UPDATE: I haven’t written in such a long time. In fact, almost two whole years have passed since my last post. During that time I’ve: cycled across the United States of America (from West to East coast), lived in Uganda, began (and have nearly finished) a master’s degree, and received a Boren Fellowship to move to Eastern Europe. I have just finished my first month living and working in Cluj Napoca, Romania!
Boren Fellowship: In 2021 I applied for the prestigious Boren Fellowship that provides graduate students with the opportunity to move abroad to study a less commonly taught language. I had initially planned on departing May of 2022, however, my proposed country of travel was deemed a “no travel” zone by the State Department at the time. Instead, I was able to defer my award until January 2023. This gave me the opportunity to spend three months in Uganda (post to come). I decided to study Romanian on a whim. I was interested in the history of Eastern Europe, and I already know some romance languages, so I figured I would be competitive for the grant. As it turns out, I was!
First month as Boren: Although I had only committed to living in Romania for 6 months, it was an incredibly difficult decision. I really enjoyed my life and studies in Gainesville, FL and felt strongly about completing the last semester of my master’s degree there. However, I knew I was too comfortable and needed to challenge myself.
(Also, the extra stress of the war in Ukraine , a European winter, and the anxiety of not being able to secure a visa before arrival to Romania almost dissuaded me from going.)
Nevertheless, I was on my way to Romania and, after a trans-altantic flight and a connection in Munich, I was there. I should mention that I had NO previous knowledge of Romanian upon arrival- this was a mistake. After what seemed like hours of trying to find misplaced luggage and a taxi driver that knew English, I arrived at the apartment I had signed for virtually. At first glance, I thought I’d been scammed:
I’m just still so grateful that this wasn’t the case. I learned very quickly that although many apartments are located in Soviet-era housing, which isn’t very …pretty… on the outside, the inside is very modern:
I remember walking up and down the streets my first couple of days feeling so confused and out of place. I can confidently say that this city feels like home at the first month mark! I also now know enough Romanian to introduce myself, order food, and shop at market.
Luckily enough, in addition to my 8 hours of private Romanian classes per week, I also work for an organization that has plenty of staff my age! (It’s great to have built-in-friends). This has made the transition quite easy- although I still don’t have the visa. I’m currently helping the NGO’s humanitarian assistance team with cash assistance to Ukrainian refugees, skill building workshops for refugees, other community engagement, and monitoring and evaluation.
That’s all for month 1! When the time comes, I hope to recount month 2 in more detail. 🙂