Final Reflections

With the Romania program now behind me, I think it’s fitting to reflect a bit on my experience here.
Prior to my arrival in Romania, I had no idea what to expect. My knowledge of Romania was a bit more than vampire tropes about Transylvania—I knew a lot about the Dacian tribes and a bit about the history of the principalities in the middle of three empires—but everything else I “knew” about Romania was pretty much a stereotype of Eastern Europe. For example, rather than think of Romania as prime wine country, I expected to see vodka everywhere I went. I categorized Romania.
But the categories failed. As I spent more and more time in Romania, I found myself recognizing that any attempt to categorize Romania failed. Transylvania was not a land of mystery with vampires lurking behind every corner but actually a rich historical mixture of ethnicities—Hungarians, Germans, Jews, and Romanians—hidden in some of the most beautiful land I’ve ever seen. In Bucharest there were stereotypical communist apartment buildings with drab exteriors, sure, but also beautiful historic buildings dating back to the 19th century where I could sit all day reading. Even some of the brutalist apartment buildings had a certain charm when their inhabitants painted their balconies and covered them with plants.
I tried to categorize the people too. Many people seemed off putting, either as cranky drivers honking their horns for half a minute or waiters who simply replied “no” to me when I ordered something they were out of without any explanation. But as I think back to my time in Bucharest it’s clear to me that the animosity I may have felt is more likely a product of a language barrier than any prejudices Romanians feel about me in particular or Americans in general. Even when I did experience a little bit of crankiness, whether it be a driver ignoring me waiting at a cross walk or someone throwing their arms up when I accidentally cut them in line I felt a bit closer to home. That kind of “I’m gonna tell you what I think” feels a lot closer to me being from the northeast than midwestern passive aggressiveness. Ultimately though, people were just people. There were nice people, grouchy people, serious people, funny people—all sorts of people, and there’s no way to lump all of them together. This understanding I think really has the capability to push people beyond nationalism and xenophobia.
One sentiment I heard a lot from Romanians was a strong negative view of Romania. When I interviewed Romanians about their views on migrants and refugees, many responded by asking why anyone would ever want to move to Romania in the first place, considering that Romanians were emigrating in droves to other EU countries. But to the surprise of my Uber drivers, I think Romania is an amazing country. When I remember Romania I think of afternoons spent reading with a cappuccino in Cismigu park. I think of late nights in old town, bumbling around the cobbled city streets surrounded by lively people. I think of running up and down a hill right by the presidents palace over and over again, much to the Romanian secret service’s confusion. And thanks to the help of Professor Mihaela Czobor-Lupp, I’ll think of all the lovely, charming, not at all flea infested stray dogs I got to pet. To me Romania is absolutely worth living in.
 
 

Final Reflections

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