I am both an immigrant to and resident of Romania.
While I don’t expect to take up permanent residence here, I am indeed a previously unknown animal trying to establish myself in this new country. I am living here for some length of time, however, so I am officially a resident, even if a temporary one – and I have a red and blue card to establish that fact.
I came here to work as a professor; more than that, though, I came here to improve my life. There were opportunities offered to me in Romania, through Fulbright, that I simply could not have if I stayed at Purdue. To a degree, however, I’ve displaced someone by teaching at the university this year, since my classes were originally assigned to a Romanian professor. I hope I haven’t created a hardship for anyone but I can’t help but be thankful for the chance to work here.
The adjustment to my current home has not always been easy. I don’t speak the language, and while people are generally patient, sometimes they are also frustrated with my inability to communicate with them. I’ve picked up a few words and phrases, so I can get by, but I don’t always understand what people are trying to communicate with me.
I’ve struggled to navigate things that Romanians simply understand: what to do when the gas alarm goes off, when to pay bills that are delayed in the mail, where to catch the bus, how to queue at the store (or not, as the case may be). My fellow Fulbrighters and I often laugh that Romanians know things that we don’t know we’re supposed to know, so there’s definitely a daily learning curve.
Some days, I can’t help but be frustrated by differences in things that I take for granted in the US, especially with education. That is my world, after all, so it – at least – should make sense to me, but it doesn’t always fall in line with what I know, from managing plagiarism to dealing with student attendance to understanding grading scales.
I love living here, though, even with the challenge of new foods, more walking, apartment living, the metric system. It’s exciting to be in a new environment, and it’s satisfying to realize I’m beginning to figure things out. I’m far away from my friends and family but I have the ability to stay in touch with emails, texts, the occasional phone call, so it isn’t too terribly lonely – especially with friends from my newfound Fulbright community.
When my time is up here, I’ll pull out my passport and return to the US. My Romanian residency card will go into a drawer, a reminder of that year I was an outsider in a new country.
Because I have that luxury.