A Reflection of a Summer Abroad

Written by volunteer, Danielle Padilla

I wish I had the journal I kept of this summer in front of me, but it’s probably best I don’t. I want this to be a pure reflection of my summer as a student volunteer, not a report of what I thought I felt then. This is a reflection piece about my summer abroad and I want this to be about the now as well. Who am I now because of it? What was the point of it all? Was it worth it? If I knew what was going to happen this summer beforehand would I have still done it? The answer is nem, tu dom. Writing that phrase has made me smile because it is one of the only phrases I remember in Hungarian and means “I don’t know”. That has kind of been the theme of this whole summer to be honest. I didn’t know a lot before I left and – even though I learned A LOT – I feel like I still know nothing as well. So, since I suffer from the Jon Snow paradox, again I say nem tu dom.

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Poland 2015, A LE Summer

Written by volunteer, Michelle Peters

On one of our walks home from the days lessons, my host-mom took this photo of me, my host sisters, and my host cousins. Since the start, I had been enchanted with my little Polish host-sisters, and life at my host-family’s house only got better when their cousins and aunt arrived from Germany. My Polish-born/German-raised host cousins started attending my English lessons as soon as they arrived, and they quickly joined the ranks with my host-sisters as some of my most loyal and eager students. When we weren’t at the community center for the English lessons, we were in our backyard playing or taking walks around the neighborhood. I also got to spend a great deal of time with my host-aunt. She taught me how to make traditional Polish potato pancakes with the German topping of a tart applesauce. I had gone to Poland hoping to gain an understanding of Polish culture, and by the time I left, I had certainly gained that through my stay with my wonderful Polish host-family, who I still keep in touch with. Much to my surprise, I had even learned a bit about German culture in the process. I think this is a testament to the fact that once you open the door for some cultural exchange there are few limits to what will transpire and what will be gained. I’m immensely grateful to LE for opening that door for me.

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Transportation, Food, and Foreign Languages

Written by volunteer Tim Coan, originally on http://gucaravel.com/on-transportation-food-and-foreign-languages/

Each day, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, my host family and I formally sit down and eat together. At one of the dinners this week, my host sister had a friend visiting her family, and he asked me what struck me most about Romania as different from my life back in the United States. So, here are the three things I find most different about life in Romania in the Transylvanian region:

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21 Days in Hungary

Written by volunteer Sarah Sheets, originally published on her blog https://21daysinhungary.tumblr.com/

Teaching and the Students

I came to love the civil center where we worked. I could not think of Hungary without Szilvia and Anniko coming to mind. They were both such friendly faces to see in the office every morning. They were always smiling– they smiled when I unsuccessfully tried to use their coffee maker and spilled coffee grinds everywhere, and they smiled when we got ourselves even more confused when trying to understand why the English language is the way it is. I looked forward to eating lunch with them every day, and one of my favorite memories with them was watching the Hungary vs. Portugal game in the pub above the office (which was a prime location, might I add), drinking cheap wine and beer that we bought in the corner store, and laughing at different people’s game-day attire.

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A Day at the Lake

Written by volunteer, Tim Coan, originally on http://gucaravel.com/a-day-at-the-lake/

An aging tower sits in the middle of a field in Transylvania.

Near the little town of Szalard located in Transylvania, my  home for the last two weeks, is a manmade lake that the locals frequently use for swimming, fishing, and hanging out. My host family and I originally planned on being at the lake on Saturday, but a fast-moving thunderstorm interrupted our plans just as we arrived at the lake on our bikes. So, we headed home in the rain in order to  regroup and formulate a new plan to head back to the lake on Sunday. Thankfully, the weather on Sunday was a lot nicer and perfect for swimming, so my host brother, a neighbor, and I headed to the lake for a relaxing afternoon.

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My Summer in Poland

Written by volunteer, Michelle Purnama originally on https://freelymagazine.com/2017/09/29/my-summer-in-poland

I recall trying to teach algebra to my younger sister 7 years ago. I remember my frustration when she struggled to comprehend what I was trying to teach her. I told myself that I would not be able to be a good teacher. Fast-forward 7 years later, when I had the opportunity to spend my summer teaching English in a village in Southern Poland called Zalasowa – a scenario which my younger self would never have imagined.

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My First Week in A Romanian Orphanage

Tim being interviewed by a local news station on teaching English in a Romanian orphanage.

Written by volunteer: Tim Coan originally on http://gucaravel.com/my-first-week-in-a-romanian-orphanage/

In my psychology class last semester, we discussed child development focusing on Romanian orphanages as an example of an environment in which kids struggled to develop socially due to a lack of attention resulting from overcrowding. So, when I realized that my last three weeks in Romania would be spent living in a Romanian orphanage, I was anxious  and uncertain about what to expect.

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Transylvanian Hospitality

Written by volunteer, Tim Coan, originally found on http://gucaravel.com/transylvanian-hospitality/

“Hey! Come back here!” My head swivels at the English as I walk down the street to watch the soccer practice that many of the orphans are taking part in. “Come back!” I hear again, a voice coming from the little pub, the only one in the village, that I just passed. As I make my way back towards the pub, a man greets me and says “American, right?” I nod my head, and he immediately smiles and says to me, “Come in, drinks on me.”

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