am I going to do international business or am I just going to go the French route. And oddly enough I think my decision, one of my business teachers I think had a great impact on me. And one of the--He was teaching a personnel management course and one of the things that I learned from that class was that making decisions you really have to follow your heart. You have to find that passion and follow that passion. And I was still sort of being drawn towards the pragmatic or the more practical solution of doing something that 00:06:00would possibly land me a job, but I was thinking in, I was moving in that direction. And then one memory I have, I was working for National Car Rental at the time.
WILSON: This is the summer of '88?
ARGANBRIGHT: This is the summer of '88. And I was, one of my dutieswas to pick people up from the airport because the car rental agency wasn't located at the airport. So we had to go pickup our customers at the airport and then when they dropped the car off we had to take them to the airport. And it was on a trip to the airport with this businessman who was asking me about what I was doing. You know I told him I just graduated, and he too for some reason we just had this really interesting conversation. And he told me that he was miserable and he wished that he had the chance to basically follow his heart, to follow his passion in college. But he didn't; he took the more practical route and he just really disliked his job. He disliked what he was doing and he said, "If it were me, I'd go with my heart." And at 00:07:00that precise time for some reason I was I thought well this is really what I should do. And so for me it was I don't know I thought it was a bit of a courageous move to kind of step away from the path that seemed the one that was so certain and so reliable and to do something rather uncertain, get a graduate degree in French. And at that time I really had no idea that I wanted to get into teaching either, because I had never taught before and I had never really considered it. So that summer of '88 when I made the decision to go to Penn State and to make sense I guess I can sort of shorten this story. It's a decision I had been very, very happy with.
WILSON: So was that a master's or a PhD program at Penn State?
ARGANBRIGHT: It was both. They had a PhD program and I started out00:08:00obviously at the master's level and it took actually three years to complete my master's degree because I took advantage of an opportunity to teach in France, so I took one year at Penn State. The second year I was at Penn State I spent the whole year teaching English at a French University in Lyon, France, which is the second or third largest city in France. And that was sort of a teacher exchange program or a graduate assistant exchange program where a French graduate assistant would come to Penn State and teach French and we would send a French student, a student studying French to France to teach English. So I wasn't taking any classes and I was just teaching full time.
WILSON: But sort of living French and teaching English?
ARGANBRIGHT: Yeah exactly, exactly. And I have a picture up inmy office of my apartment that I had in Lyon. It was in the most 00:09:00beautiful part of Lyon called le vieux Lyon, which is old Lyon. And I lived on the street with this wonderful name called Montee de Gourguillon Lyon. It's a mouthful but it was a climb. It was up a hill, a little narrow cobblestone hill to get to the top. And then to get into my little apartment, and I mean little--about the size of this dining room for the tape--It's small but it was just had a little kitchenette and it had a view. And I had this picture. One day there was a rainbow. I had a view of all of Lyon; I think it was just right there and there are two major rivers running through Lyon. I could see the bridges and there was this one day there was a rainbow and I snapped a picture, and I still have that picture hanging in my office and I still think of that view I had of the apartment. It 00:10:00didn't matter the inside of the apartment; it was small and cramped and whatever it was dark. But I had that window and I had that beautiful, beautiful view. So I still have fond memories of that experience in Lyon. And then went back and finished up at Penn State the third year, then I finished up my master's degree and passed the exam. And I was encouraged to continue but I did a PhD, but I didn't think I was ready. I wasn't really convinced that I knew what I wanted to do, what area of research I wanted to work in, and if really a PhD in French was what I wanted. And so I considered a couple options at that time. I certainly considered continuing, and I think that would have been the easy solution. But I also considered a year with Teach for America. And I applied for that and was accepted and they had a job for me in rural Georgia. And at the same time I applied for the Peace Corps and 00:11:00heard from them, heard back from them that I was accepted, didn't know where I would be going. But that's another fond, fond memory that I have the day that Peace Corps package came in the mail and I found out that I was accepted. And I can see myself sitting in my apartment in this was now in Pennsylvania and opening that up and thinking, "Oh my! Oh my. What next?"
WILSON: So how did you happen to apply to the Peace Corps?
ARGANBRIGHT: That is a very good question. How? I'm trying to think.
WILSON: Did you know?
ARGANBRIGHT: Yeah there was actually a recruiter on campus but I did nottalk to the recruiter I don't think at all. And I contacted the Peace Corps, this was before the web. But I contacted the Peace Corps number and sent information directly from the Peace Corps. I'm trying to 00:12:00think, and I can't remember how I got interested in Teach for America, but I think the two were linked. Well I'm sorry I don't really, I can't remember what it was that stood out for me.
WILSON: Did you ask for a particular country or area of the world?
ARGANBRIGHT: Well I was interested in Eastern Europe. And the PeaceCorps and I so I was somewhat selective when they asked me which regions would you not want to go to. I think I checked most of those off and I left Eastern Europe open. The Peace Corps was just starting to go to Eastern Europe and I really wanted to be a part of that. Now there was also the possibility to go to a French speaking country, which would have been really nice for my French. However, I was thinking that that might influence me too much. I really wanted a break from French to see if there was maybe possibly something else 00:13:00that's out there waiting for me to do. And I had this real interest in what was happening in Eastern Europe, and so I did some discussions with the Peace Corps people and they had asked me if I would consider going to a French speaking country. It finally turned out that I was being sent to Eastern Europe, and I don't even remember the process. Well I guess once they were accepted yeah I knew it was going to be somewhere in Eastern Europe.
WILSON: Okay so you got this letter from the Peace Corps, said you wereaccepted for a particular country at that time?
ARGANBRIGHT: No just Eastern Europe. Right they didn't tell us whatcountry. I think that came at a later date. I think we had to commit first and then at a later date they told us where exactly we were going to go.
WILSON: So that would have been '91?
ARGANBRIGHT: Yep. About yeah I left the summer of '91 so I guess that00:14:00would have been yeah maybe late '90, early '91. I don't remember exactly.
WILSON: So you said yes?
