This week felt like my first “normal” week here. Although routine is usually something I despise, it was nice to sort of grow into and immerse myself in my experience here without being physically or mentally absent from the city for a week.
Monday began with article writing for the academic journal here at Vasile Goldis University. After an entire day at the office, my landlady came round to collect rent bearing a box of homemade sweets: prajitura cu mere (literally, “apple cake”) and cupcakes. I don’t know how I managed to have the nicest landlady imaginable, but I’m immensely grateful.
Tuesday, we had a potluck party with our class of first year students of Modern Applied Languages. Out went the lesson plan, in went the food, and on went the discussion, a great deal of which actually consisted of my recap of the U.S. Presidential elections I witnessed from Bucharest. One student in particular had followed the election very intensely and was extremely knowledgeable on the election results and post-analysis – he was more informed than many Americans themselves, I daresay. I was blown away and heartened by his insight and understanding.
Wednesday, I began helping a student writing a personal statement for university studies in the U.K. Here in Romania, students never really have to write a personal essay describing what they would like to become in the future. Most of their university applications are based on their baccalaureate and entry exam results. So naturally, my favorite question for icebreakers: what do you want to do after you finish your studies? What do you want to do in this life?
In the evening, I hosted my first English conversation club meeting of the semester with students from the college of Modern Applied Languages. That evening was filled with English conversation, and the students were bubbly and lighthearted, which made the evening all the more encouraging. Student by student shared how they were extremely shy and nervous about speaking in public (especially in English), but were excited for the opportunity to practice in a “safe” setting. Needless to say, I’m excited to be able to offer that opportunity.
Thursday, after courses from 10am-2pm, I effectively finished writing the personal statement with the student. A process that has taken me weeks and even months to complete, I now finished in under four hours. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing, but looking over the personal statement in retrospect, it flew. Afterwards, I caught up with a friend in the evening. It was ever so lovely to slow down and refocus after the activities of the week and breathe anew. I can’t believe the breadth and depth of friendships I’ve been able to make here.
Friday, I covered a class for my professor which ended up being one of the greatest experiences of the week. In the pursuit of meaningful and engaging conversations, rather than a forced lesson plan designed to cover the span of an hour, I decided to cover “Storytelling” (a really cool skill-building lesson on LinkedIn that you can check here). As much as I’d like to say that I’m helping these students learn, the truth is that I feel like I’m learning so much more from these students than anything I impart.
Friday evening, I was invited to dinner at a dear friend’s house here with an American couple that lives here in Arad. They moved here 4 years ago to start a non-profit organization housing girls that have outgrown the orphanages here. Most girls in Romania are kicked out of orphanages when they are 14 years of age. Many end up on the streets and are taken into sex trafficking. This wonderful couple moved to Arad from the U.S. to start this non-profit, helping these girls find jobs, and giving them the love of a family that they never had. The hours literally flew by as we listened to their incredible story of sacrifice, redemption, living by faith in face of uncertainty, and unconditional love for these precious girls.
Saturday, I hoped I would go to Cluj Napoca, but it didn’t happen. I ended up staying here and realizing that maybe it’s okay to be still more often. As much as I love living life constantly on the go, I don’t necessarily need to always be running. But running is exactly what I did. The beautifully sunny and surprisingly warm weather brought about the perfect conditions for a run in the park along the riverside. I also made a spontaneous visit to the local museum of Arad, which is mostly closed for ongoing renovation but still has a rather impressive natural history section (complete with a reconstruction of a cave inside) and an exhibit on the local history of Arad and the events of the December 1989 revolution. Afterward, I found new favorite haunt here in Arad: Diplomat Cafe: a dimly lit, narrow cafe with vintage pictures of renown cities along the walls amidst a seemingly incompatible background of Euro-pop music. The coffee shop culture is quite different than that in the US, as most coffee shops also double as pubs/bars.
To be honest, I never imagined I would like it here as much as I do. This experience so far been one of learning to let go of my own preconceived notions and to simply let life happen.