I contacted Projects Abroad as a study abroad student looking to integrate my passion for working with disadvantaged children with my undergraduate university requirements. After speaking with the New York Headquarters both in person and via e-mail, I came to the conclusion that Romania would be the right country for me. Known around the world for its elevated orphan population following the fall of Nicolae Ceaușescu in 1989, Romania seemed like the perfect fit. I therefore pieced together a research project that would enable me to study the modern day causes of child abandonment in Romania by conducting field research in three different orphanages outside of Brasov. After getting the approval from my University, I proceeded forward with my Projects Abroad placement.
That said, my time spent volunteering and studying in Romania was one of the best experiences of my life. Not only was the organization well run and highly attentive to my needs as both a "volunteer" and a "student," it also created a very "family-centered" environment for me from the moment I arrived.
After landing in Bucharest International Airport (OTP), I was greeted by a man waving a "Projects Abroad" sign. He assisted me with my luggage and then drove me up to Brasov, where I was welcomed by the staff and given a "grand tour" of the city by my care supervisor, Daniela. I was treated to lunch, given all the resources I needed for my academic project, and then invited to attend the weekly Friday evening social event-- a night out at Dean's.
It was here that I met the other ten volunteers from around the world who had come to Romania for different reasons, but each with the same intention to "give back" using their varied passions and interests. Sitting around that table, listening to music, and enjoying my first real night in the country, it occurred to me how fortunate I was to be having such an experience.
During the next five weeks, I spent my time volunteering with orphaned children, learning the Romanian language, taking Romanian cooking classes, sightseeing around Transylvania, going out with friends, and immersing myself in the culture of the city. In every situation, the staff was wonderful. When I got sick with a virus during my third week, Alexandra took me to the doctor and got me the necessary medicine to get better. When my computer screen broke, Allex contacted his "IT-savvy" friends to have it fixed. When I wanted to add a new placement to my schedule, Daniela made it happen.... And Razvan was always there as well- available to answer any questions I had throughout my time in the country.
Romania, for these reasons and more, was one of the best experiences I have had in my life. Projects Abroad not only provided me with the foundation I needed for my academic project, but it also afforded me a volunteer experience that I will never forget.
Needless to say, as I look back on the experiences of my Fall 2011 semester, there is one thing I can say for certain-- I will definitely be back.