Now, what country are you living in again?
This is the question that I have heard over and over since being accepted to the Peace Corps last October. My home for the next two years is a tiny little country in Eastern Europe that seems to be overlooked in most geography classes. When I tell people, “Oh, I’ll be living in Moldova,” they look at me in utter confusion, or they just nervously laugh and nod their heads. So, I thought I would take this opportunity to introduce everyone to the largely unknown, but utterly impactful, country that I am lucky enough to call home for the next 24 months.
Here are some fun facts about Moldova that are sure to come in handy during a trivia night with your friends and family. Well… maybe.
Moldova in a Nutshell
Official Name: Republic of Moldova
Independence Day: August 27, 1991 (yes, I am living in a country that is younger than I am)
Population: 3.5 million
Location: Moldova is a landlocked country located between Ukraine and Romania.
Official Language: Romanian
Unofficial Language: Moldovaneste, which is a mix of Romanian and Russian, as Moldova used to be a member of the USSR until its collapse.
Annual GDP: 8 billion US Dollars
Currency Exchange: 20 MDL (Moldovan Lei) to 1 USD
- Moldova is the poorest country in Europe and is actively trying to gain status within the EU. They are facing limitations due to rampant corruption and severe economic woes.
- There is an extreme exodus of young people (ages 18-35) to other countries in Europe to find jobs because the opportunities are so limited in Moldova. This is especially true for women and those of low socioeconomic status.
- Moldova is an agrarian society and has some of the most fertile soil in the world. When they were a part of the USSR, this tiny region was responsible for the growth of ALL of the produce and ALL of the wine sold and consumed in the USSR. I can attest to the produce here being the best I have ever had… no contest.
- Despite being the poorest country in Europe, Moldova has the third fastest internet connectivity in the world. It also boasts one of the world’s largest wine cellars (oh yeah, they are world-renowned for their wine here, too).
- Moldova may be poor materially, but they are extremely rich culturally. The food here is amazing and fresh. The people are hospitable and kind while the landscape is beautiful and untouched.
What will I be doing in Moldova for 27 months?
I am serving as a Volunteer in the United States Peace Corps. Peace Corps was founded in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy – one of the first major pieces of legislation passed during his time in office. It is a selective program with only 220,000 Volunteers serving since its inception 55 years ago. The goals that were set forth for Peace Corps when it was founded are the goals that we still strive for today:
- to help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women
- to help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the people served
- to help promote a better understanding of the peoples served on the part of Americans
Peace Corps has served in 140 countries since 1961 and is currently serving in 63 countries. Volunteers work in many different areas: health, agriculture, youth in development, education, environment, and community economic development.
Peace Corps has been active in Moldova since 1993 in a variety of focus areas. Currently, there are about 120 active PCVs (Peace Corps Volunteers) working in four different focus areas: English Education, Health Education, Community and Organizational Development, and Small Enterprise Development.
I am an English Education Volunteer, so I work with Moldovan English teachers in the classroom. Together, we work to provide the best foreign language instruction possible for our students. The goals of the EE program are to strengthen our partner’s English speaking and teaching skills, promote sustainable teaching practices, improve student English proficiency, and contribute to school and community improvement projects.
Most of my time will be spent in the classroom teaching a variety of students and sharing my culture with them, as most Moldovan students in my school have never met an American before. Other projects that I plan to take on are acquiring books written in English for my school library (since there are none) and starting an extracurricular English/Literature club for any interested students. My journey is just beginning, but I like the way it is shaping up so far!
One of my all-time favorite quotes perfectly sums up my journey in Peace Corps and is a sentiment that was reinforced during my time as a Sigma Kappa collegian, so I can think of no better words to leave you with: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” —Mahatma Gandhi