So I’m doing a year in Romania, which is a bit less glamorous than the places other people on this blog are spending their year abroad. I mean the posts below mine are from people in the US, Australia, Singapore and Canada, all of which are definitely more typical choices for spending a year of your life. However, I thought that if I was going to so a year abroad that I should go somewhere that was properly abroad, completely foreign to anywhere I had been before, somewhere I could have a bit of an adventure and do something a bit different.
So here I am, in Timisoara, “Little Vienna”, the 3rd city of Romania, and so far I’m glad that I’m in this corner of Southeastern Europe.
Landing on Mars
I arrived in Romania a few weeks ago now, and I was a bit worried that the stereotypes most people have of Romania and it’s people (Gypsies, backward, vampires etc.) would prove to be correct. These fears were not at all calmed by the difficulty I had getting to Timisoara.
There are only 2 flights a week from London Luton airport, and handily enough for me, the airport in Timisoara was closed for “modernising” when I was due to arrive. So instead we were flown to a strip of tarmac in the middle of nowhere which was called an airport, but was really just a soviet-era runway and a house which doubled as a terminal. Wizz Air, the company I flew with, had promised a shuttle bus to take the passengers to Timisoara. However, there was no bus. This meant I had to take a taxi to Timisoara with the only cab that was in the taxi rank. Needless to say, I was worried by this. However, this is where the other, better side of the Romania became apparent.
The taxi driver could tell that I was new in town, and as such went out of his way to help me. He took me to the student halls , despite having no idea where it was. He called all his mates in Timisoara telling them to treat “the Scot” well, and stopped at some pub on the way and treated me to a beer. Despite knowing no English, George and I talked the whole way. And when we finally found the halls of residence, he left me his personal number in case I got into any trouble. George was quality.
In a way this sort of symbolises the good and the bad in the country, or at least my good and bad experiences of the country so far . The infrastructure is pretty poor, and everything seems to be in the process of being “modernised”, which I think is the Romanian way of saying “fixed”. But the people are happy, and optimistic, and they don’t let these obvious problems get in the way of being happy. I think that’s quite admirable, even if it sounds quite patronising.
I’m staying in halls just now. I’ve got a roommate, his name is Kristjan. He’s 6’9 and from Estonia. I was quite chuffed to find out I was sharing with an Estonian bloke, it was exactly the sort thing I had hoped to happen to me on ERASMUS. I had never met anyone from Estonia, now I’m sleeping 3 feet away from one every night. I did come abroad to meet new nationalities.
I’ve been on a language course run by the Politechnic Uni in Timisoara, where I’m going to be studying for this year. We’ve been doing 9-5 in Romanian for the last 3 weeks and I’ve got quite a bit of Romanian to show for it. When I arrived in the country I couldn’t speak a word, but now I’m not doing so bad. I can now go into a shop and not make a fool of myself, I’ve moved beyond the British tendency to point and shout to put my point across. There are 12 of us on the language course, and I’m the only Brit. There quite a few Spaniards, couple French guys, an Italian, Estonian Kristjan, a German girl, two Turkish girls and finally myself, the lone Brit. At first it was a bit difficult being the only British person, but I’ve adapted to the difficulties. Most importantly, I’ve learned I need to speak slightly slower and drop my Scottish accent. Then, I needed to drop most of the figures of speech that you use without thinking. I’ve got quite a few blank stares after saying something like it’s raining cats and dogs. But I’m making progress.
Hopes For The Year
Well I hope to learn a bit of foreign language while I’m here. I’ve picked up some Spanish, brushed up on the French I picked up in school and of course have learnt Romanian to A1 level. Hopefully I can keep that up, so by the time I come home for Christmas I can speak French to my parents and seem clever. As it stands I’ve picked some weird mongrel European language, equal parts Italian, French and Spanish, with some Romanian thrown in for good measure.
Hopefully by writing this I can keep a better track of what actually happens this year. We’ve made some rough plans to go to Budapest or Belgrade this weekend. Looking forward to seeing some Eastern Europe, and enjoying the cheap beer.
Hopefully, I’ll have a report from our weekend away sometime next week. If you’ve read all this, ta. They’ll get more interesting I swear.