Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Sean Kenosian, May 1, 2021

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


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00:00:00 - Experiences before joining Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: Ah, today, ah, I am interviewing Sean Kenosian who served in Ukraine from 1994 to 1996. It's May 1, 2021. And I'm Peggy Walton who, ah, also served in Ukraine from 1994 to 1996 and then two Response postings from 2013 to 2014 and 2015 to 2016.

Segment Synopsis: Kenosian had graduated from college with a business degree and had a job with the State of New York. Kenosian had a master's degree in Public Administration and was living in Albany. Kenosian was interested in new challenges and had a colleague who was considering applying to a business related Peace Corps program. Kenosian was 33 years old when he joined to the Peace Corps. First, Kenosian was offered a posting in Fiji. However, Kenosian declined and re-stated an interest in serving in the former Soviet Union. Subsequently, Kenosian was offered a choice of Romania or Ukraine.

Keywords: Application process; Career paths; College majors; Conversations; Invitations; Little Italy (N.Y.); Master's degrees; Mid-career; Motivation; Older Americans; Older volunteers; Paperwork; Peace Corps (U.S.)--1990-2000; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ukraine; Peace Corps interviews; Peace Corps recruiters; Returned Peace Corps Volunteers; Twin Towers (N.Y.); Waiting periods

Subjects: Albany (N.Y.); Angola; Caribbean; Fiji; Finance; New Jersey; New York; Peace Corps (U.S.); Retirement; Romania; Somerville (N.J.); Soviet Union; World Trade Center (New York, N.Y. : 1970-2001)

GPS: Albany (N.Y.)
Map Coordinates: 42.6525, -73.757222
GPS: Somerville (N.J.)
Map Coordinates: 40.569749, -74.607682
GPS: Twin Towers (N.Y.) also known as the World Trade Center (N.Y.)
Map Coordinates: 40.711667, -74.0125
GPS: Caribbean
Map Coordinates: 18.412309, -81.3388177
GPS: Little Italy, Manhattan (N.Y.)
Map Coordinates: 40.719, -73.997
00:14:53 - Pre-service training

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Partial Transcript: Where, where was the pre-service training done ?

Segment Synopsis: Kenosian's group had a staging in Washington, D.C. and then flew to Kyiv for pre-service training. Kenosian describes his cohort's arrival and their training center. Kenosian was favorably impressed with the training and the staff.

Keywords: Acclimation; Cohorts; First impressions; Kyiv (Ukraine); Language training; Peace Corps staff; Staging; Transportation; Traveling

Subjects: Acculturation; Airports; Alphabets; Culture shock; Emotions; Germany; International travel; Kansas; Kyïv (Ukraine); Language and languages; Maplewood (N.Y.); Peace Corps (U.S.); Russia; Russian language.; Troy (N.Y.); Ukraine; Ukrainian language; Washington (D.C.); Watervliet (N.Y.)

GPS: Washington (D.C.)
Map Coordinates: 38.904722, -77.016389
GPS: Germany
Map Coordinates: 51, 9
GPS: Kyiv (Ukraine)
Map Coordinates: 50.45, 30.523333
GPS: Kansas
Map Coordinates: 38.4937, -98.3804
GPS: Troy (N.Y.)
Map Coordinates: 42.731667, -73.6925
GPS: Watervliet (N.Y.)
Map Coordinates: 42.724722, -73.706111
GPS: Ukraine
Map Coordinates: 49, 32
GPS: Russia
Map Coordinates: 55, 103
GPS: Maplewood (N.Y.)
Map Coordinates: 42.724722, -73.706111
00:30:06 - Assignment

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Partial Transcript: Where were you posted and what did you do there?

Segment Synopsis: Kenosian was assigned to Dnipropetrovsk along with a teacher from his cohort. Kenosian was in a business development program. He was assigned to an auditing firm associated with the communist youth party. Kenosian describes problems he had with housing and communicating with his counterparts. He saw much of his job as building relationships and gaining trust rather than handing out technical advice. During Kenosian's 2-year tenure, the organization grew from 70 to 250 members. Eventually, Kenosian was accepted at work and was asked to stay when his Volunteer service was ending.

Keywords: Accomplishments; Anxiety; Blending in; Commitments; Confidence; Counterparts; Dancing; Dnipropetrovsʹk (Ukraine); Holidays; Invitations; Kyiv (Ukraine); Lviv (Ukraine); Parties; Peace Corps staff; Relationships; Site mates; Site visits; Support networks; Telephone calls; Translation

Subjects: Australia; Birmingham (England); Communists; Dnieper; Dnipro (Ukraine); Emigration and immigration; Emotions; Florida; Immigrants; Interpersonal relations; Ireland; Kyïv (Ukraine); Lʹviv (Ukraine); Peace Corps (U.S.); Stalin, Joseph, 1878-1953.; Teachers; United Kingdom; Volunteers

GPS: Kyiv (Ukraine)
Map Coordinates: 50.449750, 30.523720
GPS: Lviv (Ukraine)
Map Coordinates: 49.8425, 24.032222
00:53:32 - Daily routines

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Partial Transcript: Was there a typical day or not so much?

