Why did you choose this program?
I chose this program for various reasons, including my love for traveling and exploring the beautiful regions of this world. Primarily I decided to go Romania because of its close proximity and similarity in relation to Bulgaria, which is a country that I lived in for two years.
The time I spent in Bulgaria greatly impacted me and I was given the opportunity to interact with many Romanian people while there. When I discovered this program, I thought it would be a perfect way to get to know the people I heard so much about and see their country for myself. Furthermore, I intend to spend as much time in Eastern Europe as possible, so I wanted to further acquaint myself with the variety of culture viewpoints and traditions.
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
My program provider, IVHQ, assisted me with a majority of the volunteer experience, including accommodation, meals, transportation to the host city, cultural integration and activity involvement. The only thing that I really had to organize on my own was transportation to Romania from the United States.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
For anyone who'd like to go to Romania and volunteer with IVHQ specifically, I would suggest that you try and learn as much of the language as possible. The host city is actually within a Hungarian-majority speaking region, so familiarizing yourself with the basics of Hungarian would be extremely advantageous.
Also, I would advise anyone who travels abroad, especially in a volunteering capacity, to release yourself of rigid expectations and allow yourself an open mind. You will more often be pleasantly surprised if you are flexible and easy-going.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
As a participant of the NGO support program in Romania with IVHQ, an average day consisted of spending time in the office with the program administrators, working on projects like editing grant proposals, writing informational newsletters, documenting volunteer activities, archiving volunteer contracts, teaching English, and much more. Each day held new opportunities for new tasks and the schedule was very flexible.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
My biggest fear going into this experience was perceiving myself to be inadequate in helping the people of Romania in any significant way. I feared a lack of innovation or creativity that would inhibit my ability to lend assistance most needed. I quickly learned, however, that my choosing to be there and dedicating myself to whatever is was that the program administrators asked me to do, enabled me to overcome my lack of self-confidence.
I felt motivated and enlightened by my co-worker's eagerness at having my help and I was able to direct my full attention to every task at hand. This helped me to realize that skill is much less important than attitude, and enthusiasm for the work is much more productive than a sense of obligation. I simply made myself adequate because of my sincere desire to serve.
How should I prepare to live and work with a different culture in a foreign country?
In asking yourself this question, you have taken the first step towards crucial cognizance of self-awareness. In realizing that cultures are different and unfamiliar, you prepare yourself for a perspective change.
The next step is doing away with a need to make comparisons between your culture and the new one, because no culture is better than another. The beauty of intercultural awareness is accepting that all cultures are unique and have so much to offer. Going into this experience with an open mind, with a resolve to try new things, and an expectation to feel uncomfortable at times will help you in your transition and make the whole experience all the more rewarding.