This was my first experience traveling abroad. Prior to my trip to Romania, I had never been in country where the majority of the people do not speak English as their first language. The language barrier was the first experience that I found truly thought provoking. It was a little bit multifaceted because it was more than just being unable to communicate with people. In Romania, most students start learning English in primary school. This meant that most of the younger generations speak English quite well. This might not have been entirely true in the rural areas but it was true in the cities. Having to realize that we could not understand anyone without a translator but most of the people around us could understand us was a very strange thing. It also made me really think about what it must be like in the US for people who do not speak English.
This lead me to think more about how kind people are (which is reassuring). In the rural villages that we visited, we stayed in a few host families. My roommate and I stayed with a widow woman who could not speak any English. We had a translator staying with us so we could communicate effectively. I was so nervous on the drive to her farm. I had no idea what to expect. This woman ended up being so unbelievably kind! She welcomed us into her home, stayed up late every night, waiting to talk with us and hear about our day, woke up early to cook us a huge breakfast every morning, and went to great lengths to make sure we had hot water for our showers. We couldn’t really communicate with her without our translator (who was equally kind and wonderful!), but by the end of our stay in her home we didn’t always need Romanian or English words to understand what was being communicated. My roommate and I left that village with heavy hearts because we had to leave behind our Romanian Grandmother. She even cried when we left! While I am still sad that we had to leave her, I was blown away by her generosity and kindness. She gave me a reminder about people that I didn’t even realize I had needed.