ARGANBRIGHT: Yeah. It didn't take me long to make up my mind, a littlebit of time. I thought about it but the timing was just about right for both places. I received notice from both places, Teach for America and the Peace Corps at about the same time. So I had those two options and I had continuing in French too at Penn State. But that was, once I found out about the Peace Corps and I started exploring that idea and thinking about that idea the Penn State option was less and less likely. And I was being pulled towards one of these other experiences.
WILSON: So when did you actually learn where you were to go or what wasthe next step I guess is the question?
ARGANBRIGHT: Yeah at a later I think if I recall correctly I think Ifirst made a commitment to two years in the Peace Corps and then at a 00:15:00later date, I don't know if it was weeks later or months later, they then sent another packet. And I remember that too that it had some information and that packet said Czechoslovakia. I didn't really have a preference; it could have been Poland or Romania or Hungary. I just wanted to be in Eastern Europe. And you know I was delighted that it was Czechoslovakia and excited, just hungry, hungry, hungry for information about the language, the culture, the literature, the people, and that was an exciting time too because then I could put aside all my French stuff and focus on a new country and a new way of life and a new people. And that was really exciting for me.
WILSON: So when did you actually go? And how did that start withtraining or staging?
ARGANBRIGHT: We started training was that I think it started that summer00:16:00and it was the summer of '91 and we had our training in Atlanta. Well no we had about, our staging was in Atlanta. It was a couple days, maybe a few days in Atlanta before flying directly to Prague. And then our training began in a small town in the northern part of the Czech Republic called Dobruska. And that's where we had our most of our training. At a particular moment in the training, I think it was after four weeks or three weeks possibly we found out which part of the country we would be going to because there was the Slovak Republic and the Czech Republic, well there was Slovakia and the Czech Republic. So after a few weeks we were told we were actually we were told, no 00:17:00we weren't told our site. We were told we were going to be going to the Czech Republic or to Slovakia. And when I found out I was going to Slovakia I mean I didn't have a preference really. I found out I was going to Slovakia and then they split the group up. And those of us going to Slovakia we then moved to a small town outside of Bratislava in the Slovak Republic and then we continued our training down there and in both places we were living with families. In the Czech Republic I was living with a Czech family, and once they knew I was going to be going to Slovakia it was very sweet because they would try to speak Slovak with me. And they had, the languages are very, very similar. I was told that, well they say that 50% of the language is exactly the same, Czech and Slovak exactly the same. 25% of the language is really, really similar just might be a slight difference in pronunciation 00:18:00or something. And then another 25% of the language is completely different. But Czechs understand Slovak just like Slovaks understand Czech. The nightly news for example when it was still Czechoslovakia it would go two nights in Czech, one night in Slovak, and it would just you know everyone could understand. But they were, they made a real effort to try to speak Slovak with me and that was often, that was very nice and fun, a nice experience. And then when I moved to Slovakia then I was living with a Slovak family for the rest of our training.
WILSON: And what was that, what were the components of that training andhow--?
ARGANBRIGHT: Mostly it was teacher training. And we were being trained--Well no mostly it was language training, then there was the second most important component was teaching, working on sort of different 00:19:00pedagogical skills, and then the third component was cultural. And the Peace Corps did a wonderful job training us in all three aspects. I had had some experience with the teacher training because that was part of experience being a graduate assistant. Every week at Penn State every week going and taking a course actually about teaching a second language, and that's essentially what I was going to be doing in Czechoslovakia actually. I didn't mention that but I was working, what I was accepted to do was to teach English as a second language; that was my field. So I had some experience teaching French as a second language and I think that helped out for the pedagogical training because I spent some time in the classroom and I had been to different training. I was also in Pennsylvania trained to work as a tutor for a literacy agency too, so I had a little bit of training there. But the 00:20:00training provided by the Peace Corps was really excellent. So I had the pedagogical training, the language training was fantastic, and then the cultural training was solid too. And we learned a lot of--We were well prepared when we arrived at our sites and I appreciated that a lot because I got sent to a place in eastern Slovakia. And in a minute if you like I can tell you a little story about how I found out where I was going to go.
WILSON: Sure, go ahead.
ARGANBRIGHT: Well it was just that one of our meetings and after I thinka day of language classes and we were meeting with the country director and he was telling us that he was going to announce where we were going to go. But he had, they had posted a map of the country and put our names on a little pin with a little flag with our, a pin with a flag with our name on it. And that pin was located in the city where we 00:21:00were going to be going. And we were all excited to find out where we were going to spending the next two years and who was going to be near whom. And so we all rushed to the map and I'm looking and I'm looking and I'm looking and I can't find my pin. You see all these pins and I see Elizabeth and all these other people, all my friends, and I can't find my pin. And then I look all the way over on the other side of the country near the Ukrainian border and there's this pin. Could that be me? And sure enough it was me. I was the furthest away about a--Oh I don't remember exactly how many, five or six hours from Bratislava out in eastern Slovakia. And at first I thought, "Yikes," because you've established these relationships with people in your group, the Peace Corps group, and they were all--I remember the people that were all 00:22:00clumped together near Bratislava they started talking about, "Oh this is great! You're right next to us. You know we'll spend a weekend here then a weekend here." And I was all of a sudden excluded from those conversations because it was just out of the question that I would be able to come to those things. So I felt a little bit I don't know exiled or stranded, but as it turned out it was a wonderful location and I'll get to that later. What did I? I interrupted something to say that. I don't remember now what I was--
WILSON: Well I guess you were talking about the training and how thatwent. How long did that--?
ARGANBRIGHT: Oh yeah the training I guess it was eight weeks. But I wassaying yeah how well they trained us. And then when I eventually did arrive in Prehysov, which is a small city just north of a pretty major city called Cachtice. When I did arrive there I was at a university and there were some, there were not many Americans that had been there 00:23:00and to the city or to the university, but there were many, and the British Council had been there for a while. And they were just amazed when I arrived and I could speak Slovak and that I knew so much about the culture. And I felt really proud about that. And they were always showing me off. There were always--You know someone would come in and they would say, "Oh Brian!" you know, "talk to them in Slovak." And they were surprised, and what really surprised them is that the Peace Corps taught us how to speak Slovak. Because whenever they did have a foreigner come to their country to speak their language they are always taught Czech. And so they were just thrilled that I wasn't taught Czech that I was taught Slovak. And that really helped establish I think some really lasting ties with my colleagues and the students because I was able to communicate with them I mean and I was able to communicate with them, but not only with the students that were studying English 00:24:00or the professors who were studying English. But I was able to have friends and acquaintances with people who didn't speak English, and that was really important I thought to my whole experience.
