Interview with William "Will" Arrington, August 3, 2020

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Joining Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: Uh, this is Evelyn Ganzglass.

Segment Synopsis: William "Will" Arrington is introduced. He describes his reasons for joining Peace Corps.

Keywords: Constructive; Former Soviet Union; Former USSR; Former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR); Helping; Joining; Mentality; Skills; Teachers; Teaching

Subjects: Culture.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Armenia; Travel; Voluntarism.; Volunteer workers in education; Volunteers

GPS: Former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)
Map Coordinates: 60, 90
GPS: Armenia
Map Coordinates: 40, 45
00:01:50 - Personal background and interest in the former Soviet sphere

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Partial Transcript: Well, where did you, where did you grow up and where did you go to college?

Segment Synopsis: Arrington talks about his childhood and college education in North Carolina. He talks about his academic interest in the former Soviet Union.

Keywords: Durham (N.C.); Former Soviet Union; Former USSR; Former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR); Interests; North Carolina; Soviet sphere; University of North Carolina; Utopian dream

Subjects: Childhood; College students--Attitudes.; College students--Conduct of life.; Culture.; Education, Higher; Universities and colleges.

GPS: Durham (N.C.)
Map Coordinates: 35.988611, -78.907222
GPS: University of North Carolina
Map Coordinates: 35.908611, -79.049167
GPS: Former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)
Map Coordinates: 60, 90
00:03:12 - Awareness of Peace Corps / Parents' reactions to his joining Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: So, it--it's interesting, so you decided you really wanted to go back there.

Segment Synopsis: Arrington talks about his awareness of Peace Corps through popular media. He talks about his parents' reactions to him joining Peace Corps.

Keywords: Awareness; Friends; Life goals; Media; Parents; Plans; Reactions; Supportive; Teaching English as a foreign language; Teaching English as a second language

Subjects: Culture.; Intercultural communication.; Language and languages.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Teachers; Teaching; Travel; Voluntarism.; Volunteer workers in education; Volunteers

00:04:54 - Peace Corps application and choosing Armenia

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Partial Transcript: But you had, you had applied specifically for Armenia, or were you--

Segment Synopsis: Arrington talks about why he chose Armenia as his site for his Peace Corps service. He describes his application process and his excitement over being accepted.

Keywords: Applications; Armenian Genocide; Choices; Decisions; Former Soviet Union; Former USSR; Former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR); Interests; Interviews; Jobs; Medical clearance; Work

Subjects: Culture.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Armenia; Travel; Voluntarism.; Volunteers

GPS: Former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)
Map Coordinates: 60, 90
GPS: Armenia
Map Coordinates: 40, 45
00:07:52 - Staging and flight to Armenia

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Partial Transcript: Okay, so you, um--where did you then meet your group?

Segment Synopsis: Arrington talks about his staging in Washington, D.C. and his cohort's flight to Qatar and then Armenia.

Keywords: Cohorts; Flights; National Mall; Qatar; Staging; Teaching English as a foreign language; Teaching English as a second language; Washington, D.C.

Subjects: Language and languages.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Armenia; Teachers; Teaching; Travel; Voluntarism.; Volunteer workers in education; Volunteers; Washington (D.C.)

GPS: Washington (D.C.)
Map Coordinates: 38.904722, -77.016389
GPS: Qatar
Map Coordinates: 25.5, 51.25
GPS: Armenia
Map Coordinates: 40, 45
00:09:31 - Training in Hovtashat, Armenia

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Partial Transcript: And what, what was the reception like when you got to Armenia?

Segment Synopsis: Arrington talks about his first impressions of Armenia. He talks about his language and cultural training and how he feels the training prepared him for his assignment.

Keywords: Ages; Behavior; Cohorts; Cultural training; Differences; Eastern Armenian (Language); Excited; Expectations; First impressions; Host families; Host family; Hovtashat (Armenia); Language skills; Language training; Media; Preparation; Russian (Language); School systems; Towns; Training; Usefulness

Subjects: Acculturation.; Communication and culture.; Culture.; Intercultural communication.; Interpersonal communication and culture; Interpersonal relations and culture; Language and culture.; Language and languages.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Armenia; Travel; Voluntarism.; Volunteers

GPS: Armenia
Map Coordinates: 40, 45
GPS: Hovtashat (Armenia)
Map Coordinates: 40.101944, 44.342778
00:15:30 - Host family in Hovtashat, Armenia and learning Armenian customs

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Partial Transcript: What was--what was your host family like that you stayed with for training?

Segment Synopsis: Arrington talks about his relationship with his host family during training. He talks about topics they were told not to discuss due to cultural taboos.

