My Study Abroad Experience

During our time at university, majority of us students think about studying abroad but barely half of us fall through with it. You see your friends, who do study abroad, change after and during their arrival back home. They talk about meeting new people, the places they visited, the new things they tried and become more globally cultured. I was always jealous of them and decided it was my time to study abroad. I knew I wanted to be placed in a program that would benefit my field of study which is Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). Finally, after many visits to my university’s International Programs office I found a placement that best suited my needs. I wanted to go to a place that not many people go to and that was entirely different to westernized culture which caused me to find interest in Romania.

As I said earlier, you see your friends change during and after their study abroad experience, but I wasn’t prepared for how much I would change as an individual. Everyday was a new adventure from: teaching new lessons in the classroom, sight seeing around Brasov and other Romanian cities, decoding the Romanian language, trying new coffee shops yet all these things never got old. If you study abroad, you will meet different kinds of people and even ones who speak your native language. You are force to trust these people, who you barely know, even after all the lectures our parents gave us on how we shouldn’t talk to strangers. You open up quickly to these people and experience these new exciting things together. These people make the experience worth wile but you are the captain of your journey. You throw yourself into the unknown, I had experience working with English language learner’s (ELL’s) prior but only in America. I was not familiar with the European education system, especially Romania’s. However, I was determined to immerse myself with it’s education system.

Making lesson plans may seem like an easy task to people, who don’t have a job in the education or social work fields, but there’s a lot to keep in mind when working with ELL’s. There was a lack of technology and resources I came encountered with when planning lessons for my students. It seemed like everything I’ve been taught by my professors wasn’t useful because they express the importance of using technology in the classroom to make engage our students more. I had to step out of my comfort zone and get creative without relying on technology. I learned more about myself as a teacher this way. I put aside my western beliefs and reinvented my teaching ways, I found myself putting their culture first and mine list. I found myself making more examples for grammar exercises and conversation speaking activities following up these grammar exercises. More importantly, I found myself have more back-up exercises if my students didn’t understand. My students that I had in Romanian were truly inspiring individuals. Some of my students were professional dancers and skiers. This was shocking for me to find out because in the United States of America, you only hear about kids training every day in hopes of becoming professional when they reach adulthood. They also were inspiring by their out look on life.

They have many dreams and goals in life that they want to conquer. One day we were learning about present passive, I decided to make an activity called the “My Bucket List.” My students had to talk about the things they have done in life that they were happy to conquered at this age in present passive. They were also asked to mention things that they wish to do that were on their bucket list. Many of the students had interesting goals, but the one goal my student had was truly inspiring. He stood up in the front of the classroom and said “The only real goals I have are to travel and live a life worth living by having no regrets.” Sometimes it takes a young individual to put things in prospected for us. It’s all about how you perceive things and experience things without wanting more and I think many of us forget that. This made me think about the person that I turned into because of this experience.

Before this trip, my one good friend was supposed to come with me; however, due to the financial situation she was in she unfortunately couldn’t come. The hardest part of me traveling alone is getting over fear: fear of being alone, unsafe, scared and bored. Then I realized fear can hold anyone back and I rather face fear itself. As sad as I was that she couldn’t come, I was happy that I did this alone because I found this experience to be a self discovery. When you travel by yourself, I believe you become more aware of your surroundings and you force yourself to experience all different types of things. Even getting lost is an experience itself. Many times I became unsure of myself in terms of directions, the best thing I found to do was to ask for help. I was really surprised at how many people knew English when I arrived here in Romania. However, you also find yourself understanding the country’s mother tongue the more you around its natives by hearing roots of Latin words. I even became friends with the natives, I think it’s crucial that you connect with the culture and not feel like an outsider. However, I realize that I am a foreigner to this country and people will stare at you and somewhat be scared of you because you look different from them.  This is expected to happen anywhere you go, even in your own country. During my study abroad experience I even learned how to cope with tragic being far away from home.

Sadly, a close family friend of mine passed away during my second week here. Instead of this ruining my overall experience I thought to myself, what would that person want me doing: mopping around or embracing life? The second choice was definitely what my close family friend would have wanted me to do. Life is short and like a bull, you have to take it by the horns. Besides the tragedy going on back home, I found happiness here in Romania.

If you were to ask me anything about Romania five years ago, I would have probably mention something about it’s medieval and gothic architect. Surprise, I didn’t say Dracula? But if you were to ask me anything about Romania, I would tell you it has grown to become my second home. I have made so many memories here and grew into a better person. I am so proud of myself for accomplishing all the things I did here in Romania and have every desire on returning back to this beautiful country.

