Since September, an ocean and a fair amount of continent have separated me from my family in North Carolina. Regular life keeps me about 700 miles – or 10 drivable hours – away from parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins (I have a lot of people in NC) but being away this year has meant truly being away. While I’ve been here, my family has celebrated birthdays, Christmas, a niece’s wedding there. It’s a little disconcerting at times to be adrift from the landing of people and place but there’s a comfort in knowing the familial anchor is still in place.
But then there’s the family you find as you travel through life, those people who craft a home for you wherever you go. My college years created a figurative family that is still as close to my heart as when we were making milkshake runs, writing papers in the wee hours and celebrating basketball victories. My time at Purdue has given me a solid sisterhood, girls who recognise that tone when you really need a break, who make you giggle during yoga, who are always willing to make time for lunch after the faculty meetings.
And now my Fulbright year has created my Fulbright family. While all of us here in Romania are connected in ways friendly and academic, I’ve been lucky to find a little family of my own, Fulbrighters who have developed a bond as we’ve traveled together, shopped together, eaten together, laughed together. Like any family, we’ve glared at each other, snapped at each other, needed time away from each other; we’ve despaired of sweatpants and indecision and persnicketiness. And then someone offers a grudging smile and someone else reluctantly snorts a laugh and, next thing you know, we’re enjoying a bottle of wine with a delicious meal while sharing our experiences in a far-away country that has challenged us in ways both wonderful and wearing.
Because: Romania. Because: family.