WILSON: And did you find that Slovak was fairly easy to learn or hadyour French training helped you there or just you have a facility for language?
ARGANBRIGHT: Yes, well I don't know if that's necessarily the case.I've got persistence and I stick to it. Slovak was, it was a challenging language to learn but I took advantage of the possibility of having a tutor. The Peace Corps offered that; they would pay for a private tutor for us and for the first two years I met with a tutor on a weekly basis. And actually the tutor was someone that was assigned, a university professor that I was assigned to. And she was a Slovak professor and she was about I don't know if it was two hours a week 00:25:00or one and a half, but we met regularly. And so after about a year, after that eight weeks of intensive language training and about a year and a half of regular language training I was at a pretty good level in Slovak. I was pretty confident and pretty comfortable holding a conversation with people. It was actually well obviously since I left I haven't really kept in touch with a lot of people and haven't been able to use Slovak and have lost a great, great amount. And I don't even know if I'd be able to put together a couple sentences right now. With a little bit of practice it might, some of it might come back.
WILSON: Well describe a little more for me what your job was and whatyour living situation was.
ARGANBRIGHT: Okay, my job was to teach English. And so I was assigned00:26:00to a university. I was actually, the university system you have two separate--There's a pedagogical faculty, there's an English department and a pedagogical faculty, and then there's an English department and a philosophical faculty. And I was part of the philosophical faculty. And there were not the same. The pedagogical faculty were the sort of the teacher trained, the teachers who were being trained to teach. At the philosophical faculty it was more I think these students were going to go into diplomacy or other fields, business perhaps, politics, and it was a little bit more. The courses were a little bit more rigorous I think and a longer period. They had to study for four years instead of three years for the pedagogical faculty. So I was in the philosophical faculty and my main responsibility was to teach what they called practical English. And it was basically conversation classes, and I was given a lot of freedom to do what I wanted as long as the 00:27:00students got to practice their English. And I worked with, alongside a Slovak professor of English, with whom they had their hardcore grammar class that I wouldn't have been able to do at all, understanding the intricacies.
WILSON: Like a host counterpart or--?
ARGANBRIGHT: Somewhat. They were definitely, these two courses weredefinitely linked. We had to get the exams together, and that was quite an experience too because and it was--You know I had a little bit of experience in France when I was teaching there of a different grading system and different expectations. You know for example the French system there's a--They don't go by the, here we have the A, B, C, D, E, F or the percentiles 90%. In France it's out of a 1 out of 20 and a 10 out of 20 was considered pretty good. A 12 is very good, a 00:28:0014 is wow. And so I was in my, in France I was giving like 18 and 17, which would be like a B here. And the French professors were coming and saying, "You cannot do that! There's no way they can get 18 or 17 out of 20." So I had to adjust to that, and then I also had to adjust to the teaching in Slovakia. In particular there were not a lot of written exams. A lot depended on a oral exam that the students would take at the end of the semester. There, there was a lot of stress. Students would come dressed in suits and they would not be given, there was never a schedule posted. It was started at 8:00. Every single student, it could be 30 students in that class, had to show up at 8:00 dressed in their suits and then the professors would decide who in what order they would go. So a student could wait there for five, six hours in the hall waiting for their exam extremely nervous. 00:29:00And I had to be a part of that, so I was one of the professors with my colleagues and they had to interview, well oral exam that lasted anywhere from 20 to 35 minutes. And the grade was basically based on that, their performance in that. So I just found that to be cruel. I felt sorry for those students who had to wait and just everything depended on that one performance. But so my main task was then to prepare them for that exam by giving them as much practice in this practical English class, practice speaking English because the exam was obviously entirely in English. We were English speaking. I also taught while I was there a business English class drawing on some of my experience with business. And I think that's it. I was teaching 00:30:00practical English and business English basically was what I taught. There was also as part of my another one of my responsibilities was that I--There was when I--There weren't many Americans. There were Fulbrights from time to time and there was a Fulbright who actually I was replacing that was at this university, and he started a movie series that sort of left him like interested in doing that when I arrived. And I agreed to take that over, and so I was also screening. And he had brought in, he had some money to bring in a lot of VHS movies. And so they had a pretty nice collection and I kind of took that over, and that--I did that for the entire time I was there, a weekly screening of an American or an English Anglophone movie. So 00:31:00that was basically my Peace Corps defined role at the university.
WILSON: And what was your living situation?
ARGANBRIGHT: The living situation, I arrived, they had a room for me inthe dorm in the student dorm. It was actually there was a floor where they have faculty. I wouldn't want to say housing but faculty rooms, and I shared on that floor there was a British Council teacher. There was a teacher from a--What is it called? What was it? It was a program; it was sending not really well trained teachers into I think Eastern European countries. Was it Democracy for America? I don't remember the name of that program but there was another teacher there, so some 00:32:00other foreign lecturers as we were called. So it was basically two rooms that were connected and there was a bathroom, no kitchen. And I was on the, there was a kitchen down the hall that we were allowed to use, but I was basically on the meal, on kind of a student meal plan. I just ate at the student cafeteria most of my meals. And that was--I lived there for the first year. After a year I inquired about finding somewhere else to live. I wasn't I mean the dorm was right next to the university, and I kind of wanted to expand out a little bit into the city. And I found an apartment which was sort of in the center of the city. It was a nice walk to the university and so then the next two years I lived in that apartment. 00:33:00
WILSON: Oh so you lived there three years?
ARGANBRIGHT: Yeah I stayed three years, yeah I extended.
WILSON: And was that out of something you paid for out of your livingallowance, the housing?
