Interview with Jessica Herzfeld, February 26, 2022

Project: Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project

Interview Summary

Jessica Herzfeld served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kosovo from 2016 to 2018 in the fields of Community and Economic Development with the municipal government in Ferizaj in Kosovo designing and heading various projects aimed at youth development, workforce development, gender, and female opportunities. Before she enrolled in the Peace Corps, Jessica served as an AmeriCorps Volunteer in the Detroit area in 2009. After also working for a non-profit group while she got her master’s degree in Public Administration, Jessica contacted the Peace Corps and applied for one of three countries: Rwanda, Kosovo, and Sierra Leone, and Kosovo seemed the best fit. She did not have any formal training in America but met others of her cohort in Washington, DC and left for her host country, Kosovo, where preservice training was held. She stayed in Gjilan, at the Hotel Krystal for a week of pre-training and team building before continuing to the village of Kamenica for more formal training and language immersion for 11 weeks. Then, along with seven other PCVs, Jessica arrived at her preservice location outside of Kamenica in Koretin where more language, cultural, and Peace Corps policy-learning took place. Jessica stayed with a local family who had hosted two PCVs previously in their home. She had her own room and felt private and safe during her stay. The house had electricity and running water along with wi-fi. The lady of the house aided Jessica with the local language, as did the woman’s two teenaged children, and she, in turn, aided all of them in learning English. The native language was Albanian which she began to pick up a little at a time. Koretin was a small town, mostly residential with some small industry. She enjoyed the local food which was mostly vegetables highlighting peppers, cabbages, tomatoes, and cucumbers, and she learned to like Flia, a type of layered crepe type dish. Jessica felt that the townsfolk were very kind and open to her as she learned to assimilate into the culture which was mostly Muslim. The locals loved PCVs and constantly asked them to visit and dine. Jessica worked in the town of Ferizaj, the fourth largest city in Kosovo, and set up community and economic projects with high school-aged and college-aged students there. She worked in the municipality office of Culture, Youth, and Sport and developed a dear friendship with her counterpart, Dashurija, who had programs set up with GIZED, UNDP, and OSCE. She was pleased to see that Albanian students and Serbian students got along so well in pursuit of their projects’ goals. To assist with current programs through UNDP and OSCE (cultural learning development situations), Jessica went to a variety of religious locations and worked with students in cultural learning. Other programs in the city of Ferizaj included business organization and computer assistance. She also felt that there were some Communistic overtones, but any bias in her daily work was not an issue for her. She did note that feminism seemed on the rise in her area, and women were beginning to get more opportunities to organize and lead. She was quite proud that, through a USAID project, she was able to set up a Professional Female to Female Youth Mentor Program; she even went to local merchants and got them to donate further to aid the project, which as a requirement of her attained USAID grant. She had over 100 participants in the Professional Female to Female Youth project she worked on, and she also did evaluations and further training for community members. Periodically, Jessica and other PCVs went to Macedonia for medical check-ups, but she maintained her health well. With her 24 days of vacation, Jessica and other PCVs stayed throughout the country at Air-B-and-Bs, and she also traveled through Europe, especially to Poland where she had ancestry. Upon arriving back home, Jessica felt some depression about leaving her host country as she loved her host family and her friend, Dashurija. She enjoyed interacting with the people of Kosovo and sharing thoughts about the differences in their cultures. At home, Jessica worked in colleges and as an adult educator instructor while pursuing a Masters in Social Work degree.

Interview Accession

2022oh0277_pcrv0534

Interviewee Name

Jessica Herzfeld

Interviewer Name

Donald C. Yates

Interview Date

2022-02-26

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Herzfeld, Jessica Interview by Donald C. Yates. 26 Feb. 2022. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.

Herzfeld, J. (2022, February 26). Interview by D. C. Yates. Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.

Herzfeld, Jessica, interview by Donald C. Yates. February 26, 2022, Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.





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