Studying in Romania?
October 7, 2013 10:28 PM   Subscribe

I want to study abroad in Romania, but none of the organisations I know about (e.g ISA, CEA, IES) have programs in Romania. Are there any programs out there?

I'm an undergrad (junior) biology major and would really like to go to Romania. I've never been outside of the US before, so I don't think I'd be able to handle just going to Romania by myself solely for the purpose of adventuring. This is why I think study abroad would be a good idea. The only problem is, I can't seem to find any programs. I'd even be willing to do a research internship in genetics or neuroscience. Basically, I want the safety and structure of a study abroad program or internship, where I know someone will be keeping tabs on me, or at the very least I'll have to report on my progress, but I also want to go to Romania.

Heck, I'd even be willing to think ridiculously far into the future as long as I can go to Romania in my lifetime. Know anything about Doctors Without Borders-type programs in Romania? (I've checked the website. They haven't got anything going on in Romania right now.) Ways I can work with the WHO or some similar organisation in Romania? In case you haven't caught on, I really want to go to Romania.

Can anyone help a girl out?

Note: I don't speak Romanian, but I do speak French.
posted by acthelight to Travel & Transportation around Romania (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
As a starting point, both ASU and Rutgers run summer programs at Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj. Northwestern College has one in Lupeni.
Here's a list of a few more. You could get in contact with the people who run the schools' programs and find out if you could perhaps get involved with their program or find someone who can help you set something up.

MSF (Doctors without borders) generally attends to disasters and short-term situations, and you have to be a clinician. If you don't speak Romanian and don't have a medical degree or specialty, it would be unlikely to get a job with WHO or similar organizations that would involve Romania. (Even if you have a specialty that is relevant to Romania, it is unlikely that you'd get much work with Romania; they are not a nation that receives foreign aid, really, and they have doctors.) You will not get a job at the Romanian WHO Country Office unless you are Romanian.

Would you consider teaching English (not sure on the landscape, but Dave's ESL Cafe is the quintessential resource) or perhaps starting with a tour and then staying on? You could do hostels or AirBnb or couchsurfing so you'd have a local contact and perhaps friends.
posted by quadrilaterals at 10:39 PM on October 7, 2013

Here's information on the Fulbrights in Romania, including teaching English.
posted by quadrilaterals at 10:40 PM on October 7, 2013

Romania's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a page about study abroad in Romania. Clicking around a bit there, I found things like a Word doc on programs taught in English and a page on the University of Bucharest's summer school.

Your university is almost certain to have a study abroad office where you can find out what programs they recommend and which ones might be eligible for credit with your university, but a summer program might be a nice low-commitment way of doing this without breaking up your university studies.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 10:41 PM on October 7, 2013

Does Habitat for Humanity work there? That's another option.
posted by bquarters at 2:30 AM on October 8, 2013

Habitat for Humanity does work there, and there are also WOOFing options. I've met lots of European volunteers there, too, so maybe you could join one of those projects. It's a great country and honestly not that hard to get around in--as a young woman I've hitchhiked across the majority of it and never had much trouble. If you're willing to wait until you're old enough to do Doctors Without Boarders, you might as well travel on your own, or with a tour guide, so you get to see everything you might want to.
posted by chaiminda at 3:15 AM on October 8, 2013

Best answer: I am a Romanian living in Romania, and my advice would be similar to posters advising you to dip your toes in the water first, maybe via a teach English abroad program, or Woofing, or some such. Romania is a pretty strange country - can be absolutely wonderful to visit, or if you can carve out a niche for yourself as far away from official structures as possible, but it can also be incredibly frustrating and depressing the closer you are to said structures, unless you are overwhelmingly lucky. Plus, I shudder to think of the cultural clash if you were to be dropped straight from your plane into one university program or the other (again, unless you are uber-lucky).

What I mean by culture clash: in certain social environments, Romania is MUCH more hierarchical than I imagine the US to be, and overwhelmingly more corrupt. Students, including masters students, at times PhDs as well, are mostly treated like children in a patriarchy; absolute and unquestioning, almost slavish deference is expected both in academic/ research matters and in all other respects as well. Nepotism is rife, hence competence varies wildly, with many more completely incompetent people than you might be used to (of course, they also demand the same kind of deference as everyone else, if not more). There are quite a lot of other things which might make your life difficult, including the fact that frequently, despite the hierarchy and rigidity in some matters, you might find that the pursuit of knowledge, as it were, is fairly unstructure and haphazard (structure is frequently reserved to bureaucratic issues). Since you are a foreign student, who perforce has not followed the traditional Romanian educational route, it can frequently happen that people don't know precisely what to do with you; you may well be accepted into a program, if you come with money, but beyond that it's pot luck what you're gonna get. Given your undergrad and research interests, I assume you'd be going for either medicine or biology/ bio-chemistry; the aforementioned hierarchy, rigidity, corruption & nepotism are rife in medicine and academia. Of course, and not to paint too bleak a picture, with a bit of luck you will find people in the system who will make your time here worthwhile, academically/ professionally speaking, but on the whole this is a more risky proposition than it might be elsewhere.

