Hannah Flanery is about to embark on a two-year adventure in which she will be immersed in the culture and lifestyle of Ukraine.
Flanery, 22, of Ashland, will spend the next 27 months in the country as a volunteer with the Peace Corps assigned to work in the field of youth development. The daughter of Barbara Crum of Ashland and Tony Flanery of Olive Hill is a 2008 graduate of Boyd County High School. Flanery graduated from Georgetown College with bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and political science last spring.
Her Peace Corps service is meant to help prepare Flanery for a career in international development.
“I knew I wanted to spend some time abroad after I graduated,” she said. “I’m hoping to do international development work, and I thought the Peace Corps would be a good way to do that.”
Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, is a good fit because it’s still very much a young nation, Flanery said.
“It’s such a young country, I think that is one of the things I’m most excited to learn about,” she said. “They struggle being so close to Russia. They are working so hard to establish a democracy and figure out what their national identity is.”
The intersection of geography, culture, history and politics fascinates Flanery.
“I have always loved politics and history since I was young, and I always thought I wanted to do something in that line of work,” she said.
She began taking political science classes in college, including international relations, and “absolutely fell in love with it. There is so much left to be done in the world, I don’t think a lot of people realize it. Once I was exposed to what was going on in the world around me, I thought this would be a nice career path.”
For the first three months Flanery will live with a host family near the capital in Kiev, where she will be with other Peace Corps volunteers learning the language. Ukrainians speak one of two languages, depending on where they live, so Flanery is not sure if she’ll be learning Russian or Ukrainian.
Flanery, who wasn’t alive during the Cold War, laughs when her family keeps referring to Ukraine as Russia. To be safe, she’s working on both languages and studying the history and politics of the nation.
There are a lot of unknowns, Flanery said, explaining much of Peace Corps work is a leap of faith. She’s never traveled to eastern Europe and won’t know where she’ll be working until after her initial three-month training and immersion.
After being sworn in to service and assigned to a community, Flanery will work on “sustainable, community-driven development projects,” according to a statement from the Peace Corps.
Flanery expects to work with youth. “Usually you are working with schools in Ukraine. I might be teaching classes, running extracurricular activities. Summer camps are really popular,” she said.
Flanery originally believed she would be teaching English as a second language classes, which is still a possibility, she said.
“I might also be teaching English and working with other community members to do things in the greater community in addition to working with schools.”
Flanery, who will depart March 25, will spend a few days in Washington, D.C., before flying to Ukraine. For now, she’s focused on finishing an internship and spending as much time with her family as possible.
She said her loved ones are doing well with the decision, but she knows being so far away for so long will be hard. Her older sister, Chloe, is expecting a child, and her youngest sibling, Jack, is 4.
“There are so many things I have left to do, and so many thinks I keep thinking of,” she said. “I’m excited about it, but it’s also scary. It’s something I’ve seen myself doing for quite a while.”