Romania may not be your typical study-abroad destination, but it’s one of the most genuine countries I’ve ever known. The people are warm and welcoming and the hospitality unmatched. Some think of Romania as a mystical place full of Transylvanian vampires in creepy castles, but from my own travels to the country, I found it to be so much more.
Located in Eastern Europe bordering the Black sea to the east, Bulgaria to the south, Serbia and Hungary to the west, Ukraine to the north and Moldova to the northeast, Romania is situated in the center with a four-season climate, giant Carpathian mountains, Transylvanian Alps, plateaus and plains. Romania’s location uniquely describes the diverse ethnic groups that inhabit this beautiful rolling hillside of Russians, Italians, Germans, Ukrainians, Germans, Turks, and many other ethnicities. The official language of Romania is Romanian, but people also speak Hungarian and Romany (Gypsy).
The most practiced religion in Romania is Eastern Orthodoxy. A country’s customs and traditions are often derived religion; for example, I can easily distinguish married people from single because the Orthodox wear their wedding ring on the right hand, not the left, because the right hand was said to perform miracles in the Bible. Most of the churches in Romania that I saw had three tiers with crosses, representing Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
SOME HIGHLIGHTS OF ROMANIA
Bucharest: Romania’s capital, which is located at the south of the country between the river Danube and the Transylvanian Alps, is also the biggest city. Nicknamed ‘Little Paris’ for its tree-lined streets and many beautiful buildings, one in particular to take note of is the Palace of Parliament, which resembles dimensions of the Pentagon in the USA. Old Court is a charming must see with cobbled stone streets decorated by churches, shops, palaces, and restaurants. The Cismigiu Garden is in the heart of the city with a park for boat rentals and ice skating in the winter.
Transylvania: Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula was set here, a mountainous region of the country most popular to visit. It is one of forests, ancient villages, and medieval castles. The infamous Castle Bran, also known as Dracula’s Castle, is in the Transylvanian town of Brasov. Nearby are resorts and another Transylvanian town called Cluj-Napoca, home to thousands of students and cafes.
Romania’s Black Sea Resorts feature nice beaches and warm waters perfect for a relaxing holiday. These resorts contribute to the tourism infrastructure: Mamaia, Mangalia, Jupiter, Venus, and Constanta, the main Black Sea port.
The Danube Delta is the largest river delta in Europe and also a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is a sanctuary of migratory birds and fish. River tours are quite popular and dotted with fishing villages, intricate waterways, and lakes.
Iasi was the previous capital to Romania on the border of Moldova and is one of stunning landmarks and monuments. This area is full of impressive churches, monasteries, and museums. Finally, it’s home to Romania’s oldest public university and pumping nightlife.
Food & Eating out: Romanian food is a mix of Austrian, French, and Asian cuisines and is both hearty and cheap. Cafes, snack bars, small kebab shops, and posh shops are plentiful. The Black Sea resorts also have delicious choices that suit Western European taste. A few local dishes worth trying are bulz (roasted polenta mush with cheese and bacon) and friptura (steak).
A true story: One evening, my friend and I walked into this charming restaurant close to our hostel. We immediately felt awkward because a party was going on and everyone was dressed up. It wasn’t long before we discovered it was an engagement party and were invited to stay. Without delay, we were whisked away on the dance floor by the hosts of the party, offered pastries of everything you could possibly imagine, and treated like long-lost relatives from a distant land. Nowhere in all of my travels, have I ever felt “like family” to distant strangers except during this experience in Romania.
Accommodations: hotels are cheaper than elsewhere in Europe but during my stay in Romania, I chose the Kismet Dao Hostel in Brasov for about $16/night with breakfast. This hostel is in the heart of the city centre of Brasov and they will even meet you at the train station to pick you up. My friend Jessica and I paid seven lei for a taxi to our hostel which is almost three dollars. Make sure you always use taxis with company names on them and always make sure they turn the meter on. I found our accommodations through hostelworld.com and they email you confirmations along with directions, including which bus line and number to take, as well as travel advice.
I flew into Bucharest, the capital, through SkyEurope.com. Whether you do a semester or year abroad, I found that flying is quite cheap once you are in the European Union. I originally bought a Eurailpass but turned out, it wasn’t logical for me since I was not consistently traveling. Taking long weekend trips was ideal and flying throughout Europe was cheap.
STUDY ABROAD OPTIONS IN ROMANIA
Romania has a lot of study abroad options for a semester, a year abroad, summer only, graduate programs, and even internships. The Romanian Cultural Institute even organizes Romanian language, culture, and civilization courses in the 12th century citadel of Brasov.
Projects Abroad also features internships in Romania in a variety of subjects from journalism to veterinary medicine. There are many other options to study in charming mountain towns and villages or seaside resorts along the Black Sea.
FUN FACTS ABOUT ROMANIA
– The ancestors of Romanians are the Dacians which were fierce warriors
– Half the population of Romania died in the Second World War
– The main mineral resource is oil
– A professor in Bucharest was the first to see nerve cells with a microscope
– Previous to World War I, Romania belonged to Hungary
-Oltenia is famous for its embroideries and carpets. Maramures is famous for wooden sculptures. Bucovina is proud of its old traditions
This post was submitted by Anastasia Diamantis.
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