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The Enchantment of Transylvania

September 9, 2016
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Alberto Sostre at Rasnov Fortress

 

On June 3rd, 2016, I embarked on my first ever trip to Romania to commence field research for my master’s thesis through the Institute for European Studies.

Background

For two months I volunteered and traveled throughout Transylvania in the north and visited various cities in the south of Romania. Transylvania has a unique blind of Romanian and Hungarian influences since it was formerly part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire prior to WWI. Transylvania is quite synonymous with Hungarian Prince Vlad III aka Vlad the Impaler born in Sighisoara and the tail of Dracula written by Bram Stoker. However, Transylvania has so much more to offer than a fictional tail written by an Irish author. From the diverse rich cuisine to the picturesque landscape, I came to fall in love not only with the region, but with Romania as a whole.

I was living in a predominantly Hungarian speaking area so Romanian was of no use. I often mixed up my basic Hungarian and Romanian to the amusement and chagrin of many locals. The locals were so welcoming and hospitable during my time there, and willing to share so much of their culture with me. In Romania I felt at home and was immensely sad to leave.

Research

Through the generosity of the School of Public & Environmental Affairs and the Russian & East European Institute at Indiana University, I obtained support that would allow me to gain such a wonderful academic and life altering experience. My research revolved around a volunteer placement at a center for individuals with severe disabilities in Cristuru-Secuiesc (Romanian) or Keresztúr (Hungarian).

The volunteer placement was facilitated by Care2Travel, an organization in the city of Miercurea-Ciuc (Romanian) or Csíkszereda (Hungarian). Volunteerism in Romania is a relatively underdeveloped concept so Care2Travel was created with the intent of improving the volunteering community in Transylvania and tackling the social problems of the area. I was a volunteer in the special needs care program and was placed at a partner center in Cristuru-Secuiesc. My research focused on social and economic integration of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Romania during the pre- and post-revolution period.

Along with my work at the center, I also traveled to other areas to visit non-profits and speak with a social worker and a professor in the field of disability rights.

Follow-up Trip

Although I am now back in Bloomington, Indiana to finish my final academic year, I will be returning to Romania for the winter holiday. I cannot express how much of an impact Romania has had on my life. I do not know what the future holds, but I would love someday to become Dutch Ambassador to the country. Romania and its people will forever hold a very special place in my heart.

http://care2travel.org/index.php/about-us/our-history/

 

 

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