“I love studying the world and working
with people from other countries.”
I am from a missionary family and have traveled my whole life,
growing up in Mozambique and Zimbabwe. But my home is in
South Dakota, where my father’s family is from.
I’m proud to be a part of the first Peace Corps program in
Kosovo, southeastern Europe. I arrived in Kosovo in June 2014,
and after completing three months of intensive training, swore
in as a Peace Corps Volunteer in August. My work in Kosovo
consists primarily of improving English language instruction
at the local elementary school by closely partnering with a local
For many Peace Corps volunteers, learning the native
language can be a barrier. But for me, patience is a challenge.
Some cultural differences have been hard for me. Americans
want things fast. What matters most here are relationships. Being
on time does not matter, which is very hard for me. If it were up
to me everyone would be in the class ready to learn two minutes
early. Thankfully, I am partnered with a woman who wants to
be different from the cultural norm.
Nutrition is the other thing that has been difficult. I prefer to
eat healthily, and fresh produce is sometimes hard to find. But as
a Peace Corps volunteer, you have to adjust to wherever you are.
While I was a USD student, I took a very important trip, to
Turkey for two weeks. I went with my brother, Micah, who is
currently a USD student. Tim Schorn [political science] took
a group of students. We decided that since we were already in
Europe we’d travel throughout the country. We both had two
separate friends who were Peace Corps volunteers in Ukraine,
so after our school trip to Turkey, without knowing a word of
Ukrainian, we went to Kiev, Ukraine, traveling by a rickety,
dangerous train. We made friends, had a blast and stayed with
Micah’s friend Ryan in a small village in middle of nowhere
in Western Ukraine.
After that, we went to Odessa, Ukraine, along the Black Sea.
We met my friend Adam, who was on vacation from the Peace
Corps. This was very important to me because I got to see how a
Peace Corps volunteer lived. I saw the school, met a host family,
and got to see firsthand the life of a Peace Corps volunteer. I was
so impressed by Ryan’s fluency in Ukrainian. I couldn’t believe a
small-town South Dakotan could speak Ukrainian so fluently.
Then in spring 2012 I took another trip, this time with Tony
Molina [former political science professor] as a traveling assistant,
helping him with the trip itinerary, routes and meeting with
people. I also tutored the USD students in the Italian language
before we left so that they knew a few phrases in Italian. Tony
Molina was the best influence on me while I was at USD. I
took his research methods class. I’m not a math person, but I
loved that class. It made sense and was applicable to what I was
interested in. Tony made class interesting and fun, and he really
cared about students.
On a typical day in Kosovo, I wake up, do some computer
work and then go to school. I greet professors and students as
they get to school, and then I meet my counterpart. I have one
partner for two years, a woman who is fluent in Albanian. My
main role is to assist her to become a better English instructor, so
we teach classes together. I’m allowed to only teach with her—
not alone—because it’s more sustainable for her in the longterm.
I’ve had lots of wonderful experiences here. One of the most
touching happened one day after my host family and I went into
the mountains, near Gjeravica, the highest point in Kosovo, for
a hike and a picnic. On our way back home, we got into our
borrowed pickup, but before long stopped on the side of the road.
My host dad took out a shovel, and started digging to uproot
two small trees and tossed them in the back of the truck. I came
home later to find that he had planted the two little pine trees in
the yard. One, the larger tree of the two, was planted near the
entrance to the property; the other, further back, was planted in
front of the balcony of my bedroom. I’ll be able to see it every
day for the next two years, as I come home, as I look out the
window, as I sit on my balcony and drink tea. My host dad
told me, “Ajo quhet Analena!” or “I named it Anna Lena!”
I was so touched.
Anna Wonnenberg ’12
Wonnenberg completed her master’s
degree at USD in political science and
international relations in 2012.