Friday, 28 October 2011
So after two weeks of teaching I definitely believe I have become a better student as a result. This is definitely the hardest thing I have ever done. I have 80 students total in my undergraduate classes and the vast majority are polite and attentive, but you always have a troublemaker or two in every group. Reflecting back on my college years, I cringe thinking about how occasionally I would eat a noisy snack in class, text while the professor was lecturing (I honestly only did this if I was bored by the lecture, but still... not excusable), or sometimes not do the reading. Now I am on the other side and I see how frustrating all of those habits are! In graduate school I am going to be a professor's dream student. If I have learned anything from this experience so far, it is how to be a more appreciative learner.
That being said I am really enjoying my own students for the most part! In particular, my second year law students have really stood out to me. I even have a decent grasp on most of their names already. They ask very tough questions, and are not afraid to voice their opinions. I think as the semester progresses, more and more students will become comfortable and will participate as well. Next week, in each class we are going to talk about Halloween very briefly, and compare and contrast it with some Romanian traditional holidays. My Dad shipped me some Halloween candy so I am hoping to share it with them!
I have befriended a Peace Corps volunteer who actually lives pretty close to me - it's only a 20 minute walk, or a 5 minute bus ride to her place. Her name is Melissa, and she has been in Romania since April (Suceava since July). This past Friday we attempted to make chocolate chip cookies, but we had to substitute chocolate chips with M&M's, butter with milk, and brown sugar with extra white sugar. Needless to say they were the worst cookies I've ever baked, but we had so much fun making them and the dough surprisingly enough tasted very good! It is so nice to have a fellow American in the same city. Melissa was telling me there are 70 Peace Corps volunteers scattered throughout Romania, so I can practically go almost anywhere and run into one. She also said that the Peace Corps is phasing out of Romania - her group is the last group. So in July 2013, the Peace Corps will be no more! This is great news for Romania, especially since I never really understood why the Peace Corps is still here. Romania isn't so much a developing country as it is a recovering country. There is a lot of potential and promise.
My Romanian is slowly improving (emphasis on slowly). A Romanian friend of mine who is in graduate school at Geneva told me I am extremely brave for coming here. "Romania is definitely not like any other country out there; it's a very specific way of seeing things," she stated. I suppose that is why I wanted to go somewhere a little off the beaten path in the first place. Granted it hasn't always been the most pleasurable experience, but I've learned an incredible amount about others and myself. And at the end of the day, the people I've met here make the strife worthwhile :).
Sunday, 16 October 2011
I finally have my schedule in place. It is a relief to not have any more changes! :)
9:50 - 11:40 English for Public Administration (1st years)
11:40 - 1:30 English for Public Administration (2nd years)
5 - 7 Conversational English - British Council (High school students)
9:50 - 11:40 English for Law (1st years)
9:50 - 11:40 English for Law (2nd years)
5:30 - 7:30 Mass Media in Teaching Foreign Languages (Master's)
I am very happy to have Wednesdays and especially Fridays off! That gives me longer weekends to travel if I want. I am still in the process of trying to sign up for Romanian language lessons. We will see if that ever materializes!
More updates to come later on in the week! Stay tuned!
Thursday, 13 October 2011
So because I fell ill earlier in the week all of my undergraduate English classes will be starting next week. However, today I did have my first Master's class. I was really nervous especially after my boss decided to sit in on the meeting, but my students were very inquisitive and made my job quite easy. All in all I think it went successfully, and I really am looking forward to getting to know my students better! It turns out though since they have such busy work schedules I will be changing the class time from 4-6 to 5:30-7:30 to make it easier for them. Going to school and working simultaneously, not to mention raising a family too, are feats that I do not think I'd be capable of. But these women are capable, and therefore very inspiring.
A day ago I succeeded in making Romanian vegetable soup, right here in this dorm kitchen. I felt so proud, even though it was a very small feat. Sometimes little accomplishments feel like big accomplishments, and this entire experience is no exception. Every day I learn something new and this knowledge keeps me going. That and the bottomless pit of Oreos I snack on in-between meals. Thank goodness they have Oreos in Romania.
