I’ve been in Targu-Mures for a week now.
Usually I settle in to a new place pretty quickly, but it has been a challenge for me to figure out my place here so far.
Firstly, I still don’t have an apartment. Although I’ll only be here five months, I’ve been longing for a place to come home to at the end of the day–my own kitchen, my own bed, a place to sit and relax. The university accommodations I’m staying in are very nice, close to school and the city center, but knowing I can’t stay here much longer adds another layer of pressure.
Secondly, I’m always exhausted. I remember this feeling from when I was 17 and studying abroad in France. Trying to keep up with my lessons in a foreign language, I would return home every night and collapse shortly after dinner, barely able to pry my eyes open when my alarm went off in the morning. This time, I’m sure the immense culture shock is taking its toll, along with the language barrier.
Add in AT&T refusing to unlock my phone, trying to open a bank account, navigating a new city, and teaching courses to 70 (mostly) Romanian students with varying levels of English fluency. I don’t even want to think about applying for my long stay permit in a few weeks.
But with all of the stress, I am also taking in the beauty of this new place and taking time to be thankful for the lovely people who are helping to make my transition smoother.
My fellow Fulbrighters have been a source of information and support. The professors in my department have also been very supportive: one ended our meeting with a warm kiss on the cheek, another, in a crisp accent, wished me “the best of British luck.” A librarian who lived for some time in Portland, Oregon helped me print course materials at 7:30 in the morning, and my faculty contact has helped me with nearly everything else.
If I could say anything has gone better than expected, it’s teaching. While nearly everything else around me seems to be a source of chaos and stress, my students showed up to class (I was told they wouldn’t), participated (I was told they would be reluctant), and said some encouraging things in the self-evaluations I had them write. The university has given me a lot of freedom in designing my classes, and I think they’ll go well.
I’m optimistic about a lot of things in the following week. Each day has gotten a little bit easier than the last. I can find my way to school without a map, I know where to find coffee and groceries, and I’m getting a feel for the town–more than I could say last week. It’s tough going, but I’ll get there.