 

Carpe Diem!

A Weekend in Vienna, Austria

Through my teaching internship in Romania, I met some really fabulous people. When it came time for one of my fellow volunteers to leave Romania and leisure travel throughout Eastern Europe, she said was going to Vienna, Austria. Without asking her, I told her I’d meet her there. This past Friday, I flew out to Vienna from Bucharest. The flight was only an hour and a half long and the time zone was an hour behind, not enough to get me in the jet-lagged mood. After I got settled into my hostel, Burgh Hostel, whose staff was super friendly and funny, I wandered off on my own before my friend arrived. While wandering, I discovered the sacred Austrian soda Almdudler; it has a slight apple taste to it but it’s simply delicious. I am usually not one for carbonated drinks, but this I could drink every now and then. Of course, if it was available where I lived. When my friend finally arrived, we explored old town Vienna. Since it was our first night in Vienna, we wanted traditional Wiener schnitzel. We were in the homeland to schnitzel after all. We went to this restaurant called Wustenrot and I got the Weiner schnitzel. Words can’t express how simply delicious this dish was; it was also served with potato salad as a side dish. I think I could die happy now after eating that meal.

The next day we didn’t have an itinerary set – we simply woke up, got ready and headed out in town for the day. First and foremost, we got our caffeine fix at a cafe called The Juice and ordered cappuccinos. If you’re into healthy eating, I highly recommend eating breakfast or brunch at The Juice. They have smoothies, fruit bowls, and acai bowls, along with a variety of fruits and vegetables to choose from. After our caffeine fix, we went to Vienna’s tourist information center; there we decided how we were going to spend our day. We first went to St. Stephen’s Cathedral – it was simply mesmerizing with its fine architect and interior. If you’re on a budget, don’t worry – the first floor of the cathedral is free of charge. After visiting the Cathedral and walking around for hours, we decided it was time to eat. In Brasov, Romania it’s hard to find good sushi restaurants and we were both sushi deprived. We went to a Japanese restaurant called Akakiko – I recommend it if you need some authentic Japanese food. I ordered the sushi bento box, the sushi was simply fresh and the sides that the bento box came with were delicious. There’s no reason to order sides if you ordered a bento box at that restaurant.

Then we took a bus to the Belvedere Palace, which contains the world’s largest collection of Gustav Klimt’s painting. For me this was my favorite attraction that I saw during my stay in Vienna. If you were to ask me what symbolic images I have from my childhood, it would be Klimt’s most known painting “The Kiss.” My mother had a mimic of the painting in a stain glass form, and when I see that painting, I always think of that image. To me it represents love, which the majority of families are built upon on. Not only you will find Klimt’s art collections but you can also find paintings from Picasso, Kupka and other artists. I highly recommend visiting Belvedere Palace if you enjoy art; it’s divided into two parts – Upper and Lower Belvedere. After visiting Belvedere Palace, we decided to go on a guided tour in Vienna’s Spanish Riding School, since we missed the performance earlier that day. I am not an equestrian, but thanks to my first college roommate, who is studying Equine Business and Management, I had some knowledge of how stables are kept and the different types of horse breeds. (Taylor, if you’re reading this: thank you for informing about me this whole different type of world) It was a great tour; we explored the stables and riding arena. The Lipizzaner were absolutely gorgeous and it was nice to hear that the school still takes care of the horses after they’re retired from performing. Also, it was great to learn that the school has been accepting female riders since 2008, and they are being recognized in the riding world. I really enjoyed the tour, and for someone who’s not an equestrian, I’m sure you will as well.

Our last stop for the day was the famous Hundertwasser House. The artist of the house was named Hundertwasser. He believed that Vienna was filled with too many classical buildings and thus created an apartment building against the city’s architect rules. It’s very colorful and exotic; if you’re into “bizarre” art then check it out. However, keep in mind, you can only visit the store and cafe. They have video tours of the apartments inside the store as well. After visiting the Hundertwasser House, we decided to go for dinner at a restaurant called The Room. The food was great – I recommend trying the white wine called Gelber Muskateller-Hagn; it’s a dry wine yet semi-sweet. For dessert I ordered apple strudel and it was a great way to end my day in Vienna. The next morning I left the hostel to catch my flight at the Vienna International Airport. Public transport is easy to get around, so there’s no reason to spend money on a taxi. My adventure is not over in Vienna – one day soon I will pick up where I left off because there’s still soo much more that the city has to offer that I must see. Until next time Vienna!

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Carpe Diem!

