Peace Corps Valentines: GU Couple Celebrate in Republic of Georgia
February 14, 2012 – Melissa Kuhlman (G'09) and Sam Harris (G'08), a young married couple who went to graduate school at Georgetown, will spend their Valentine’s Day in the Republic of Georgia as Peace Corps volunteers.
“The past two years have been a little unusual,” Kuhlman says of the American romantic holiday. “Valentine’s Day is not such a big celebration here in the little town of Akhalkalaki, Georgia. Last year, we settled for a celebratory chocolate bar and watching a movie on the computer at home.”
But she says there's an Armenian holiday, Terendes, that falls right around Valentine’s day which “involves newlywed couples leaping over a bonfire – something a little different from flowers and champagne.”
The couple, married in 2008, serve as English teachers for the Peace Corps in Georgia.
“I have loved serving with my husband,” Kuhlman says. “I think this experience has helped us grow even closer, has given us an additional wonderful bond and allowed me to see Sam really shine in some really difficult situations.”
“We are able to lean on each other during our rougher patches and be strong for one other,” she adds. “I know that for us personally, we’ll always value the quality one-on-one time we’ve gotten to spend together here.”
After Harris received his master’s in Arabic studies from Georgetown in 2008, he began teaching Arabic at George Washington University.
“[My] focus on post-Soviet countries and the Caucasus in particular helped the Peace Corps decide to place us here in Georgia,” says Kuhlman, who graduated in 2009 with a master’s degree in Russian and European Studies. “The language and cultural background we both received at Georgetown has really enriched our time in the country.”
Both Kuhlman and Harris are natives of West Virginia, but she says their paths “barely crossed” until they had graduated from high school and were getting their undergraduate degrees in different places.
“We really got to know each other on a trip we took with friends the summer after our freshman year of college,” Kuhlman recalls, “and despite the hurdles of distance, we started dating after that.”
The couple has fond memories of their time at Georgetown.
“It's hard to pick a single memory,” Kuhlman says, “but we used to love sitting in or walking through the courtyard in front of Dahlgren Chapel, especially in the spring when the flowers were falling from the trees all around.”