Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Kristina "Nina" Boe, July 20, 2020

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries

 

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00:00:00 - Boe's experiences before Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: All right. Today is July 20, 2020. This is Candice Wiggum, RPCV from North Macedonia 2009 to 2012. And I am interviewing Kristina "Nina" Boe who was a Peace Corps Volunteer in North Macedonia from December 2018 until she was evacuated in March 2020.

Segment Synopsis: Boe was born in Montana but grew up in Seattle. In high school, Boe had some friends from Bosnia-Herzegovina and became interested in the Balkans. After high school, Boe went to the Balkans with a volunteer organization that was working with youth in Sarajevo. At the University of Washington, Boe studied political science and East European studies. Boe studied the Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian language for 4 years. Boe also studied Turkish for 2 years. After college, Boe volunteered in Brazil for 2 years. Boe returned to graduate school at the University of Washington and got a degree in public administration.

Keywords: Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian (Language); Community economic development; Friends; High schools; Interests; Language skills; Master's degrees; Montana; Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina); Seattle (Wash.); Traveling; Turkish (Language); Undergraduate education; University of Washington; Volunteering; Young people

Subjects: Balkans; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Brazil; Evacuation; International travel; Language and languages; North Macedonia; Peace Corps (U.S.)--2010-2020; Peace Corps (U.S.)--North Macedonia; Political science

GPS: North Macedonia
Map Coordinates: 41.6, 21.7
GPS: Montana
Map Coordinates: 47.0527, -109.6333
GPS: Balkans
Map Coordinates: 44, 22
GPS: Bosnia and Herzegovina
Map Coordinates: 44, 18
GPS: Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Map Coordinates: 43.866667, 18.416667
GPS: Brazil
Map Coordinates: -10, -52
GPS: Seattle (Wash.)
Map Coordinates: 47.609722, -122.333056
00:02:54 - Motivation for joining Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: Cool. What, what did make you join the Peace Corps?

Segment Synopsis: Boe's mother was a fan of the Peace Corps. Schools which Boe attended were very ethnically diverse. Boe found the idea of intercultural exchange appealing. Peace Corps' community economic development program in the Balkans aligned with Boe's graduate field of study and graduation timeline.

Keywords: Cultural exchange; Diversity; High schools; Influences; Interests; Mothers

Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.); Voluntarism

GPS: Balkans
Map Coordinates: 44, 22
00:04:28 - Application process

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Partial Transcript: What was the application process like for you?

Segment Synopsis: Boe applied early for the program in North Macedonia. The application process for Boe was smooth and she was accepted.

Keywords: Applications; Applying; Medical clearance; Paperwork; Peace Corps interviews; Waiting periods

Subjects: North Macedonia; Peace Corps (U.S.)

GPS: North Macedonia
Map Coordinates: 41.6, 21.7
00:07:22 - Boe's preparation for Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: And then you left in September?

Segment Synopsis: In the 3 month interim between graduation and departure from the U.S., Boe visited family and friends and had several temporary jobs. Boe joined a Facebook group related to North Macedonia/Peace Corps and was able to connect with others in her cohort.

Keywords: Cohorts; Difficult; Family; Friends; Jobs; Social media; Travel; Traveling; Uncertainty; Waiting periods

Subjects: North Macedonia; Peace Corps (U.S.); Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: North Macedonia
Map Coordinates: 41.6, 21.7
00:09:08 - Staging and departure

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Partial Transcript: Staging was in Washington, D.C.

Segment Synopsis: Boe's cohort had staging in Washington, D.C. One person dropped out during staging. The rest of the cohort was flown to Vienna and then Skopje, where they were met at the airport by the local Peace Corps staff.

Keywords: Airports; Cohorts; Peace Corps staff; Problems; Skopje (North Macedonia); Vienna (Austria)

Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.); Voluntarism; Volunteers; Washington (D.C.)

GPS: Washington (D.C.)
Map Coordinates: 38.9101, -77.0147
GPS: Vienna (Austria)
Map Coordinates: 48.2, 16.366667
GPS: Skopje (North Macedonia)
Map Coordinates: 42, 21.433333
00:12:01 - Boe's pre-service training

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Partial Transcript: So, what was training like for you? It sounds like you already had a lot of background.

Segment Synopsis: Boe's cohort spent the first week getting acclimated at South East European University in Tetovo. One additional trainee dropped out at that time. The remaining trainees were divided according to the language of their expected work site and sent to different training locations accordingly. Boe's training continued in the village of Rosoman where she lived with a host family. Boe developed a good rapport with the Peace Corps staff. There were 8 Volunteers in training in Boe's village. Boe socialized less with the other Volunteers as she was older, her local language fluency was more advanced, and her housing was farther away from theirs.