Why I am Choosing to Teach Abroad

When I tell people about my “future” job profession, I always get asked these questions: How many languages do you need to know for that? Are you sure want to teach one of the most difficult languages known to man? (My eyes roll every time I hear that one) How do you teach English to beginners? However, my favorite question that I get asked, and love answering has to be: What countries do you want to teach in? I always reply with the response “anywhere and everywhere. “

Maybe it was the travel bug that bit me in 2012 after spending a month in Costa Rica, but I love changing my daily “American” routine and experiencing how things are done in other cultures. Unlike most travelers who only experience the culture briefly when they reach their destination, I get to fully experience it. I have been teaching English in Romania; however, I teach at a Hungarian school. The other night I was invited by one of the English teachers to attend an end of the school year performance. Unlike your average school performance, there was not only singing, but also beautiful dance numbers, which included tango dancing and traditional Hungarian dancing. It was inspiring to see young adults still be true to their culture’s traditions and their desire to continue it for years to come. This is hard to come across with today’s modern society, especially in our future generations. Each time I am abroad, the experience changes me and shapes into a better person than I was before I left. It’s not only just the country and its culture that helps shape me into the person I am today, it’s the people I encounter that have the most impact on me, especially my students. My students inspire me to learn more about this world and travel to places I never considered before teaching them. If you’re a traveling ELL teacher too, you’ll know it’s better to ask your students where to visit when you’re new to a country. They’re better than any travel guide source you’ll come across. Besides being a great resource of destinations to travel, my students challenge me to think outside of the box and help me to become a better teacher. I am always coming up with new ways to make English language learning more meaningful and creative while still being respectful to their culture. I find that the uniqueness of your own culture is better put into perspective when it is compared to that of a foreign society; this allows you to more fully realize who you are and where you come from. Home will always be home, but the world is too big for me to stay in one place.

 

Carpe Diem!

A day in Sighisoara, Romania

This past weekend my friends and I went on a spontaneous trip to the medieval Romanian town, Sighisoara. This town is truly magical and deserves to be considered of the most beautiful medieval towns in Europe. The cobblestone roads and the colorful buildings made me felt like a child walking through a fairy tale. I have to admit that I am jealous of locals because they get to experience this amazing architecture everyday. When we first arrived to Sighisoara, we went straight to the our hostel to check in. We stayed at the Burg Hostel, which has a great staff and atmosphere. I prefer to stay at hostels because they’re affordable (I am a college student after all ) and you get to meet interesting people along the way. For once, I didn’t plan an itinerary for the day due to being busy with writing papers and creating lessons for my students. We decided to wander the medieval streets and if we saw something interesting we would go inside.We first saw Turnul cu Ceas (The Clock Tower) and was amazed with the beauty of its meteorological clock, which forecasts the weather. When you reach the top of Turnul cu Ceas, you will get an overlook of the Lower City. After Turnul cu Ceas we noticed that a building that said Casa Dracula, which is translated to Vlad Dracul House. Case Dracula is now a hotel and restaurant. It is known to be the birthplace of Vlad Tepes. As I mentioned in my post on  Bran’s Castle, Vlad was author’s Bram Stroker’s inspiration for Dracula. You can pay 5 lei to see the room that Vlad was born in. Its cool to say I saw it; however, it’s not worth seeing. There is a coffin placed in the center of the room when you walk in, while “spooky” music is being played in the background. The room is covered with cheap black and red fabric hanging from the walls. If you were to ask me if it’s worth going to, I would say to you its better to save the 5 lei. However, we did eat at Casa Dracula and the food was absolutely AMAZING. I ordered the traditional Romanian meal, sarmale and savored every bite. For those who don’t know what sarmale is it’s a stuffed sour cabbage that is filled with pork, beef and a little pieces of bacon. We walked around some more and ran into Turnul Franghierlior (The Ropemaker’s Tower)  which is also located next to the Church on the Hill. We also passed  Turnul Cismarilor in town, it’s one of the most attractive towers you’ll see in the town. It’s great for pictures if you climb up the steps. When in Sighisoara it’s a must to see art and souvenirs stores. If you are looking for authentic souvenirs for you and your love ones, I highly suggest getting them in Sighisoara. You’ll find wood carvings, paintings, handcrafted jewelry, and homemade wine and beer. The only thing I didn’t like about Sighisoara was its locals, majority of the workers were rude. Even the city’s little kids would followed us and yelled things to us. I don’t know if this has to due with being annoyed with tourists, but other Romanian cities I’ve visited the locals were very sweet and helpful. Overall, it was a great day trip to get away and relax.

 

Carpe Diem

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Carpe Diem!

 

Thank you, Midori for the pictures 🙂