As I sit in a coffee shop typing away, I miss European coffee, but I miss the friends I made in Romania more. One of my favorite parts of the two-week trip abroad was getting to know Romanian communications students and their perspectives.
Our translators for the week were students earning their masters degrees in communication from Babeş-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca. Though, I suppose I should call them colleagues because that’s what you call fellow students in Romania. These four girls quickly became wonderful friends, laughing with us and joking about things we found unusual about each others’ cultures. They were gracious and patient with us, from translating menus to explaining traditions.
During our three days in a rural host home, Sonia, my translator, barely had the opportunity to eat because she was speedily translating conversations between Mary (another UGA student), our host and me during meals. Even when she was tired late at night and had other schoolwork to complete (because the spring semester wasn’t yet over at Babeş-Bolyai University), she would spend hours answering questions and teaching us phrases.
I was shocked by her willingness to help us learn. I could see the wheels turning in her head as she explained concepts to us that were not easy to convert from one language to the next. I became jealous of her trilingual abilities (she knew French as well) and wished that I had been pushed harder to become fluent in a foreign language.
However, I found that the languages weren’t the only difference between us. As we formed strategic web solutions for rural tourism and wrote stories about dairy farmers, we began to realize the differences in communications strategies. Writing stories across cultures was a little more difficult than we anticipated. I found that there is no good way to use a direct quote from an interview source when answers to questions don’t always have literal translations. Sonia once again swept in to save the day, selflessly using her spirit of determination to find quotes that made sense and translating them as best as she could. While she co-wrote the story in English and translated the entire interview for Mary and me, she poured herself into the work by single handedly translating it back into Romanian for use within the country.
Sonia’s kindness and generosity, along with that of Bianca, Maria and Dana, helped me to realize that friendships don’t have cultural divides. Though we had different perspectives on food, writing styles and even attractive farmers, our bond by the end of May was undeniable.
Because of these girls and the many other passionate, kind and loving people I met in Romania, I find myself hoping to go back some day. While I toured and took a few hundred pictures (I blame that on the high quality ALEC department camera), the love of my friends left me feeling less like a tourist and more like an honored guest. I hope every student who studies abroad has the opportunity to experience this welcoming feeling that has certainly left me wanting more…more of Romania, more travel and more time spreading this kindness across the globe.