*We are republishing this post from autumn 2016 on an older blog that CSEES maintained on its website.
Justin Ciucevich is an MA student at the Center for Slavic and East European Studies. He received a 2016 summer FLAS fellowship to learn Romanian. He spent the summer in Moldova and Romania, strengthening his language skills and conducting research for his MA thesis. Read his story below!
“I was fortunate enough to spend the summer of 2016 improving my Romanian language skills in Chișinău, Moldova. I was afforded this opportunity thanks to funding from the Foreign Language Area Studies fellowship and the Center for Slavic and East European Studies (CSEES) at the Ohio State University. I took part in the Eurasian Regional Language Program (ERLP) offered by the American Councils – a government organization which provides opportunities for (among other things) crucial language training. I can honestly say that my summer in Moldova was among the most enjoyable and intellectually fruitful experiences of my life.
Though I had initially hoped to hone my Romanian language skills through a program in Romania, upon my arrival, I quickly became quite enamored with Moldova. As it was my first time to visit (much less live in) a former Soviet republic, which is also the poorest country in Europe, some culture shock was inevitable. As an ardent scholar of Romanian and, by extension, Moldovan history, I knew that nearly fifty years under Soviet administration (as well as just over a century under Imperial Russian rule prior to World War I) had left a mark on the country from which it was still recovering. While this fact was disconcerting in some ways, it also allowed for me to experience a radically different culture from my own.
I had the benefit of staying with a Moldovan host-family, the Buciuceanu’s. Neither my host-father, Ion, nor my host-mother, Nina, spoke any English – only Romanian and Russian, which presented a wonderful and necessary opportunity for me to only speak in Romanian. In my experience, being forced to speak the target language was essential for gaining proficiency. Despite obvious and expected miscommunications, my host-family spared no effort in assuring that all my needs were met and truly took me in as a son. I was also privileged to have two wonderful instructors who not only dilligently helped me to hone my language skills but also took me on some amazing excursions to the medieval fortress of Soroca, the monasteries of Orheiul Vechi and Curchi, the house of renowned architect Alexie Șciusev, and more.
I also made some very good friends who made my visit all the more enjoyable. I grew close to a girl named Liliana, who was very enthusiastic to show me as much of Chișinău’s culture and social life as possible. My many hours of conversation with her and my other new friends over glasses of Moldovan wine and authentic native cuisine at La Placinte contributed to my increased language proficiency greatly and provided a forum for me to practice what I learned each day in the classroom environment. I would not trade their companionship or assistance in learning the Romanian language and adjusting to Moldovan life for anything.
Upon completing the language program Chișinău, I made the bittersweet train-ride across the border to Romania. Part of my funding from the CSEES allowed me to put my heightened command of the language to good use in Romania as I conducted research in preparation for my upcoming MA Thesis. My short stay in Romania could warrant many more pages of reflection but I will conclude by saying that my stay in Moldova and Romania was well-worth any culture shock, discomfort, or hardship that arose. This past summer was not my first time to study abroad but it certainly served as the most enlightening adventure of my life. As I plan on returning to Moldova and Romania as soon as possible to continue honing the language and conducting research, I hope that my experience will persuade anyone reading this to pursue studying abroad – no matter what the objective may be.”