To anyone who meets me or spends a little bit of time talking with me, it will become immediately clear that I am irrevocably, undeniably, and utterly in love with Europe. The culture, the people, the style, the food, just everything. I'm constantly dreaming about visiting the continent with a refreshed amour for the culture, an empty stomach for the delicious food I'll gladly intake, and a clear suitcase for the new clothes. Perhaps the latter two is a glamourous exaggeration, but my admiration for the continent runs deep. But the longer I visited anywhere in Europe, the more I longer to live there. It simply wasn't enough to visit for any considerable amount of time; I wanted to be there. I considered study abroad programs many times just so I could be there (but sadly, not many psychology programs offer programs that are compatible with what I plan to do with my major). I simply felt that I connected with the European culture more than American culture. (Again, my own thoughts and observations for my personal experience.) So when my family moved to Europe in November of 2013, my first emotion was jealousy. I so longed to live there, and they get to live out my dream. So not fair. But that didn't stop my constant dreaming of one day living in Europe.
This summer, just like my previous summers, I spent in Romania, exploring other parts of the continent, and indulging in my love for Europe. I knew that even before leaving for Romania, it would be difficult to leave the beloved country and return to the States for school. Every time I visit Romania, I leave a bigger piece of my heart there, making it more and more difficult. I just didn't fit back at school anymore. I felt like foreign body. During my stay in Romania, I realized that I couldn't go back. Not out of a desire to not face what lied ahead, but rather, I physically could not leave. I thoughts of multiple ways to prolong my trip, but the eventual result that I would eventually have to go. In all of this, I took into consideration that my family was very far away. 3000 km away plus a 7 hour time difference...it made things harder. Finally, I proposed, largely out of exasperation, that I could finish my last year of university online. That way, I could still finish school and be where I longed to be. Thus began a rapid and swift transition from becoming an international student studying on-campus to an online school. At first, it was very exciting--I get to live in Europe, I'll be exposed to more things than I was before, and I get to enjoy seeing my family every day. Then, a few weeks after I made my decision public, the emotions began to sink in. I wouldn't see my friends there anymore. What I dreamed my senior year to look like certainly won't look like that anymore. Will I walk for my graduation? Oh my goodness, I have to get all my stuff back. I am literally moving halfway across the globe. OMG.
And so this is where I am currently. I am living in Europe. I am officially living my dream. However, my dream doesn't stop there. I plan on visiting every single place where I marked on my massive map of Europe that I hung up for the last 2 years. That being said, with the 3 months of summer and now, month of transition while getting adjusted and acclimated, it isn't as cracked up as I thought it would be. Moving was an extremely (although that is a grand understatement) and painfully stressful experience. And I had to do it by myself. I really wouldn't wish it upon anyone: to move halfway across the world in 10 days. Being the observant and judicial person that I am, I have noticed crucial pros and cons regarding this important and significant change in my life.
1. I obviously live in Europe. I need no further elaboration. (Do you desire one (or five)? I get to expand my mind being surrounded with people that are different from me in comportment, thinking, and cultural norms. I do get to indulge my taste buds with the robust decisions of delicacies, pastries, and dishes. I constantly filter the street style wherever I go, so my wardrobe somehow expands. Meeting new people is strongly encouraged, especially in foreign countries, since it allows you to make new experiences and new connections. I get to live in Europe).
2. I am closer to visiting the places I've only dreamed with my eyes closed. Paris, Barcelona, Dubrovnik, London, Rome, Cinque Terre, Florence, Zakynthos...they are closer than they ever were before. Plus, a few hundred euros is easier to obtain than multiple thousand of dollars. So visiting them is slowly become obtainable.
3. My mind and worldview is constantly being challenged in a good and healthy way. When we get too comfortable in our culture, our worldview takes a back seat. When you encounter new people with a different way of seeing the world, it forces you to not only defend your mindset, but also compels you to analyze many things, prompting necessary change. It is such a liberating and diverse feeling. Talking to people who've had a particular upbringing usually comes in conflict with an upbringing from a different culture, thus prompting interesting conversation and perceptive observations.
4. I've made many meaningful connections with people here. While I do tend to romanticize things, I like to think that the people I've met in Romania were truly a godsend. Such a fascinating collection of people, with different ways of thinking, with different ways of acting, with different mindset...and yet, mixed together, we all manage to complement each other.
5. The relational education I received, especially in the last 2 years with being a leader on campus, has been absolutely vital. Only now do I realize the magnitude. What used to be second nature and came into contact every single day with multiple people is a rarity here. Having a different frame of mind allows me to see things differently, perhaps so differently, that it is culturally offensive. What was considered normal at school is a clash in culture. The differences in culture helps me develop, but it's also making me realize that what I received has a much larger scope. It has a bigger purpose that I originally thought, and I'm only beginning to see a few glimpses here and there.
1. I miss speaking English so often. While I thoroughly enjoy expanding my Romanian and revelling in the fact that I can finally communicate in Romanian, I do miss English. It is my dominant language and sometimes, I don't know how to say something in Romanian, and I can only explain it in English. But then I have to translate and the translation isn't always the same. Sometimes, I do miss speaking in English and people understanding exactly what I'm saying, without the need of a translation. On the same note, sometimes, there are times when the English language is lacking and the only word that comes to mind is in Romanian. Constantly being between two languages is frustrating sometimes.
2. English book stores. I so miss this from Canada and America. The feeling of walking in a Barnes and Noble and knowing that every single book in the store in English was glorious. If I had known those feelings were numbered, perhaps I would have cherished them more. Most book stores do carry some English books, but it's not the same. I can't just go and pick up a book and start reading it in Romanian and French. My level of Romanian and French is not at the level as it is in English. Especially if it starts using elevated vocabulary, I have to use twice the amount of energy to understand something whereas I could read something and I would immediately comprehend it.
3. Things work differently here, so I have to get used to the fact that what I've known is not what it is anymore. Things worked a certain way in Canada and USA, but that's not how it necessarily works in Europe. There are no Wal-Marts, no Targets, no Costcos. You cannot go to one store and you'll find everything you need. You have to go to two or three different stores to find something. Some things are not easily accessible.
4. The clash in culture. It really can so aggravating sometimes. The way some things are done are not what I'm used to and just because that's how it's done there doesn't necessarily mean that it should be that way. The way older think about the newer generation, how we should act, what Christianity should look like...a myriad of thinking that is different. Let me iterate that this is not necessarily a bad thing. It's just when the country as a whole thinks in a certain way that is different than what you have grown up thinking, it can difficult to ask if it's just a cultural issue or a familial thing.
What I'm really trying to say in all of this, with too many words to count, is that I'm blogging again. If you care about what I'm doing with my life and what I encounter, please feel free to follow me on my adventure. My chronology of my life, so to speak. Typically, a weekly post will be the norm (or bi-weekly if I'm feeling really ambitious). Life is certainly taking me on an interesting ride.