Although I am homesick I find if I keep busy it isn't so bad, particularly when I am around people. For example, I ate a late lunch with Simona yesterday and then we bought ice cream and watched Paranormal Activity 2 in her apartment, complete with a movie projector that made the film ten times scarier. After that we just talked while we played with her two cats. On my way home I was able to give some of Simona's leftover meat to a little dog that was hiding right outside my dorm. It was an uneventful day, but a great day. This Saturday I am going to hang out with Maria and some of her friends and maybe go to a local concert.
I joined CouchSurfing.org in the hopes of finding travelers and/or residents in Suceava, but so far not much luck yet. I do like Suceava, but it is not high on the list of cities to visit in Romania, and there are legitimate reasons for that. People who want to see the monasteries tend to just use Suceava as a base, not as a destination. It is unfortunate because there is charm, buried underneath the concrete blocks and communist rubble. It is nice to know that Iasi is so close by and I have a Fulbright friend teaching there. Iasi is far more culturally diverse and has a wide array of ethnic restaurants (I would walk 1,000 miles for thai food right about now), along with a thriving arts scene.
I suppose this is not the most exciting post but I just wanted to update it since I had the time. As the days progress I become more and more settled. I am looking forward to teaching, working with the volunteer club, taking Romanian language classes, exploring the countryside more, etc. It's been a slow start up but I can't complain. I've already done things I could have never imagined myself doing three years ago. There truly is no where else I'd rather be than here. That doesn't mean I don't miss everyone back home, because I most certainly do. A lot. And the fact that I get to come home for Christmas keeps my spirits up. But I feel so lucky to be in Romania. And I am excited to see what eight more months in this glorious albeit complex country will bring.
Thanks everyone for reading and for your comments! It means a lot to know I have such kind support :).
Saturday, 08 October 2011
I have returned to Suceava after a long but insightful week in Iasi and Bucharest. The Fulbright Orientation was an incredible experience and I learned many valuable things there, from the challenges facing the Romanian education system (there are many) to the complexities of Eastern European politics. I also had the good fortune to meet other individuals from all around the world who are passionate about Romania and who see the potential this country has. The diplomats from the US Embassy in Bucharest were extremely helpful in their suggestions on how to adapt. I TWAMPed for a little bit on the Romanian Education presentation and took lots of notes, of which I am now very happy I have. There are all these ideas swimming around in my head for potential research topics and the like. Once I start officially teaching Monday and develop a routine, I think I will have more time to really read up on education here, especially at the university level.
One of my favorite parts of my time in Bucharest occurred when my fellow Fulbrighter Kelli and I were on the hunt for Betty Ice . We were stopped by an older Romanian woman who noticed our name badges and asked in Romanian if we were professors. Kelli and I proceeded to have a lovely chat with this woman for about five minutes. She seemed to think that I looked and sounded British and Kelli was from the Middle East and a practicing Muslim (she is a black American, but has lighter skin than most). We had quite a time explaining to her that we actually are both American and Catholic. The concept of cultural heterogeneity is somewhat alien here, so we really enjoyed speaking with the woman about what were doing in Romania. Before she left us she said that both Kelli and I were very pretty and had lips like Angelina Jolie. I do not know how much she understood us entirely but it made all my hard work to learn basic Romanian worthwhile (but please do not mistake me - I am still rather dreadful). I have been told by several other Romanians my accent sounds British, to which I just smile and nod, knowing that it could not be further from the truth.
Change comes so quickly to Romania you can easily wake up the next morning and be in a entirely different country. Or at least that is how it has been described to me from those who have lived here for decades, a year, six months. They may be reinventing the wheel, and it may be an arduous process, but I cannot wait to see the final product. There are major problems that will take time to work out. There is no doubt about that. But most people are hopeful. So I am. I look forward to witnessing my own changes during my time in Suceava, and listening to my Romanian friends, colleagues, students. Even individuals on the street, like the woman I talked to in Bucharest, foster an environment of learning that cannot be replicated in any classroom. I love academia very much, don't get me wrong, but sometimes I think there is way too much emphasis on theory and not enough on practice. At some point you just need to go out and DO IT. It is a terrifying prospect, and I've had my share of scary moments. But I wouldn't trade it for a "safe" class in Blair Hall (although I do miss that building dreadfully and the professors who reside there).
Other people really are your greatest teachers, I think. You just have to go out and meet them.