ARGANBRIGHT: It was, no it was the Peace Corps worked all that out. Ididn't pay any extra for that and I don't think it was much more than what they were paying for the rooms in the dorm. But they took care of all that. They were wonderful in that respect. I found a place and I put in a request and it was reasonable and they allowed that.
WILSON: Since some people don't have amenities, I assume in thatsituation you did--electricity, plumbing.
ARGANBRIGHT: Oh yeah. If you're comparing me to some of the other PeaceCorps experiences, yeah they'll probably get angry when they hear this but yeah I had everything. And I had everything in the dorm room too. 00:34:00I didn't have a kitchen but I had everything--electricity, plumbing, heating was provided in that dorm room.
WILSON: What about communications? Did you have phone, email?
ARGANBRIGHT: Yeah this was--No I remember the first time I used emailwas at the university in the computer lab. And the computer lab technician was showing me this thing called email and I had never seen it before. And this was when it was becoming popular. So I learned about email over there in Slovakia. I didn't have an account or anyone to send an email to, but I thought, "Wow, look at that." And I didn't have a phone or I didn't have a computer, and I never had a phone either. I didn't have one in the apartment either.
WILSON: So this is mid-'90s? Well '90--00:35:00
ARGANBRIGHT: Early '90s.
WILSON: Early '90s, '91 to '94.
ARGANBRIGHT: '94, right, right.
WILSON: So you're still actually writing letters to people in the UnitedStates?
ARGANBRIGHT: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Remember those? I actually had youknow a pen.
WILSON: Okay, and did you cook for yourself then?
ARGANBRIGHT: Yeah when I went to the apartment I cooked my dinners. Icontinued eating my lunches at school because they were really, really good. And I was, I spent the whole day basically at school. So I ate lunch at school but usually yeah cooked dinner in my apartment.
WILSON: And so did that help accomplish what you were looking for tohelp sort of integrate yourself a little more into the community?
ARGANBRIGHT: Well yeah, and I felt that that was important. There werethings, and I think that also contributed to my wanting to stay another year because I was. In living in the dorm I mean where you had to 00:36:00follow the dorm rules too. We had to be in by midnight because the door locked. And in Slovakia there's usually someone in the buildings, there's someone who is there at the door, and especially in a dorm it was like security reasons. But when that person leaves, they leave, they go to bed and the door is locked. And there were a couple nights when I got home late. And you can inform them beforehand and they'll come down and open it for you if you tell them a set time. But there were a couple nights where I was actually locked out. And I just didn't feel like I was making a lot of contacts because a lot of that communication takes place in the interaction in grocery stores and just being about I think in the community. And so moving out of the dorms did help me kind of establish more contacts there, and so I was grateful for that opportunity. 00:37:00
WILSON: What did you do for recreation?
ARGANBRIGHT: For recreation I--Oh a few things. I kept busy on someoutside projects. One of them was helping out at the--I actually met another English teacher who was teaching at a poorly funded school, elementary type school level. And she became a very good friend and I would quite often maybe weekly spend a couple hours with her and her classes after school doing different projects, doing different whatever the students were working on. And I would be there and we would do it all in English. And sometimes actually I would visit her class. 00:38:00And I visited a lot of classes because there was another Peace Corps volunteer in the city who was there before, arrived the year before me who was working at a teacher training center. And they were going out on a regular basis to these schools around the area, and I would often go with them too and be asked to teach a course, to teach an English course. And so I did a lot of that because I really enjoyed it because these were not younger students who were equally passionate. I didn't really talk about the passion that the students had to learn English at the university. But there was just enough passion to learn English in these in the smaller schools with younger children. And it was often their first contact with an American or a foreigner, and the excitement that just that created, just my presence. I didn't even have to say anything. Just being there, "Oh! It's an American," it was exciting 00:39:00for me too. It was an interesting experience for me. And so I always liked to prepare courses and go around to these schools and meet with the administrators, meet with the teachers, and let them know that I was there and I was willing to be there whenever they wanted me to. And so I did a lot of that and through the same teacher, her name was Luba, she put me into contact with a gentleman who was teaching, a Slovak gentleman who was teaching at a Romani school, a school for gypsy children in a gypsy community. And when I say community I guess I should put that in quotes because it was really a rundown area, part of town where the gypsies were living. Unemployment was in the 90 percentile, a lot, a lot of problems. Obviously the schools 00:40:00were completely neglected. Students didn't have shoes; it was just a terrible, terrible situation for them. But here was this Slovak and he was an art teacher, and he was so committed to trying to improve something in these all Romani schools. And I was just amazed at what he was able to, well his devotion, his commitment, and what he was able to do with these students. And being an art professor he was telling me how these gypsy students were so creative and their use of colors was just so beautiful. And the school, you walk in and there was no electricity, it was just poorly, poorly supplied, but you walk in and you have these beautiful, beautiful murals on the wall, colored it was all kinds of beautiful colors and just keeps cutting the whole wall of the school like indoors, inside the halls because the murals were 00:41:00all over the place. And he actually put together a calendar with some of the artwork of the students, but he was just doing a lot for those students. So I, they weren't--They didn't have any English classes so I really didn't have much of a presence there, but I would visit and kind of be a part of his classes from time to time too. And that was an extremely rewarding experience, so that kept me busy. And there was a, oh the Peace Corps volunteers aren't going to be happy to hear this but there was a swimming pool at the university and I just fell in love with swimming. The pool was just, it was an amazing experience and I just started to swim twice a week, swim for an hour, an hour and a half. And that was just wonderful. I remember it would be there 00:42:00were certain times when faculty could use the pool and one of them was Friday afternoon. And my day would be finished and I would just I would go and I would swim laps back and forth, back and forth. So I spent a lot of time, I was in better shape back then. I spent a lot of time jogging and swimming. And that's you know that filled up a lot of time; it kept me very, very busy.
WILSON: What would you say was the--Okay let's try again Brian; you weresort of talking about recreational kinds of things. Weekends?
