Bună ziua a toți! Hello everyone! My name is Rachel and this semester, we will venture to the outskirts of Romania to a slowly urbanizing city called Galați (pronounced ‘gal-atz’). When I started my journey into college, I never dreamed of living in Romania; what was there to benefit from? With five years of Spanish under my belt, my initial plan was set on a paiz hispanohablante (a Spanish-speaking country). The moment I stepped off the plane in Buchareșt greeted by 90F, I was a little bewildered. Lack of sleep, flight delays, stress, jet lag and some travel anxiety contributed to the lethargic stew brewing inside me. However, after living in Galați for now three weeks, Romania feels like a home away from home. Here, I feel overwhelming peace and confirmation that I need to be here.
I’ll tell you I am still in denial of being a senior in college (how the time flies!), studying psychology and cross-cultural missions. My calling is to work as a trauma counselor with overseas mission organizations; this study abroad trip being a test trial of envisioning this dream as a future career. Why psychology you may ask? I have a passion for helping people, but don’t have the guts for blood. No really, it fascinates me how the brain is intricately designed, how people function, explore coping strategies & build resilience to trauma.
Not having traveled outside of the country prior (besides Canada), I anticipated culture shock and anxiety with traveling. I would be alone, as I was the only person who chose Romania to study abroad this semester and would have to figure out what we most often take for granted solo (i.e. currency exchange, layovers in foreign countries, losing & reclaiming luggage in host country, navigating airport terminals, etc.). Thankfully, the jet-lag numbed my travel nerves. Juggling prep for Romania with a tight summer schedule was not the best idea, though the main issue I stressed over was learning the language. For Romanian (which come to find is the compilation of multiple foreign rulers, nationalities, and religions contributing to the language; the reason Romanian is often claimed as the “language of exceptions”), I listened to the Pimselur Method (highly recommend for quick & intense language learning) and used the Duolingo app. Despite my efforts, I came to Romania stripped of every cultural cue and social thread I once knew. I felt like a toddler, completely dependent on my host family, the WMFR staff, and even the children attending the daycenter. Every day, they help me reweave those threads with new knowledge, experiences, and community. This comes from a place of humility, grace and willingness; without these elements, it is hard to begin the assimilation process and develop those desired fruits in one’s life. It also helps to keep an open mindset, especially in the state of culture shock, and inquiring out of curiousity why people do what they do.