Women’s Day in Romania

The 8th of March is International Women’s Day–something I may have vaguely heard about in past years. Last year, I had the privilege of turning in my Independent Study on midwifery in early modern France on this day, which felt particularly appropriate. In Romania, however, there is no mistaking that Women’s Day is special. 


At school, I was greeted with flowers and kisses on the cheek from colleagues, and even champagne after a faculty meeting. Amused, I remarked to one of my colleagues that we don’t celebrate this holiday in the same way at all–those of us who know it even exists. 

I had the chance to get on my soapbox in an American literature class reading The Scarlet Letter. Although I haven’t read the book myself (I know, I know) I used the class discussion time to talk about women’s health and pregnancy in history in the United States. My co-teacher was able to chime in with some comparisons to Romanian culture, and our common need for comprehensive sex education, destigmatizing women’s bodies, and a better understanding of reproductive health. Not what the students were expecting, to be sure, but an important conversation. 

I was glad to be able to celebrate Women’s Day in these two ways. I appreciated our university Women’s Day party–more fancy than I expected, in a local hotel’s event space with lots of food and dancing. I loved bringing a little color into my new apartment with the flowers I received and the general air of festivity. But–especially with my general sense of helplessness every time I read the US news–I was also glad I got to get fired up about women’s health, even if it was only for one class. 

New Semester, New City

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New semester, new city

The last I wrote, I was on the other side of my move to Baia Mare–the uncertain side. I write to you, friends and family, from the warm welcome of Maramures, the region I will call home for the next four months or so. I learn this lesson over and over again: that I must trust in the universe and in myself, because life works out and plans are overrated.

I journaled about being uneasy about this move back in August, before I had even stepped foot in Romania. But, once again, I moved to a small city in Romania with no apartment, knowing exactly one person here. Since then, a warm community has embraced me and made this transition a smooth and pleasant one. Although I don’t have a set schedule at the Faculty of Letters (what was that I just said about plans being overrated?), every professor I’ve talked to has been excited about potential collaborations, and I’ve already introduced myself to three sets of students.

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The river helps with orientation

I’ve found an apartment in the city center, close to school–just above a pastry shop that tastes like France. I’ve found some of the best coffee I’ve had in Romania, reminding me of the corners I like to haunt in Cleveland. Most importantly, I’ve found kind and welcoming people everywhere. Along with the sun and spring weather, these elements have helped me to find a (temporary) home here already.

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Seriously. Such good coffee.

Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of participating in a panel for the Fulbright Think Tank in Bucharest, where my fellow ETAs and I discussed some of the cultural adjustments we’ve had to make in Romania. One of the difficulties of talking about differences between the US and Romania, of course, is that both of these countries encompass a multitude of complex cultures. It’s easy to say that, but not easy to comprehend until one travels.

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Celebrations.

Now, as I am settling in a new region, I am seeing these differences first-hand. Several people told me that Maramures is the region of Romania that holds the most tightly to old traditions. I’ve seen this already, from small things like being greeted with a kiss on the hand, to a celebration I attended on Sunday with traditional food and drink accompanied by unique regional singing and dancing, all in costume. Traditions seem at home here.

I am excited to continue discovering Romania with new people and new (to me) traditions. I am expecting a totally different experience from last semester–and that’s okay with me!