If you go the teaching abroad/ Woofing etc route, you will be more peripheral to the system, as it were, and you might find your time here more enjoyable. One possibility would be to come for a summer school, or a summer of Woofing, and plan to visit the university/-ies of your choice. Plan meetings with people who are on your program (students plus potential supervisors etc), and take some time in each of the respective towns - each of them has something to offer the potential visitor (though Bucharest is not my cup of tea at all, it is fairly vivacious in terms of cultural offer/ nightlife, Cluj is beautiful, and so are parts of Targu Mures, particularly the center, which has some of the few Hungarian Art Nuveau buildings in Romania - I don't know the town beyond its centre). You can also just take a summer travelling, if you like, I can help you come up with a more structured plan in terms of places to visit etc - memail me if you'd like to explore this idea further.

If you do want to explore the available offer, you could start with Babes-Bolyai as mentioned above, or else with the University of Targu Mures, which is quite well regarded and has some programs for foreign students, or the University of Bucharest, also one of the better ones. My advice would be to try to contact someone at each of these, see how they respond, do some independent research as well and figure out if you can find a program that is up your alley (maybe a masters?). Take it from there - see how you can communicate with them, try to find contacts for students studying there and see what they have to say. Have clear questions you want to ask, both of of staff/ academics and of students.

For research internships - I'm not positive on this, but I think in general these are run quite differently from US internships (or even research posts in the UK). From my friend who has been a research assistant at the Medical Faculty in Sibiu I know they tend to be honorary positions (i. e. not paid) for students, then they become paid lab assistant positions, again, generally for students, and this is then the first step on the career ladder within medical academia. How easy it would be for an outsider who doesn't speak Romanian... no idea.

If you want, you can memail me with more details on what exactly you would be looking for (study program, research assistant, what discipline - maybe have a look at a couple of faculty websites first, so you can approximate the Romanian equivalent) and I can ask around see if anything like that exists.
posted by miorita at 6:12 AM on October 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

both ASU and Rutgers run summer programs at Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj.

I lived in Cluj for a year in the mid-nineties and all the people from the US who were in Cluj were either there with Fulbright or there with the Civic Education Program (now defunct I think, they were employing my husband to teach at Babes-Bolyai). We got a lot of our in-country support from the Soros Foundation (now the Open Society Foundation?)

My experiences there, though a long time ago, were a lot like what miorita is outlining. A lot of confusing hierarchies and unclear pathways to do what I wanted to do. A lot of odd anti-Semitism that seemed to come from noplace and a very very beautiful country that is well worth exploring. I also knew only high school French and was able to pick up the language good enough for short conversations with a month of intensive lessons (the languages are similar but not the same) and if I were you and looking at this plan, I'd look into some language learning while you are at home to get yourself sort of stoked for it.

There were also, when I was there, a lot of faith-based organizations doing various things. This does not really sound like what you are looking for, but if you are affiliated with a church you might look into finding ways to go abroad somehow with them.
posted by jessamyn at 6:55 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

It would be helpful to know why you really want to go to Romania... I go rather often (I live nearby.) Depending on your resources and resourcefulness, I would suggest a simple trial trip. Grab a Romanian grammar book, head out to a village (preferably in eastern Maramures) and rent a room from an old lady you meet in the course of visiting churches - her sons work in Spain and she can use some rent on the empty room. A month later you will be speaking Romanian, baking placinta, and craving sour cream and dill on everything.

Whatever you do, don't plant yourself for any length of time in Bucharest or Craiova. Both have good universities, all the mod cons, and fine people, but both of those cities are like living in a massive cement kitty litter box. Romania's best face is in its small provincial towns and villages, not in big cities. Cluj gets my vote!
posted by zaelic at 7:41 AM on October 8, 2013's listings for Romania's listings for Romania's listings for Romania

So yeah, we get that you REALLY REALLY want to study in Romania. But why? You say you've always had an interest in the country, but where does that interest come from? What is it exactly that you want to accomplish while in Romania?

Because if you came to me (I'm a study abroad advisor) with this pitch, I'd say a big fat Nope. Yeah, you're a little bit out of the norm of "I wanna to go London because I don't speak any other language and my friends tell me London is pretty." But Romania is uncommon enough that you must have some reason. What is it?

Do you want to go there for a summer? A whole semester? Are you willing to put in the work to learn some Romanian before you go? What do you want to study when you're there? Is there something about biology in Romania that makes it different than learning biology at home? Do your professors have academic contacts in Romania that could help you set up an undergraduate fellowship or research project?

Contemplating these questions could help you pinpoint what you'd like to do. Then your study abroad office should be your next step.
posted by Liesl at 7:43 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

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