ARGANBRIGHT: Weekends more of the same. I didn't do a lot oftraveling. I was on a library committee for the Peace Corps. They were establishing a new library in their, in the Prague office. And 00:43:00I remember at least that first year I was on that committee and maybe once every other month I'd make a trip to Prague to spend the weekend there and kind of help get that project off the ground. Other than that I didn't do a lot of traveling. I didn't visit my other Peace Corps volunteers too much; once in a while I would have a visit from them. Once in a while there was a Peace Corps meeting; we would spend a weekend somewhere. Other than that basically staying, staying put and doing more of the same.
WILSON: What about adjustment? What did you find the most difficultthing to adjust to?
ARGANBRIGHT: I didn't really have a difficult time adjusting. I hadspent some time abroad. I had had, I think I was really well prepared 00:44:00by, well by that time spent in France but also by the training that the Peace Corps provided. There wasn't really anything that was really, that I found really very difficult or that bothered me. I, some people talked about the long winters with no sun for six months, really gray, dark winters, short days. That didn't bother me. Other people complained about the food, a lot of, not a lot of variety, a lot of kind of dishes with potatoes and meat and bland sauces; that didn't bother me. Other volunteers were not happy with the selection of fruits and vegetables and it was pretty slim at times, but there was 00:45:00still canned things you could buy and so that never really, that didn't bother me. And I didn't, certainly missed my family and friends back in the United States, but there wasn't really anything. Those were the main complaints that I heard from others and they weren't really concerns of mine.
WILSON: Okay so the, your first reaction of being sort of off on theother whole side of the country didn't pan out as a problem.
ARGANBRIGHT: No, and it didn't take long for me to realize that I wasreally lucky and I really had a great position that fit me really well, that fit what I was trained to do and what I was interested in doing. And I think that's when I realized that teaching and teaching at the 00:46:00university level and I think part of wanting to go and teach these classes with these younger students was to just kind of get a feel of how that would possibly be as a future of teaching high school.
WILSON: Side two of interview with Brian Arganbright Peace Corps OralHistory Project. Brian, you were talking about this experience of being helping you make your decision that teaching was what you really 00:47:00had a passion for.
ARGANBRIGHT: Yeah and I think my students in Slovakia really helped mewith that, make that decision. They were very accepting of my presence in the classroom and what I was trying to achieve. And they were so motivated and enthusiastic and eager to learn English. The situation just before I arrived under communism they, there was only a select few who could study English. You usually had to have connections. So English departments were really very small and it was more of a privilege to study English. After the fall of communism in '89 that all changed and all of a sudden anyone could study English who wanted to. And they, a lot of students wanted to study English and they were tired of studying Russian and Ukrainian and so there was a big rush for them to study English. And so that's why the Peace Corps 00:48:00was there with the teacher training because that's what the country really needed. They needed to train teachers of English as quickly as possible to meet this demand. So they had a genuine desire to be there and to learn English, and that made my job so much easier and so much more rewarding because I could sense from them that they really appreciated what I was doing. And so that kind of, that atmosphere in the classroom there I think helped me make that decision that teaching was, this was the right, a good fit for me.
WILSON: And tell me something about your, this process or your decisionto stay a third year.
ARGANBRIGHT: Well this is when I was in particular I was working on, I00:49:00was spending more time with Luba and, this who was that Slovak teacher who put me in contact with this gentleman who was teaching at the Romani children. And I wanted to, I had a more ambitious plan to work more closely with him; it didn't really pan out. And so I approached the Peace Corps and I put in a request to stay a third year, and there were some things going on in the department too that influenced that decision that I felt that I was a, kind of an integral part of the university was trying to establish contacts in the United States with other universities. And from the very early stages I was involved with that, and it was just starting to happen and I felt that I was kind of an important person on that committee. And I wanted to stay and see if that could and try to push that process forward as much as possible. 00:50:00So there were a few other things also going on within the university, and so I decided to request to stay a third year and that request was approved and stayed on a third year and had absolutely no regrets. I think the thought even crossed my mind to stay a fourth year, but then I thought three years is probably enough and time maybe to bring someone else in.
WILSON: Okay, where did you travel while you were there either incountry or beyond on vacation periods or anything?
ARGANBRIGHT: Well the Peace Corps didn't want us to. We had to getpermission to travel outside of the country and I didn't travel much. I think I made one trip to--Well actually I visited the Czech Republic quite a bit. I had a close friend, a Peace Corps volunteer who was in the Czech Republic that I would visit from time to time. And he 00:51:00was in two different sites and at one point he was in a city near the Polish border and on a couple occasions we went to Poland, once just on the other side of his town basically and then another time to Krakow. I took one trip to, in the three years I took one trip to Budapest and that's it. I took a few trips to Bratislava, the Slovak capital, many trips to Prague, all of the trips at the different sites in Czechoslovakia where we had our Peace Corps meetings, and a few trips to visit volunteers in other cities, spend the weekends with volunteers in their cities but within the country. A couple trips to, well many trips to the High Tatras, a beautiful mountain range in Eastern Slovakia and there I did, and again another contact that I had 00:52:00with a teacher. One of my summer projects was a, to host a summer camp for students to come to university and study English at this camp. And so I was teaching and helping with that, teaching at the summer camp and also helping organize and plan activities. And that was a great experience; these were young students from the whole, from the region, from the eastern region of Slovakia.
WILSON: Okay Brian you were talking about the summer camp program thatyou were organizing.
ARGANBRIGHT: Yeah, well, I was helping organize and I was taking part inthat, and so these students would come and they were younger students varying in ages. And they would stay, this was during the summer so the college students weren't there anymore, and they would stay in the dorms. And then we would organize classes and different activities for them in the afternoon. And we did some special events; I remember 00:53:00I was talking about a Peace Corps friend in the Czech Republic. I remember he came out and he helped for a couple weeks on one of these summer camps. And I remember one of the more memorable evenings was when we decided to make pizza for the kids. And the ladies who were working in the kitchen in the school cafeteria allowed us to come back there, and they had no idea what we were doing. But we got all the ingredients and he had just a great recipe for this wonderful pizza, of course it had like cheese and things like that on it. And I just remember being back there in the kitchen because I'd never experienced that before and I'd never really met these ladies that served us the food. They were behind kind of a partition and you know I always just saw their hands. They were putting things out for us to serve us to choose from. They were just so thrilled. Of course communicating 00:54:00with them wasn't always easy and I did my best with my Slovak, but they just got such a kick out of watching us make this pizza. And the students just loved this pizza, and it was good pizza too. But they were just so appreciative and they had such a good time and we had soft drinks and that was a real special moment too. So through that contact I think what I was talking about earlier, through that contact I had another, the woman who was I think the main organizer of the summer camp she did other things in these--I was talking about the Tatra Mountains and so on some weekends I would go to the Tatra Mountains where she would host students have some sort of a mini camp, and that was something else that took up time and that I was doing on the weekends. I think this longer discussion was about weekends.
