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!

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