Keywords: Courage; Customs; Eastern Armenian (Language); Homosexuality; Host brothers; Host families; Host family; Host sisters; Hovtashat (Armenia); Patience; Patient; Reactions; Taboo; Topics; Training

Subjects: Acculturation.; Communication and culture.; Culture.; Intercultural communication.; Interpersonal communication and culture; Interpersonal relations and culture; Language and culture.; Language and languages.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Armenia; Travel; Voluntarism.; Volunteers

GPS: Armenia

Map Coordinates: 40, 45
GPS: Hovtashat (Armenia)
Map Coordinates: 40.101944, 44.342778
00:18:52 - Assignment and host family in Hrazdan, Armenia

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Partial Transcript: So, um, you completed your training, um, and then where were you assigned after your training?

Segment Synopsis: Arrington talks about being assigned to Hrazdan, Armenia, a former industrial hub. He talks about his relationship with his host family during his assignment and his interest in improving his language skills to speak with them.

Keywords: Assignments; Characteristics; Communist Party; Decline; Eastern Armenian (Language); Former Soviet Union; Former USSR; Former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR); Grandchildren; Host families; Host family; Hrazdan (Armenia); Industrial hubs; Language barriers; Language skills; Language training; Placement; Sites

Subjects: Acculturation.; Communication and culture.; Culture.; Intercultural communication.; Interpersonal communication and culture; Interpersonal relations and culture; Language and culture.; Language and languages.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Armenia; Travel; Voluntarism.; Volunteers

GPS: Hrazdan (Armenia)
Map Coordinates: 40.5, 44.766667
GPS: Armenia
Map Coordinates: 40, 45
00:21:18 - Teaching in Hrazdan, Armenia

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Partial Transcript: And where did you teach?

Segment Synopsis: Arrington talks about his experience teaching at a local primary school. He talks about his original counterpart, why he was given a new counterpart shortly after arriving, and how that led to him feeling like he wasn't making as big of a contribution to the school as he had hoped.

Keywords: Age ranges; Classes; Contact; Contributions; Counterparts; Dynamics; English (Language); Friends; Grades; Practice; Primary School #5; Roles; Schools; Students; Teacher's assistants; Teaching English as a foreign language; Teaching English as a second language; Teaching assistants

Subjects: Acculturation.; Communication and culture.; Culture.; Intercultural communication.; Interpersonal communication and culture; Interpersonal relations and culture; Language and culture.; Language and languages.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Armenia; Teachers; Teaching; Travel; Voluntarism.; Volunteer workers in education; Volunteers

GPS: Armenia
Map Coordinates: 40, 45
GPS: Hrazdan (Armenia)
Map Coordinates: 40.5, 44.766667
00:24:26 - Travel during his Peace Corps service

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Partial Transcript: And, um, did you get to travel around at all while you were, uh, there for a year?

Segment Synopsis: Arrington talks about some of the travel he did during his service and why he is grateful for being able to take these trips.

Keywords: Borders; Former Soviet Union; Former USSR; Former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR); Georgia; Germany; Girlfriends; Iranian border; Lake Sevan (Armenia); Mountains; Oppressive; Parents; Poland; Relationships; Southern Armenia; Vienna (Austria)

Subjects: Culture.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Armenia; Travel; Voluntarism.; Volunteers

GPS: Iran
Map Coordinates: 32, 53
GPS: Lake Sevan (Armenia)
Map Coordinates: 40.316667, 45.35
GPS: Georgia
Map Coordinates: 42, 43.5
GPS: Vienna (Austria)
Map Coordinates: 48.2, 16.366667
GPS: Poland
Map Coordinates: 52, 20
GPS: Germany
Map Coordinates: 51, 9
GPS: Former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)
Map Coordinates: 60, 90
00:27:15 - Awareness of COVID-19 and evacuation

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Partial Transcript: So how did you first hear about, um, COVID?

Segment Synopsis: Arrington talks about when he first became aware of COVID-19 and his initial reactions. He talks about when he became aware that they would likely have to leave Armenia and when Peace Corps began evacuating the volunteers. He talks about an unexpected conversation with one of his students as he was leaving. He mentions other volunteers' feelings regarding the evacuation.

Keywords: Cases; China; Closed; Communist System; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Counterparts; Diseases; Early close of service (COS); Economy; Emails; Evacuation; Expectations; Flights; General evacuation; Georgia; Germany; Goodbyes; Healthcare; Home; Illnesses; Land borders; News; Notice; Panic; Peace Corps directors; Reactions; Returning; Scary; Schools; Spreading; Students; Understanding; United States

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); Communication and culture.; Culture.; Intercultural communication.; Interpersonal communication and culture; Interpersonal relations and culture; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Armenia; Teachers; Travel; Voluntarism.; Volunteer workers in education; Volunteers

GPS: Armenia
Map Coordinates: 40, 45
GPS: Georgia
Map Coordinates: 42, 43.5
00:35:24 - Desire to return to Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: So would, would you go, would you go back if Armenia opened up again?