WILSON: Yeah and travel and--00:55:00
ARGANBRIGHT: Yeah travel, sometimes the Tatras--
WILSON: Well I know. What led you to stay the third year? And that's--
ARGANBRIGHT: Yeah right, and I was involved with that too and so just alot of these different things going on. And I just wasn't ready or I hadn't planned on bringing these things to a close, and it just seemed like the second year was finishing up so quickly and a lot of these things were just kind of taking off and it just didn't seem right to leave at that point. And so like I said I put in a request and the Peace Corps said great. And part of that as you know is sending us back to the States then or having a trip back to the States. So I took advantage of that; I came back and I saw my family a little bit. And then headed back out to Slovakia and finished out that third year.
WILSON: And then what? What was maybe say a word or two about closingout with the Peace Corps and your job there and whether you traveled 00:56:00afterwards or came straight back and those kinds of things?
ARGANBRIGHT: That same summer when I had a little bit of time off whenthey sent me to the States I think that summer I also spent a couple weeks in France. I just I was so close, well not really but it was there and I had some vacation time and so I did take a trip to France. But then really yeah that third year was I was more aware of the idea that this experience is going to come to an end. And I think for the first two years everything was going so well and I was just so excited about all the new things that were happening that I never really considered what how to bring things, how to close things, how to bring things to an end. And so and I wasn't sure I was going to get that extension either, so when I did receive it then I think I was more 00:57:00aware that that third that hey you're going to have to do the types of things if it was a program that I felt was important and that needed to be continued I wanted to make sure that I either trained someone else to kind of keep it going or usually like a Slovak counterpart. And I think that was important for me to kind of finish some of these projects. Teaching was pretty steady; it was pretty much the same each year. And I enjoyed it just as much as I did the third year as I did the first year, but I think as I'm trying to recollect here what this experience was like for me, I'm noticing that a lot of what's coming to mind are these other projects that I was working on and the teaching was kind of my day job. That third year then I started thinking about 00:58:00well how do I transition back into the United States, what am I going to do, and like I had said earlier teaching seemed right and I was pretty confident that this was going to be what I wanted to do, and started to look into graduate programs in French for a PhD. I never really--Oh I did consider Penn State but I was looking elsewhere, and that was difficult to do that from Slovakia because these programs were very competitive and I didn't really have a lot of the resources to or contacts with a lot of people who could help me prepare a strong application for that for graduate, for PhD programs. But that was a, I mean I can go into that too but I don't know if that's really that relevant for the Peace Corps experience. But I started that certainly 00:59:00the third year I started doing that and by the end of that third year was accepted to, actually I had two offers. And that was kind of a difficult moment because there was some miscommunication between me and Northwestern University. They had offered me a scholarship but when I received the scholarship when I received that fax, the well there was a--I received that and I had a certain amount of time to respond. They didn't get my first response and then they gave me an ultimatum it's like we need to hear from you by such and such a date. When I got that second fax saying we need to hear from you by such and such a date, when I received that fax --it arrived like on a Friday --I received it that following Monday or possibly even Tuesday; the deadline was already passed. And so that scholarship just slipped away and I had nothing 01:00:00else. So I frantically called them back or I faxed them, "But wait! You have to understand here. I didn't get this fax and you sent it to the university and I just got it," and they weren't ready to take me back. And oddly enough at the same time I had heard back from New York University, which was another one of my top choices. And they said well it's up to you but we don't have, they didn't have the same type of scholarship package available. But they said we might be able to put something together for you. By that time I did it I just went with the New York University and hoped that some sort of scholarship would come available, and I'll never forget also that defining moment. When I heard back from them and they said, "We're going to make a decision. It's going to be based on an interview that we're going to do over the telephone with you in French." And this is after; you know my French 01:01:00was a little rusty now. This was after three years of Slovak and I said okay. And then my, the landlords, they're the ones who owned my- -The owners, the landlords of my apartment lived right on the other side of, right next to me and they had a telephone. And so we had set up a time, a certain day, a certain time. They were going to call and I was going to have this interview. And I was sitting in their apartment waiting for the phone call to ring from NYU and sure enough right on time there was the call. And it was in French, everything was in French, it lasted for about 30 minutes, talked about a lot of different things. And at the end of the phone call they said, "Congratulations, we're going to offer you a teaching assistantship." And that was I was just so thrilled about that, so that too just worked out really, really nicely for me. And I don't remember when that was exactly but my time was coming to an end there and so that sort of fell into place nicely. 01:02:00
WILSON: So you then returned to the States to take that position in1990--?
WILSON: Summer of '94?
ARGANBRIGHT: Yeah, yeah.
ARGANBRIGHT: And I stopped off in Wisconsin and dropped off some ofmy things there, but then flew to New York and moved right into a dorm. And that was pretty exciting too being from a small city and being from Oshkosh, Wisconsin and then spending three years in eastern Slovakia, New York City was quite an experience. And that was quite, I probably experienced more culture shock there than I did when I went from Arizona to Pennsylvania to Slovakia. 01:03:00
WILSON: What kind of?
ARGANBRIGHT: I was just--I don't know.
WILSON: And you think it was New York not the business of coming fromSlovakia?
ARGANBRIGHT: Oh yeah, no, no it was New York. It was like, "Wow! HereI am in this big city." I remember the taxi ride from the airport to my dorm thinking, "What in the world is--?" I had never seen anything quite like New York and it's quite spectacular when you see it for the first time and when you're there and you experience it for the first time. And I guess yeah culture shock is not the--But it was a deep, deep feeling that this was really something new and so that was that experience. And then what was the--? I was going to say something else and I sort of forgot my train of thought.
