Rachael Morrison - Drama in Romania
My First Impressions of Romania
My main reason for choosing to go to Romania was for the drama project they offered that seemed like it would suit me perfectly. But before I set off for Romania I knew very little of the country. So as I waited to board the plane to take me over I had a horrible feeling in my stomach – I was scared, unsure and alone.
I was, however, very relieved upon arrival for all those feelings to leave. As I traveled from the airport in Bucharest to Brasov, where I would be staying for the length of my project, I was completely in awe of the stunning backdrop of many beautiful mountain ranges. And when I got to my host family, who I would be staying with for the next two months, I couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome. My host mom greeted me with a big hug, a big bowl of soup and a plate of food – I could tell I was going to be very happy here.
Staying with a Host Family
One of the aspects that interested me about the project was that you got to stay with a host family. I thought it would be a great way to really get a sense of the culture in Romania and how people lived.
There were things to adjust to – living in someone else’s house, the language, the food, but it was all part of the experience. My host family, other volunteers and the staff at Projects Abroad were all very supportive of any questions or uncertainties I had.
I am so pleased that I got to live with a family; I got to discover my true love of Romanian food. And my host mom was more than happy to teach me how to cook sarmale, a traditional Romanian dish. It was one of my favorite moments with my family because I learnt more about their lives and most importantly I can now make sarmale – although it will never taste as good!
Out and About in Brasov
I quickly discovered that Brasov is a great city. Lots of beautiful old buildings and it’s very own mountain, described by locals as more of a hill, that over looked the city, so you always had a point of reference. I found the Hollywood style Brasov sign on top of it slightly bizarre, but lit up at night it really was beautiful.
I was keen to see as much of Brasov and the surrounding area as I could while in Romania, so spent most weekends exploring. I discovered there was a lot to do in Brasov. I visited the old parts of town, the citadel, climbed Mt. Tampa, went to Poiana Brasov, the list could go on. There was also plenty to do in the evenings many great restaurants, bars and clubs to keep you interested.
There were a couple of weekends where we went a little further afield too. One of my favorite trips was when some other volunteers and I went to Sibiu, a nearby city. We stayed overnight in a hostel all in one room and explored the city over the two days. It was a great experience to travel outside of Brasov, and have a mini adventure of our own.
Teaching English through Drama
Before I came to Romania I had a little experience of teaching Drama but not a lot. What was great about the project was that this didn’t matter. Because I’d had some experience but was also very interested, eager and positive, the Drama Coordinator was very supportive.
Most of my classes involved teaching high school children in one-hour slots. The groups varied greatly in numbers and ability. But they all had two very important things in common: enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. This made the work incredibly rewarding. Knowing that they wanted you to be there made it feel really worthwhile.
Because there were other drama volunteers when I was there we decided it would be fun to have the children perform towards the end of my two months and before the other volunteers left. This decision meant that the classes were very focused, as we knew we wanted to achieve a performance with them. The classes normally consisted of some warm-ups and improvisation games followed by script work.
Putting the show together was a bit stressful mainly due to illness, which affected staff, volunteers and the kids. I am pleased to say that, in the end, the performances went really well and it was a great way to show off what we had achieved with each group.
My Work at a Foster Home in Tarlungeni
The other main part of my work out in Romania was running drama therapy sessions with kids aged 3-14 at a foster home in a nearby village, Tarlungeni. This is something I had requested to do before I left from England because all the paperwork had to be sorted beforehand.
I think this is possibly the best decision I made because it was the most life changing and inspirational of all the work that I did. I worked with the kids two afternoons a week and they were split into three groups depending on their age. Before I started I was warned that there were difficult children, they could be moody and restless. But, as my first class came in and ran and hugged me, trying to speak English I knew none of that would matter.
The work was challenging but I soon realized that they just needed attention, and so I made sure I used games that gave them attention of their own but then also required them to share it, and listen to others.
I also had the opportunity to work towards a performance with these kids and it was my own project. I wrote a couple stories that were to be narrated in Romanian whilst the kids acted them out. I made the kids masks, which they performed and then kept afterwards. I loved this work, I felt so proud watching them perform.
A Sad Farewell - Brasov and Beyond
All too soon the time came for me to leave Romania. My two months went by so quickly. Although it took a couple weeks to settle in, I really enjoyed my time there. And even though I was first nervous at how little I knew of the country, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It allowed me to approach things with an open mind and just give everything a go.
I will take so much from my time out there. I am more patient, understanding and open-minded than I was before. The work has already led me into two related jobs as I now have the confidence and experience to teach drama.
I will forever be grateful towards Project Abroad for enabling me to have this experience. Is has definitely changed me for the better, and left me with friends and memories I will keep forever.