Sophie Warnes - General Journalism Projects in Romania
Romania is certainly not the first place that comes to mind when one is wondering where to go to get some journalistic experience, but for me it was definitely the best place.
I remember exactly what happened when I told my parents I was going. "Are you crazy?!" they both said, "you know it's a very poor country, you won't be able to survive over there by yourself!", but I was adamant that after my 17th Birthday I would go there and work as a journalist; something I've yearned to do for years. It took a lot of persuading on my part, and a trip to the London Open Day, for them to realise that this was something I definitely wanted to do. I felt so upset leaving them at the airport and I remember being on the plane and cursing because I wanted to be in England going out with friends and having fun.
Of course, it's natural to be worried and apprehensive about going to live in a different country for two weeks, but I assure you, Romania is not a country to be worried about. Upon arrival I was greeted by two Romanians who introduced themselves, told me about what they did at Projects Abroad, and made me feel a whole lot better for the whole of the car journey. Having met them, I wasn't so nervous about working there as I realised they would help me get used to Romania and their way of life.
I was taken to my host, who was a retired lady, and although she didn't speak much English (our conversations often started with a reach for the dictionary) she was an absolutely lovely woman. From the moment I nervously tiptoed into her flat and whispered hello, I was made welcome. She always cooked me great meals, looked after me when I fell ill, and cuddled me when I felt homesick. She even went through the trouble of buying me English Breakfast Tea, and English Tomatoes! She was a thoroughly wonderful woman, and I will always remember her and have a deep respect for the other families who work with Projects Abroad and welcome foreigners into their home.
The next day someone from the office came to pick me up and showed me how to get the bus to and from work, which was extremely helpful. I met my boss, Catalin, and all the other staff. Catalin talked me through what he wanted me to do, and it was an easy task for an extremely eager writer. I was shocked that they were so relaxed and flexible about the work, as I had been expecting to slave over an old computer for 8 hours a day writing articles rather than doing however much work I wanted to do. The computers in the office are surprisingly good, compared to what I thought they would be like.
The work I did as a journalist varied from day to day. I should imagine there is a wide variety of things to do out and about, but, unfortunately I didn't get a chance to see what other articles I could have written as I was only there for two weeks. The first article for everyone is your impression of Romania, and this is a welcome addition to a portfolio of work for people who want to use the experience on their CV as something unique that will stand out from the rest.
I was also surprised at the diversity of the volunteers in the office. Perhaps being a little naïve I expected mainly British people, possibly one or two Americans, and no more. However, I met a wide range of people through doing volunteer work; most people were my age or slightly older, some were much older than us, and they came from everywhere to do a whole variety of projects. It really is not an exaggeration to say that Romanian projects attract people from all over the world, and everyone usually gets along really well. The usual end to the week for most volunteers is to go to a local pub and sing karaoke with a group of Romanians, or go to a club and dance until the morning hours with fellow volunteers.
Although at first, living in Romania is extremely daunting for anyone who hasn't been to, let alone lived in an Eastern European country before. However, all the staff at Projects Abroad in Romania are genuine people who will help you to feel at home, and give you help and support, if and when you need it. Should you encounter any problems you can always ring them, or contact the office in Britain if need be, although few people ever need to.
I heartily challenge anyone to be uninspired by the scenic culture shock that can be found in Romania. It really is a beautiful country with a lot to offer, and the inhabitants are gracious and welcoming.