WILSON: So then you started your degree at NYU?
ARGANBRIGHT: Right. So I started. I actually had to re-take the01:04:00master's exam because it was setup a bit differently than the, from the Penn State program. So I was there for seven, eight years in that PhD program, but it was the right place for me.
WILSON: So you must have adjusted to New York?
ARGANBRIGHT: Yeah I did. It was yeah it didn't take long to reallystart to enjoy being there. And I think always knowing in the back of my mind that this was not going to be permanent either, that this was just another experience and then after that I would leaving and finding a job somewhere else and going somewhere else.
WILSON: And so you had finished up your PhD at NYU when?
ARGANBRIGHT: Oh 2001 or 2001 right. Left basically July '01.01:05:00
WILSON: And then what?
ARGANBRIGHT: Got a job at Transylvania University in Lexington,Kentucky, a small liberal arts school. I wasn't sure that this was the ideal job for me. At NYU they really stress I think for them an ideal job for their graduates is at a large research institution and not necessarily a liberal arts teaching college. And so for them it maybe wasn't the best job but for me it was because it's a university that stresses the importance of teaching and that was really what it was all about for me. That's really what my passion was; it was teaching and not necessarily research. So it's turned out to be a really nice fit. 01:06:00And now I've been here for five years; next year is my sixth year and I'm up for tenure. So either I'm going to stay or I'm going to go, so there may be another chapter. I hope not.
WILSON: Okay. What do you think the impact of your Peace Corps servicewas on the country where you served in Slovakia?
ARGANBRIGHT: Man that's hard to answer. I don't know. You're incontact with so many different people, so I would hope to think that those people that I established, the acquaintances that I established relationships with that there was some sort of a lasting impact with them. And I'm thinking mostly of my colleagues and the people who I visited in the schools. Then certainly there's the students for 01:07:00three years, the different students that I had had in class. I don't know what the impact was for them. I don't know if I inspired any of them to continue, if I helped them. I think they, they were good classes and I think they learned a lot and hopefully things, you know that they appreciated that and that I had an impact on their lives too at least being, getting my perspective on things. Thinking about students though reminds me of a night I was walking home from--My courses at NYU were always in the evening and I was walking home late at night about 10:00, 10:30 about two blocks from my apartment. And I'm crossing the street and someone is looking at me. I'm like, "Why is this woman staring at me?" And I get up a little bit closer and 01:08:00she says, "Brian!" and I stop. Well who could this be? And she says, "It's Elsa!" Elsa? "Elsa from Slovakia from your English class!" and I just couldn't believe it. It was an amazing coincidence that there's Elsa waitressing at this oh it was a great little restaurant. I can't remember the name of it, New York City a couple blocks from my house and there we run into each other. And we became good, good friends then and in New York I saw her quite a bit. So that was just an amazing coincidence I thought and I would have--I didn't recognize her; I would have walked right by her. But apparently I had somewhat of an impact on her because she remembered who I was and what I looked like.
WILSON: And her English was good enough to get her to the United States!
ARGANBRIGHT: Oh her English was good. And it wasn't just her English,it was her--She was an amazing person. She well is. She--It's not 01:09:00easy for Slovaks to come and live in the United States, and she had managed to spend some time in actually northern Wisconsin. Yeah I think it was in Duluth, Wisconsin, which is actually where both sides of my family are from, northern, northern Wisconsin. She had managed to spend a year there as some sort of an au pair or exchange. I don't remember exactly. And she somehow managed to get into the United States and was waitressing and paying for to go to college and she was getting a law degree at the time. And just against great, great odds for a Slovak student without a lot of money to be able to do that, and I was always impressed by her drive and her work ethic and just what she was able to accomplish. I had a lot of things as you know from 01:10:00this interview now that were handed to me. You know this scholarship, a paid scholarship, this wonderful experience to be in the Peace Corps, and for her she really had to work for what she achieved. So maybe I had an impact on them but I think the, I think they had a stronger impact on me. I mean I think took more than I would be able to give because it was such a life changing experience for me. And so many, so much about--I learned so much about myself and what I was about and what I wanted to do in life from them. And I can just hope that I was able to reciprocate, give them something too in return.
WILSON: So that's what you're saying was the impact on you?
WILSON: Okay. Are you still in contact with anyone from your Peace01:11:00Corps experience either Slovaks or volunteers?
ARGANBRIGHT: Sadly, sadly, sadly not really. I'm still in contactwith Elsa and once in a while a few other people including a Fulbright professor who was there from George Washington University. She was there for a year while I was there, and she's still in Washington and I'm in contact with her once in a while. It's been a few years now since I've heard from people, colleagues back in Slovakia. And I really need to reestablish contact with them and I'd like to. It's just when I get, making the transition to the PhD program I was just so consumed with my studies for those eight years following the Peace 01:12:00Corps, and now a new job. I've been so consumed with that. But I think I'm getting to the point and maybe next year with tenure might be a turning point when I start to maybe go back to my past and start to reestablish contact with people. But up until now it's just been a crazy sort of ten years or so, so not a lot of contact.
WILSON: What would you say the impact of your being involved with thePeace Corps was on your family? How did they look at this whole thing?
ARGANBRIGHT: Oh they were always very supportive. My mom would havepreferred having me around more, having me home at Christmas, having me around or at least visiting once in the summer. But she was also used to I think she, when I left for college she was accustomed to that that I was--And then when I left to Pennsylvania that was, usually my family 01:13:00and my brothers kind of stayed together. They stayed in the same, part of my family was in Wisconsin within the same the area; and those who moved to Arizona were all in the same area. But I was always the one that was going a little bit further up to northern Arizona, then to Pennsylvania, then to France, and then to Slovakia, and then to New York City. So they were very, very supportive and accustomed to that and we just tried to--I'm not much of a letter writer but I tried to write as much as I could to keep them informed as to what was going on, and my mom recently returned all of my letters to me, which was really nice. She kept them all, kept them in a folder. And she knew you know from the first one that she received that this is something I'm going to want to keep and treasure. And she kept these old postcards and letters that I wrote home, and I have all of that. And that's really a nice moment to have. 01:14:00
WILSON: What international experience have you had since or would youlook forward to, if any? We're talking about international experience or what you hope to do.
