Earlier this summer, students from SJC Long Island and SJC Brooklyn traveled to Romania as part of the PSY 330 course, Cross-Cultural Social Psychology. Through this course, students completed more than 20 hours of service-learning work in Romania with a non-governmental organization: New Horizons Foundation (NHF). Established in 2000, NHF operates in the poorest region of Romania, organizing youth in community service clubs and experiential outdoor education.
An excerpt of a reflection from Victoria Benalcazar ’17 :
As I attempt to write a personal reflection of my experience in Romania, I am finding it very difficult to put all of my emotions into words. To say that it was the best experience of my entire life would be an understatement. Those two-and-a-half weeks were packed with sightseeing, meeting new people, trying to learn the language, experimenting with new foods, service learning and getting to know my classmates. Here is an excerpt from my journal entry on Monday, July 4:
To say that it was the best experience of my entire life would be an understatement.
“As I sit here amongst friends, with the sun slowly descending in the sky, lighting up the scattered clouds in bright shades of yellow and orange, the shadows of the green mountains beautifying my view, and a man named Marian strumming away on his guitar, I think: what better way is there to spend July 4? It’s all about freedom — the freedom to travel, to laugh, to love, to trust. Thinking that Romanians didn’t have such freedoms for so long shocks me … I am grateful to be from a country where I can enjoy such liberties as much as I want.”
This world is wide and life is short. Try to engage with and understand people from around the world in order to broaden your horizons. You learn more about yourself when you go outside of your comfort zone
These people, this country, they have buried themselves deep inside of my heart and soul. For me, it is the simple things that make life worthwhile. This trip did not focus around studying the history and culture of Romania through endless tours and museum visits. We learned and appreciated the culture through our daily experiences and interactions.
There are certain experiences you cannot understand by reading a textbook. So go out, try new foods, meet new people, sit in trains without air conditioning, climb a mountain, try learning a new language, run in the rain, immerse yourself in a culture that you know nothing about, because you might surprise yourself and fall in love with the country and its people. This world is wide and life is short. Travel as much as you can, for as long as you can, because travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer, and Romania certainly made me a billionaire.
Photos by Kathryn Frost, Ph.D. and Dominique Treboux, Ph.D.
An excerpt of a reflection from Jennifer David ’18:
There is no doubt in my mind that this trip to Romania changed my life. I truly feel as if I have a new perception on so many things in so many different aspects of my life.
I know I am heading down the right path and I want to continue doing work like this, meeting incredible people and working with amazing organizations to help benefit the community.
When I started learning about IMPACT (a Romanian acronym that translates to English as “Involvement, Motivation, Participation, Action, Community, Youth”) and what IMPACT does, I quickly grew very fond of it. I realized how much something like this, children giving back could have such an impact on their lives, and witnessing all of that made an impact on my life as well. This portion of the trip just reassured me even more that I know I am heading down the right path and I want to continue doing work like this, meeting incredible people and working with amazing organizations to help benefit the community.
Another huge portion of the trip that changed my life was the people. The locals living in Romania such as my host family, the people working with New Horizons and of course our group (RO travelers). Everyone whom I’ve met that works for New Horizons are such empowering people. They want nothing more than to help others realize and reach their full potential and it is absolutely inspiring.
I have to say my favorite part of the whole entire trip was getting to know us (RO travelers) as a group. I honestly can’t believe how close we all became, and I wouldn’t have traded this experience with these people for the world.
My favorite part about staying with my host family was having in depth real conversations with my host mom. I learned so much about communism in Romania through her eyes and after the Revolution.
I have to say my favorite part of the whole entire trip was getting to know us (RO travelers) as a group. I honestly can’t believe how close we all became, and I wouldn’t have traded this experience with these people for the world. We are all such different people with such different personalities but we all got so incredibly close. It was so great to be able to share such amazing experiences with awesome people.