Segment Synopsis: Arrington talks about his desire to continue his Peace Corps service, but in a new location. He talks about currently applying to serve in Ukraine.

Keywords: Applications; Assignments; Contributions; Counterparts; Former Peace Corps volunteers; Phased reopening; Placement; Planning; Plans; Reapplying; Schools; Sites; Ukraine; Visits

Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Armenia; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ukraine; Teachers; Teaching; Travel; Voluntarism.; Volunteer workers in education; Volunteers

GPS: Armenia
Map Coordinates: 40, 45
GPS: Ukraine
Map Coordinates: 49, 32
00:40:10 - Surreal experience upon returning to the United States

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Partial Transcript: So what was it like coming home?

Segment Synopsis: Arrington talks about his flight home, including his incredulity that the health form they were required to fill out at the airport was only offered in English despite its importance. He talks about the surreal experience of returning to the airport where most businesses were shut down and seeing no cars on the New York City streets. He talks about quarantining upon returning home, processing his Peace Corps service and evacuation, his current work, and his plans for the future.

Keywords: Books; Cars; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Empty; Fathers; Flights; Future; Handling; Home; Hydroponic lettuce farms; JFK Airport; Jobs; John F. Kennedy International Airport; Masks; Mentality; Mothers; New York (N.Y.); North Carolina; Oversight; Parents; Plans; Processing; Quarantine; Reading; Returning; Streets; Surreal; Teaching English as a foreign language; Teaching English as a second language; Teaching certificates; Telephone calls; Temperature checks; United States; Work

Subjects: Acculturation.; COVID-19 (Disease); Communication and culture.; Culture shock; Culture.; Intercultural communication.; Interpersonal communication and culture; Interpersonal relations and culture; Language and culture.; Language and languages.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Armenia; Travel; Voluntarism.; Volunteers

GPS: John F. Kennedy International Airport, Queens (N.Y.)
Map Coordinates: 40.639722, -73.778889
GPS: New York (N.Y.)
Map Coordinates: 40.71274, -74.005974
GPS: North Carolina
Map Coordinates: 35.5, -80
00:48:04 - Impact of his Peace Corps service

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Partial Transcript: So as, as you reflect back on Peace Corps, you, you talked about, you know, you didn't a--you don't think you added much value to the school you were in because of the circumstances.

Segment Synopsis: Arrington talks about the impact he made in Armenia despite not being able to contribute as much official teaching at the school as he would have liked. He talks about the conversations he had with Armenians about America and how he tried to correct their misconceptions. He talks about how he has discussed his experience upon returning to the United States.

Keywords: America; Contributions; Conversations; Cultural exchange; Evacuation; Exposure; Goals; Healthcare; Host fathers; Impact; Misconceptions; Perceptions; Perspectives; Questions; Radio stations; Reality; Students; Third Goal; United States; Value

Subjects: Acculturation.; Communication and culture.; Culture.; Intercultural communication.; Interpersonal communication and culture; Interpersonal relations and culture; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Armenia; Teachers; Teaching; Travel; Voluntarism.; Volunteer workers in education; Volunteers

GPS: Armenia
Map Coordinates: 40, 45
00:52:34 - Personal impact of his Peace Corps experience

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Partial Transcript: Are there any other things you want to talk about your Peace Corps experience?

Segment Synopsis: Arrington talks about how his Peace Corps experience has impacted him personally. He talks about the challenges and negative experiences he faced, but says he would do it again if he could. He talks about how his experience gave him more self-confidence and made him realize that he could build friendships no matter what the barriers. He talks about how being a person on the autism spectrum may have given him an advantage in being an outsider in a new country because he is used to feeling like "a stranger in a strange land." He talks about his advice for anyone thinking of joining Peace Corps. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Adaptation; Adjustment; Advantages; Advice; Americans; Autism spectrum; Barriers; Challenges; Changes; Contributions; Counterparts; Decisions; Experiences; Former Soviet Union; Former USSR; Former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR); Friendships; Impact; Learning; Negative; Out of place; Outsiders; Personal growth; Preparation; Prospective volunteers; Reasons; Relationships; Self-confidence

Subjects: Acculturation.; Communication and culture.; Culture.; Intercultural communication.; Interpersonal communication and culture; Interpersonal relations and culture; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Armenia; Travel; Voluntarism.; Volunteers

GPS: Armenia
Map Coordinates: 40, 45
GPS: Former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)
Map Coordinates: 60, 90