Keywords: Acclimation; Host family; Illness; Inoculations; Language training; Medical kits; Peace Corps staff; Rosoman (North Macedonia); Safety and security managers; Sickness; Socializing; South East European University; Technical training; Tetovo (North Macedonia); Vaccinations; Villages

Subjects: Interpersonal relations; Language and languages; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--North Macedonia; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: South East European University
Map Coordinates: 41.985833, 20.961111
GPS: Tetovo (North Macedonia)
Map Coordinates: 42, 20.966667
GPS: Rosoman (North Macedonia)
Map Coordinates: 41.516111, 21.949722
00:18:17 - Boe's assignment

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Partial Transcript: Where did you end up and, and what was your reaction, uh, where you got assigned?

Segment Synopsis: Boe was assigned to a Roma suburb of Skopje where she lived with a Roma host family and learned to speak Romani. Boe worked with 2 Roma nonprofit organizations.

Keywords: Host family; Learning; Romany (Language); Skopje (North Macedonia)

Subjects: Nonprofit organizations; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--North Macedonia; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Skopje (North Macedonia)
Map Coordinates: 42, 21.433333
00:20:26 - Boe's daily routine

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Partial Transcript: What was a typical day like for you?

Segment Synopsis: Some days, Boe would go downtown and work remotely from a coffee shop. With one colleague, Boe worked on digital marketing and outreach for their organization. Some mornings, Boe would meet with the director and other colleagues from one of her organizations. Once a week, Boe helped English teachers at a local school. Boe's other responsibility was working at a kindergarten. Boe found that they mostly wanted her to look for grant money, which Boe found inappropriate. Boe gave a presentation at a local university and this eventually led to Boe being switched by the Peace Corps to a different organization from the kindergarten.

Keywords: Changes; Education programs; Funding; Grants; Remote work; School systems; Teaching English as a foreign language

Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--North Macedonia; Voluntarism; Volunteers

00:27:41 - Boe's traveling

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Partial Transcript: Did you travel around the country? Did you go on vacations?

Segment Synopsis: Boe traveled extensively within North Macedonia, in part to visit other Volunteers. Boe traveled with friends to Berlin and Budapest. Boe was also in Struga for part of pre-service training and later to help with a summer camp for a nonprofit organization she was working with.

Keywords: Berlin (Germany); Budapest (Hungary); Cultural training; Education programs; Friends; Illness; Language training; Pre-service training; Sickness; Struga (North Macedonia)

Subjects: International travel; Nonprofit organizations; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--North Macedonia; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Berlin (Germany)
Map Coordinates: 52.52, 13.405
GPS: Budapest (Hungary)
Map Coordinates: 47.4925, 19.051389
GPS: Struga (North Macedonia)
Map Coordinates: 41.18, 20.68
GPS: North Macedonia
Map Coordinates: 41.6, 21.7
00:30:25 - Boe's housing

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Partial Transcript: And did you live the entire time you were there with your Roma family that you initially lived with? And how was it living with a family?

Segment Synopsis: Boe's host family had hosted 2 previous Volunteers. Boe had her own floor and could come and go as she pleased. Boe spoke with them in Macedonian. Boe enjoyed her host family. Boe paid rent and for internet. Boe had her own kitchen and could have guests sleep over.

Keywords: Amenities; Host family; Kids; Living conditions; Living situation

Subjects: Finance; Interpersonal relations; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--North Macedonia; Voluntarism; Volunteers

00:32:38 - First news of COVID-19

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Partial Transcript: When did you first become aware of COVID-19?

Segment Synopsis: The country director and the medical team had been sending updates to the Volunteers. A woman traveling in Italy transmitted COVID to North Macedonia. Boe had flown home to the U.S. for Christmas 2018. Boe was in the process of applying for extending her Peace Corps service.

Keywords: Awareness; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Disease transmission; Extensions; Holidays; Peace Corps directors; Peace Corps staff; Traveling

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); Hygiene; International travel; Italy; North Macedonia; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--North Macedonia; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Italy
Map Coordinates: 43, 12
GPS: North Macedonia
Map Coordinates: 41.6, 21.7
00:35:09 - Accomplishments

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Partial Transcript: Were there things that you were able to accomplish that you felt good about?

Segment Synopsis: Boe feels that through her personal relationships, she was able to share a view of America different from what people had seen in the movies and on television. Boe kept a blog which informed people in the U.S. about her activities during her service.

Keywords: Media; Personal growth; Relationships; Second Goal; Social media; Third Goal

Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--North Macedonia; Voluntarism; Volunteers

00:36:45 - Evacuation

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Partial Transcript: So, were you anticipating possible evacuation? When did that start coming into the conversation?

Segment Synopsis: Boe feels that safety and security talks during pre-service training laid a good groundwork for the evacuation due to COVID-19. In early March 2020, the North Macedonia Volunteers were told to pack a bag and prepare for consolidation. Soon after, the Volunteers got an email at 10 AM which instructed them to be at a hotel in Skopje that night. Boe had time to say a few farewells, pack, and clean her living quarters. Boe needed to leave some payment for her Albanian language tutor. Peace Corps made several unsuccessful attempts to charter a plane to evacuate the Volunteers from Kosovo and North Macedonia together. Finally, the Volunteers were put on a commercial flight to Istanbul where they got flights back to the U.S. Boe returned to New York City where her sister lived.

