Romania: Lessons on being human, encountering the Other, & inhabiting our planet June 13, 2017

By (Northwestern College) - abroad from 08/23/2016 to 12/03/2016 with

Northwestern College: Romania Semester

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Living in Romania is easily one of the most worthwhile experiences I have had. Since our world is ever more "connected", digitally and otherwise, it is ever more critical that we learn to engage with the Other. After spending some time abroad, I felt as if I had lived my entire life up to that point with one eye closed. Because of my time in Romania, I live and love more deeply; experiencing a different culture taught me more about what it means to be human, which is both essential and priceless.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? None

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

I didn't find the classes to be particularly difficult, which was nice because it allowed me the energy to dive more fully into experiential learning--hiking, taking trips, testing my language skills with the locals... and as far as experiential education, I got out what I put in.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My host family was amazing. They literally ran to me with open arms and made me feel like I really was part of their family. Living in an apartment during the second half of the semester came with unique challenges, but both experiences helped me to learn about what it means to live in Romania.

* Food:

I personally enjoyed most traditional Romanian foods a great deal, and I didn't find it to be terribly different from what I grew up with in the middle of the United States. I will note though that Romania is very much a meat-eating culture, to those for whom this may be a concern.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I went to Romania with the mindset that I would challenge myself to adapt to another culture to the best of my ability. While my light hair and eyes did not exactly help me blend in, I did work really hard to learn and practice as much of the language as I could, which enabled me to chat a bit with locals and immensely enriched my experience. Romanians were thrilled that I had made the effort to learn their language and learn about their culture, and I felt that the program also facilitated meaningful connections with the community through host families and a range of other activities.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

My only actual health-related issue during the semester was a sprained ankle which was well tended by the paramedics at the Viata camp where I sustained the injury. Romania's health system in general, however, leaves much to be desired.

* Safety:

Violent crime is very rare in Romania, and although there are still a few stray dogs here and there on city streets, I can't recall a time when I felt that my safety was genuinely threatened while studying there. Watch out for petty theft and fraud though. I had no problems with any sort of theft, but I was also careful.

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

This semester in Romania was more than I could have possibly hoped for. Having never left the United States before, I had no idea what to expect from a foreign country or from an abroad program, so the experience was jarring in the best of ways. We traveled around the country on sight-seeing excursions, went on hikes, and interacted with youth in the communities in ways that helped me engage with the culture in profound ways. Romania is a fascinating mix of phenomenally beautiful landscapes with the cold, concrete architecture of its communist past, which called me into greater reflection on human history and what it means to inhabit our planet in the present day. I was welcomed into a family in Lupeni that loved me as their own, and I will forever see the world differently because of my experiences in Romania.

Finances

* 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)

Romania was crazy affordable. One leu is the equivalent of four USD..

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? I believe our stipend was the equivalent of around $50 per week, and it was enough.

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes

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
  • Other
* 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?
  • Experiential Education
  • Learning the language while immersed in it
* What could be improved?
  • A couple more sessions of the language class at the very beginning of the semester would be helpful.
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I can't think of anything that I genuinely wish I would have known before embarking on the Romania semester. Many of the things that needed to be covered were well-addressed during pre-departure sessions, but part of the beauty of my personal experience was encountering the unexpected with openness. At first, I felt unprepared by how few expectations I really had for the semester, but it ultimately allowed me to be more fully present in all that I did experience. I was better able to embrace it for what it was, unencumbered by what I thought my experiences were supposed to be. I am thankful for that and I wouldn't change that. Let Romania take you by surprise.

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 Nearly Native or Trail Blazer
Craving the most authentic experience possible, perhaps you lived with a host family or really got in good with the locals. You may have felt confined by your program requirements and group excursions. Instead, you'd have preferred to plan your own trips, even skipping class to conduct your own 'field work.'