Saturday, 01 October 2011
Yesterday morning I had the opportunity to visit Colegiul Naţional Petru Rareş, one of if not the best high school in Suceava. I was meeting with the volunteer club which is sponsored by Dana, the high school teacher I mentioned in my previous entry. Most of the group are made up of 10th graders but there are some in 11th grade (they do not have the freshman, sophomore... listing here). They speak incredible English, especially for a group so young. We spent about an hour discussing various volunteer opportunities in Suceava and fundraisers we could hold for both Halloween (it is catching on in Romania!) and Christmas. I am definitely going to try to meet with them as often as I can to provide support. Afterwards three of the students and I went out to a pub where they kindly paid for my lemonade and then they escorted me to the train ticket office where I purchased a "bilet" for Iasi. I was blown away by the kindness of the students and their readiness to accept me, even though I must seem somewhat ancient to them. They invited me out this weekend but I have too much to get done at the moment. I look forward to getting to know them better later on in the month.
This upcoming week is Fulbright Orientation in Bucharest, which means I have to traverse back to the capital, but this time it will be by train. I am leaving for Iasi Tuesday afternoon to meet up with another fellow Fulbrighter. We are then taking the long train to Bucharest on Wednesday. I will be returning to Suceava late Saturday night.
For those who are interested, I have attached the Orientation schedule in this post. It looks like I will be learning a lot in just two days, not to mention visiting the renowned Peles Castle. I cannot wait to meet the other Fulbright scholars and learn about what they have been up to the past few weeks.ORIENTATION AGENDA FOR 2011/2012U.S. FULBRIGHT GRANTEES TO ROMANIAThursday, October 6, 20119:15-9:30 a.m. Registration and coffee9:30-10:00 a.m. Opening Welcome:Mr. Duane C. Butcher, Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. EmbassyRepresentative of the Ministry of Foreign AffairsDr. Remus Pricopie, Chairman of the Fulbright Board of DirectorsMs. Edwina Saggito, Cultural Attaché, U.S. EmbassyDr. Rodica Mihaila, Romanian alumna of the programMr. Mihai Moroiu, Executive Director, Romanian-U.S. Fulbright Commission10:00-10:15 a.m. The newly arrived American Grantees introduce themselves10:15-10:30 a.m. Coffee Break10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Briefing with American Embassy Representatives10:30 Consular briefing10:45 Media briefing11:00 Security briefing11:15 Political briefing11:30 Economic briefing11:45 Health briefing12:00 Information USA Center tour12:30 - 2:00 p.m. LUNCH (first floor, Romanian - U.S. Fulbright Commission)2:00 – 2:30 p.m. Romania’s Higher Education System: Dr. Ioan Pânzaru, Rector, University of Bucharest, Q & A [to be confirmed]2:30 – 3:00 p.m. Romanian Political Environment: Dr. Radu Dudau, Fulbright Alumnus and Professor, University of Bucharest, Q & A3:00 – 3:30 p.m. Romanian Cultural Environment: Dr. Arch. Augustin Ioan, Fulbright Alumnus and Professor, University of Architecture and Urbanism Ion Mincu, Bucharest, Q & A3:30 – 3:45 p.m. Coffee break3:45 – 4:15 p.m. Programs carried out by the Fulbright Commission: Ms. Corina Dănăilă, Romanian Program Director, Q & A; and Dr. Mihaela Arsene, Director of the Fulbright Educational Advising Center, Q & A4:15 – 4:30 p.m. Fulbright Logistics: Mr. Mihai Moroiu, American Program Director, Q & A4:30 – 5:30 p.m. Meeting Romanian & U.S. Alumni of the Program – dialogue on differences between teaching in the U.S. and Romania. Romanian Alumni: Dr. Nicoleta Corbu, Dr. Catalin Albu; U.S. Alumni: Ms. Hannah Halder, Mr. Bruce O’Neill* * * * * * *6:00 – 7:30 p.m. Reception hosted by the Romanian – U.S. Fulbright Commission (upstairs)Venue: The Romanian - U.S. Fulbright Commission2 Ing. N. Costinescu St., BucharestDay Two of the Fulbright OrientationFriday, October 7, 2011Trip to Sinaia / Prahova ValleyFriday, October 7 - 9.00 a.m. – Departure from Casa Victor Hotel, 44 Emil Porumbaru Street – the coach will wait for us there.The trip will include visits to Peles Palace and George Enescu Museum in Sinaia.Lunch: in Azuga
Enjoy your weekend!!!