I arrived in Romania five weeks ago, and tomorrow begins my fourth week of classes. I am amazed at how quickly the time is passing and how readily I have fallen into a routine and pace that is manageable and, for the most part, pleasant. Having had a previous Fulbright (to Kosova) that was as challenging as it was rewarding, I’ve avoided romanticizing this grant and just try to roll with the tide as much as possible.
On Tuesdays at 4:00, I teach a two-hour graduate class in pedagogy (teaching methods) at UNATC, and on Wednesdays at 4:00, I teach a two-hour graduate class in American Studies at the University of Bucharest. Four contact hours seem slight in comparison to my schedule back at SHSU; however, I often need to prep 3-4 hours here for each contact hour. And the time in transit adds several more hours. I know that I’ll soon add some master classes at UNATC and presentations at the American Corner. Plus, I’m starting Romanian language classes this week.
My students at both schools are quite likable and appear interested in what I have to share with them. Attendance is a real issue: these are grad students who have jobs (and auditions) and a host of seemingly legit reasons to miss classes. Upon the recommendation of a colleague at UB, I changed my syllabus to state that 50% attendance was required to pass, and I did the same for UNATC. Almost as baffling, I still haven’t been given a class roster at UNATC, nor do I know how many students should be attending. Last week, my attendance in one class more than doubled, and I didn’t have enough handouts printed…but I had the pleasure of Skyping in friend and colleague Dr. Vicky Lantz to talk with the class. What a treat!
For me, bureaucracy and communication are my professional challenges—so many things seem so inefficient and just don’t make sense. On a personal level, loneliness is my great test: I’ve met very few of the professors, and I’ve not been invited to a meal or even a coffee, which doesn’t offend me but seems rather curious. Fortunately, I’ve been a loner most of adult life and relish peace and quiet, but I need to establish some company to keep, if only infrequently. I accept responsibility for this and am hoping that language classes will provide a start.
This past weekend, I reunited with my sister Linda in Munich, which was a great joy and comfort. She is now in her second year teaching elementary school in Dürres, Albania; she understands and shares many of my travails, and we are good support for each other. And this next weekend, I’m meeting several other Fulbrighters in Bran for a Halloween party at Dracula’s Castle. So, that will be fun!
The first month is usually the most difficult for all of us in this program. As I shared with an ETA a week ago:
The first month is hard for the head.
The last month is hard for the heart.
The journey from first month to last
Is why we do this.