An honest time of deep living and learning. Past Review

By (International Relations and Affairs., Calvin College) - abroad from 08/25/2010 to 12/15/2010 with

Northwestern College: Romania Semester

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
My semester in Lupeni was extremely worthwhile. It was challenging to me as a person, as a Christian, and as a student, as I wrestled with all the questions of cross-cultural living, sustainable and empowering development work, and my role as an outsider in a place that was not my own. The wrestling was just the beginning of a long journey that has now actually brought me back to Romania to work for a few years with this same organization. But as to my experience as a student -- I gained an appreciation for the wisdom and beauty of other Christian traditions. I gained a rootedness and earthiness to my sense of faith and home that I had not had before. I gained insights into a part of the world different from my own, and thus into the culture and place that I came from. I was challenged to think from new perspectives, to stretch my limits and move beyond my comfort zone, to try new things, and to learn from every moment. It was an incredible semester and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Review Photos

Northwestern College: Lupeni - Fall Semester Program in Romania Photo Northwestern College: Lupeni - Fall Semester Program in Romania Photo Northwestern College: Lupeni - Fall Semester Program in Romania Photo Northwestern College: Lupeni - Fall Semester Program in Romania Photo Northwestern College: Lupeni - Fall Semester Program in Romania Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

In the year that I studied abroad in Romania, there were four courses (Romanian Culture, Language, and History; Eastern Orthodoxy; Sustainable Development; and Experiential Education). Three of them were taught by Dana Bates, the co-founder of NHF and a PhD candidate from the University of Oxford. I loved that the courses were taught contextually -- it led to rich learning outside of the classroom and brought depth and interesting questions to our in-class lessons. The program provides room for students of all levels to be challenged and pursue deeper learning in the areas that most challenge and interest them -- but the academic nature of the program doesn't detract from your ability to really LIVE in Romania, to be present there as you engage the culture, religion, food, and people you meet.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

I was very thankful for Kadie Becker and her thoughtful, kind, and thorough care for us as students.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I loved my host family (a small nuclear family on a farm perched on a mountain hillside, where I was welcomed and taught so many things -- how to cook Romanian food, how to pronounce new Romanian words, and how to love new people well even when outside my comfort zone). I also enjoyed having the chance to spend the second half of the semester with the other students in a small apartment in the town of Lupeni, living side-by-side with other Romanians, experiencing daily life on our own -- shopping for groceries, cooking and cleaning, maintenance and making beauty in an old Communist bloc apartment, and inviting new friends over into our space. It was a great balance.

* Food:

Romanian food isn't showy, but it is really, really good.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I personally was able to learn quite a bit of Romanian and had a wonderful host family experience, so I felt quite integrated (as much as one can be as a student for only 3.5 months in a foreign place). When we traveled as a group this was, of course, harder. And as mostly-American students in a small Romanian town, we do stand out... but I think the program handles the challenges as well as possible (particularly due to Kadie Becker's desire to be culturally sensitive and authentic in our interactions with life in Romania).

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I did not experience this issue, other than some first aid on the backpacking trip -- but those were handled expertly and with great care. I have heard that Lupeni's heathcare system is significantly less advanced than what we were used to in the US, but none of the students in my year needed to use the system, so I can't really speak to that.

* Safety:

Lupeni is quite safe. I never had any incidents. Even the street dogs (which, yes, do exist) have more bark than bite. Of course, common sense is necessary -- but overall this was not a concern for me.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

The weekly stipend given to us for food and other needs was certainly more than sufficient for the low cost of living in Lupeni.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

Because Romanian is not a very commonly-spoken language, none of us came in with any experience or knowledge, so amongst ourselves (in class, etc.) we spoke English. However, because we stayed with host families and lived in a small town, most of our other interactions over the course of the semester involved Romanian (to various degrees). Particularly when we traveled, it was good to be able to practice and use our new-found language skills!

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Intermediate
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Try to learn as much as possible beforehand, and be prepared for the hard slog of Romanian grammar -- but know that it's worth it!

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Host family
  • Learning Romanian
  • Sustainable Development class
* What could be improved?
  • Transitioning out of host families into apartment living
  • Ongoing Romanian study (not just the first half of the semester)
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? To be prepared not only for Romania to change you, but for your fellow students to change you as well. That experience, of living in a new place together, is also a powerful one that takes intentionality and care... just as much as the transition into another culture and place.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!