Keywords: Airports; Albanian (Language); Belongings; Close of Service; Cohorts; Coming home; Emails; Friends; Host family; Housing; Istanbul (Turkey); Language training; New York City (N.Y.); Pre-service training; Preparation; Returning; Siblings; Standby; Stereotypes; Taxis; Travel bans; Traveling; Tutors

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); Emotions; Evacuation; Finance; International travel; Kosovo; North Macedonia; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--North Macedonia; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: North Macedonia
Map Coordinates: 41.6, 21.7
GPS: Skopje (North Macedonia)
Map Coordinates: 42, 21.433333
GPS: Kosovo
Map Coordinates: 42.583333, 21
GPS: Istanbul (Turkey)
Map Coordinates: 41.013611, 28.955
GPS: New York City (N.Y.)
Map Coordinates: 40.71274, -74.005974
00:49:57 - Re-entry into the United States

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Partial Transcript: OK. So, what was it like coming back to the States?

Segment Synopsis: Boe's sister's place is quite small. So, Boe self-monitored herself for 2 weeks. Being back in the U.S. was like being in limbo, especially since New York City was a COVID hotspot. Boe's sister has been working remotely. Initially, Boe received some phone calls from the Peace Corps staff and had official paperwork to fill out. After a month, because of the uncertainty of returning to her post, Boe began applying for jobs.

Keywords: Applications; Applying; Bureaucracy; Close of Service; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Emails; Family; Jobs; Paperwork; Peace Corps staff; Quarantines; Remote work; Social media; Telephone calls; Transition periods; Uncertainty

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); Mental health; Peace Corps (U.S.); Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: New York City (N.Y.)
Map Coordinates: 40.71274, -74.005974
00:57:44 - Boe's financial situation

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Partial Transcript: Yeah, yeah I imagine. You had--you were covered for health insurance for what, the first six weeks...

Segment Synopsis: Peace Corps increased the evacuated Volunteers' medical coverage upon return to the U.S. from 1 month to 2. The Peace Corps also provided an addition check for $1,500 to each Volunteer. Boe was eventually able to get unemployment benefits from Washington state.

Keywords: Washington

Subjects: Finance; Peace Corps (U.S.); Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Washington
Map Coordinates: 47.3826, -120.4472
00:59:54 - Future plans

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Partial Transcript: And what's the next step for you?

Segment Synopsis: Boe has been applying to federal jobs to take advantage of noncompetitive eligibility. Boe has decided to limit her job search to New York City. Boe is in the process of getting security clearance for a passport officer position with the Department of State. Boe has also tentatively accepted a position with a local nonprofit organization. Boe is still in contact with her host family and friends in North Macedonia.

Keywords: Advantages; Applications; Applying; Background checks; Career paths; Challenges; Choices; Friends; Host family; Jobs; New York City (N.Y.); Noncompetitive eligibility; Special occasions; Waiting periods

Subjects: Nonprofit organizations; North Macedonia; Peace Corps (U.S.); Voluntarism; Volunteers; Washington (D.C.)

GPS: Washington (D.C.)
Map Coordinates: 38.9101, -77.0147
GPS: New York City (N.Y.)
Map Coordinates: 40.71274, -74.005974
GPS: North Macedonia
Map Coordinates: 41.6, 21.7
01:05:32 - Boe's reflections on her service

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Partial Transcript: As you reflect on that, how do you think Peace Corps has impacted your life?

Segment Synopsis: Boe feels that Peace Corps service was a unique opportunity to go places and develop relationships.

Keywords: Friendships; Impact; Relationships

Subjects: Discrimination; Emotions; Interpersonal relations; Minorities; North Macedonia; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--North Macedonia; Voluntarism; Volunteers

01:07:34 - Boe's reflections on Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: Do you think Peace Corps has a place in, in the world today?

Segment Synopsis: Boe notes that Volunteers from the LGBTQ+ community and from racial minorities have a different experience than straight and white Volunteers. What can the Peace Corps do to treat everyone equally? Boe notes there has been an increase in the communication between the Peace Corps staff in different countries. Boe advises everyone to keep an open mind and ask questions.

Keywords: Adaptation; Advice; Bureaucracy; Communication; Discrimination; Diversity; Homosexuality; LGBTQ+ community; Peace Corps staff; People of color; Perspectives; Politics; Posts; Questions; Returned Peace Corps Volunteers; Struggles

Subjects: Homophobia; Hygiene; Interpersonal relations; Minorities; North Macedonia; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--North Macedonia; Sexual orientation; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: North Macedonia
Map Coordinates: 41.6, 21.7