ARGANBRIGHT: Since the Peace Corps. Well with a PhD and working onmy PhD in French I spent quite a few summers in Paris doing research. I spent another year in Paris, well an entire year in Paris doing research and also teaching again at a French university in Paris, once again English classes. So I returned to France quite often during my graduate studies. Since coming to Lexington I have returned maybe two 01:15:00or three times to France. One was a team-taught course that I did, which was a cycling course in the south of France, which is a--It's a May term, a special four week course that Transylvania offers and I team-taught that with an exercise science professor and we did a little called Transy's Tour de France. So we did a little--We learned about the southwestern region, the Languedoc region of France, and we toured around on bicycles with these students for about 12, 14 days. And then I married a French Canadian and we've been spending summers up in Quebec and Montreal, and there I've been working a little bit on my what I do in French studies and also have the opportunity to visit with her family and spend time with her family up there. So it's been, it's mostly been related to France or to French speaking countries. 01:16:00
WILSON: What would you say the Peace Corps experience had in terms of animpact, if any on the way you look at the world?
ARGANBRIGHT: That's a tough question. Well it had a, yeah it certainlydid have an impact on the way I look at the world. Putting it into words though is difficult I feel. I, it's hard I think to understand how another culture really functions when you're a tourist or when you're passing through or when you're spending just a short amount of time with these people. And I experienced that firsthand when I, when westerners in particular would come through Preshow and Slovakia 01:17:00and spend a few days there. And then talking with them, talking with these westerners I was always surprised at how quickly they would pass judgment and how quickly they would seemingly understand the complexity of certain issues. And I probably did the same thing myself when I first arrived thinking well oh this is wrong or this is not a wise decision to do this, and could speak so confidently about my own position, but without really knowing what the Slovak side of the issue was or just like I said the complexity of the issue. And so that was a very important learning experience for me and I think I've kept that with me as I, and I've certainly kept that desire to understand what's 01:18:00going on in the world and to keep up with what's going on in the world and to realize that there are really some important things happening outside of our country and we don't get a chance, you have to make an effort to find out to keep up with that because it's certainly not a given. It's certainly not frequently reported to us what's happening in the rest of the world. And so I've kept that desire to stay up to date and to keep up with the issues that are affecting the rest of the world.
WILSON: Okay, what do you think the overall impact of the Peace Corpshas been?
ARGANBRIGHT: On me?
WILSON: For yourself or period. I mean it's been in existence 40 some01:19:00years now. Do you think there has been one or not?
ARGANBRIGHT: Oh absolutely. I haven't met a Peace Corps volunteerthat didn't love their experience that didn't just. And I'm sure they're out there that didn't, but everyone that I've talked to, all the friends I meet, it's just an amazing experience to sit down and exchange stories and talk with one another. So I think on an individual level it's certainly had a huge impact on the volunteers and all the people that they were in contact with too. As an institution, as an organization I think it's providing a wonderful service. I think it's a wonderful opportunity; we're privileged to be able to do this, to participate and have these opportunities. And I think from the point of view of Slovakia, the Peace Corps is no longer in Slovakia; it was a ten year time frame for the Peace Corps to be there. They 01:20:00went in to train teachers of English, they went in small business development, and then there were some environmentalists that went to Slovakia, but it was a request made by the Slovak, the Czech and Slovak government and the Peace Corps met that need. And when the need was filled then they moved on to other things. And I think it has a huge impact and I think it has a very important role to play in our society.
WILSON: What is that continued role?
ARGANBRIGHT: I think what I'd like to see is Americans learning aboutother cultures and bringing that experience back here. We have so little exposure to other cultures I think and here we live in the world 01:21:00where we have DVDs and internet and all that, newspapers, but we really are not exposed. We really do not get a good sense of what makes these other cultures tick, what's happening in these places. And so I, and it won't happen unless I think people spend an extended amount of time in these different countries. So again I'm answering on kind of an individual basis or an individual level. I just think that's really important for our society to keep, to stay aware of these other cultures and what's happening in other parts of the world.
WILSON: Okay, I guess that's sort of the structured questions thatI've got. But what have I missed that you'd like to talk about or 01:22:00any particular stories, meaningful events, anything that you'd like to share?
ARGANBRIGHT: You some of the, a lot of the Peace Corps volunteers thatI've met are such great storytellers. And I don't think I'm gifted as a storyteller. A couple of memorable events living in Czechoslovakia from 1991 to 1994 I experienced the separation of the country. The country split in '93 and that was, it was really exciting to be there at that time, to be there a couple years before it to see what was leading up to that, to see how they were actually going to implement that. And it was a very, it was a very complicated issue because before that the government did everything they could so that the two countries would mix. Soldiers from the Czech Republic were sent to 01:23:00Slovakia for their military service; Slovaks were sent to the Czech Republic hoping that they would take root in the other part of the country. But it was amazing to see how civil the discussions were and to see how reasonable students would react to this decision to separate. It was sad also, it was very, very sad and it happened on January 1st. And I was at a friend's house and I'll never forget the, everyone was watching sort of the evening news. I had talked earlier about evening news. Czechoslovak news was two nights, well twice I guess in Czech and then once in Slovak. And just remember them signing off that this is it; this is our last broadcast of the evening news. 01:24:00And it was really, really sad. I remember watching that with a friend and her family and they were so sad, but it was very, like I said it was very civil too. And there was at the same time there was war in Yugoslavia and the separation, the bloody separation of those republics there. And it was just so grateful to experience the separation done peacefully. So that was something that I'll never forget and I guess just the people--my students, my colleagues, the people I had contact with, the young kids I saw, the gypsy kids. It's just I continue to see these people in my mind. I can remember them; I can see their faces. I'm forgetting the names but the faces are still there, and so that I think I'll always cherish. 01:25:00
WILSON: Okay, well thank you very much.
[End of interview.]