Segment Synopsis: Kenosian had a lot of autonomy at work. With his work site translator/guide, Kenosian visited numerous schools and other sites in the community to meet people. The Volunteers were a curiosity as few foreigners had been to their city in recent times. Kenosian contends that getting things done depended a lot on personal connections. Kenosian's being out in the community was good publicity for his work organization. Kenosian discusses what contributes to being a successful Volunteer.

Keywords: Acclimation; Accomplishments; Accountability; Autonomy; Budgets; Commitments; Cultural exchanges; Dnipropetrovsk (Ukraine); Dnipropetrovsʹk (Ukraine); Fluency; Foreigners; Gender discrimination; Invitations; Kyiv (Ukraine); Language skills; Mindsets; Questions; Quitting; Second Goal; Third Goal; Tom Cruise; Traveling

Subjects: Acculturation; Cincinnati (Ohio); Cruise, Tom, 1962-; Dnipro (Ukraine); Emotions; Germany; International travel; Interpersonal relations; Iowa; New York; Peace Corps (U.S.); United Kingdom; United States; United States. Agency for International Development; Volunteers; Yugoslavia

GPS: Kyiv (Ukraine)
Map Coordinates: 50.449750, 30.523720
01:17:43 - Leaving

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Partial Transcript: I stayed there. I stayed there not because I didn't want to go visit some other place but because the whole two years I had, I felt comfortable.

Segment Synopsis: Kenosian came to feel comfortable at his work site in contrast to his initial culture shock. Kenosian reflects that, in the Peace Corps, he learned to accept new challenges and to extend his comfort zone. Before joining Peace Corps, Kenosian believed he could survive on his own even as a foreigner and being on his own on a day-to-day basis.

Keywords: Acclimation; Blending in; Challenges; Changes; Comfort zones; Confidence; Cultural differences; Diversity; Identity; Illness; Learning; Medication; Relationships; Sickness; Site mates

Subjects: Acculturation; Albany (N.Y.); California; Culture shock; Germany; Health; Ireland; Peace Corps (U.S.); Rhode Island; Troy (N.Y.)

GPS: Troy (N.Y.)
Map Coordinates: 42.731667, -73.6925
GPS: Albany (N.Y.)
Map Coordinates: 42.6525, -73.757222
01:27:50 - Re-entry

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Partial Transcript: And, coming back, uh, was shocking.

Segment Synopsis: When he returned to the U.S., Kenosian experienced culture shock. Kenosian describes some of the cultural differences between the U.S. and his work site.

Keywords: Ages; Cultural differences

Subjects: Culture shock; Manners and customs; Newark (N.J.); Peace Corps (U.S.)

GPS: Newark (N.J.)
Map Coordinates: 40.72422, -74.172574
01:30:58 - Personal impact of Volunteer service

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Partial Transcript: So, how would you say Peace Corps has affected your life ?

Segment Synopsis: Joining the Peace Corps put Kenosian on a much different career path. Kenosian has had a job at a series of companies that have been acquired by larger firms. His job has enabled Kenosian to do more international travel. Being in the Peace Corps gave Kenosian additional confidence to try different things and to make life-long friends. Before joining the Peace Corps, Kenosian notes that most of his colleagues were middle-aged, complacent civil servants. Kenosian compares that lifestyle with being one of fifty Volunteers who comprised the third Peace Corps cohort sent to Ukraine. Being in the Peace Corps gave Kenosian a different perspective on life in the U.S.

Keywords: Background checks; Career paths; Cultural differences; Legal paperwork; Marriage; Mid-career; Motivation; New York City (N.Y.); Older volunteers; Peace Corps directors; Peace Corps-related medical issues; Personal growth; Questions; Quitting; Returned Peace Corps Volunteers; Traveling

Subjects: Annapolis (Md.); Emotions; International travel; Interpersonal relations; Lifestyles; Peace Corps (U.S.); Seattle (Wash.); Singapore; Stress (Psychology); Ukraine; United Kingdom; Wall Street (New York, N.Y.)

GPS: New York City (N.Y.)
Map Coordinates: 40.712778, -74.006111
GPS: Seattle (Wa.)
Map Coordinates: 47.609722, -122.333056
GPS: Annapolis (Md.)
Map Coordinates: 38.973056, -76.501111
GPS: Singapore
Map Coordinates: 1.283333, 103.833333
GPS: Wall Street (N.Y.)
Map Coordinates: 40.7075, -74.009167