My name is Pawena N from Thailand. I participated in a four-week Teaching Project in Brasov, Romania in Spring 2018.
Why volunteering in Romania? I was looking for a worthwhile experience during my career break and volunteering in Romania felt like just the right option for me. It not only provided me with a wonderful experience living and travelling abroad, but also the opportunity to contribute to the local community through my volunteer work. Romania, as a hidden gem of Eastern Europe, has also long been at the top of my bucket list. I love working with children and that is why I chose the English Teaching Project with school students.
The Projects Abroad staff were very helpful, both during my pre-departure (particularly when I had some challenges with my visa application) and while I stayed in Romania. The local team picked me up at the airport, provided me with an induction and a tour around the old town, ensured that I knew how to get to the schools, and made sure I arrived safely at my host family’s home after my project work each day.
Living in Brasov
Brasov, where I lived, is a gorgeous city in the Transylvania Region. There are so many beautiful architectural sites such as the historic buildings, churches, and museums. It is also very close to nature. You can enjoy hiking up the Tampa Mountain to appreciate the stunning views of Brasov. This is a 10-minute walking distance from the town. Parks and trees can be found almost everywhere.
My host family
I stayed with a lovely host family. Elena was my host mom and I shared a room with another volunteer from Australia. Elena was very helpful and caring. She always made sure that we had everything we needed. She did not speak English, but I managed to communicate with her with the basic Romanian words I learnt from an app, a bit of French, and with help from Google Translate.
My Teaching placement
I was assigned to work at two middle schools. The first one is School No 3 in Brasov City and the second is Prejmer School, which is in a small village 20 minutes away from the city. This school is just next to the Prejmer Fortified Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. My two placements provided me with the opportunity to meet and work with diverse groups of students.
During my placement, I assisted the English teachers with classes ranging from grade 0 (pre-grade) to grade 8. I usually started by giving a lesson about my country, which included some pictures and a video. I encouraged the students to practise asking questions in English. They were very excited and asked a lot of questions about Thai food, traditions, schools, sports, and interesting places.
Later, I helped the teachers with different activities in the classes. My main role was to provide a chance for the students to speak English with a foreigner. For the younger students, I helped them with practising basic greetings, and asking and answering simple questions, like what is your favourite colour?
For the older students, I assisted with their reading lessons. We also discussed topics that interested them like the cost of living, the school system, and LGBT rights. Also, with input from one of the teachers, I prepared some picture games and quizzes for the students to practise English grammar and I was glad to see that they enjoyed the activities.
I was given a warm welcome by the teachers and the students at both schools. Some of my fondest memories are with the little students. They were super excited to learn new things and would come to give me a hug after class. At Prejmer, a particular group of students were very friendly and showed me around on my first day. They understood limited English so we needed help from Google Translate! In some classes, the students brought me Romanian foods and showed me Romanian dance and music.
My free time in Romania
After school, I enjoyed spending time exploring Brasov. This ranged from wandering the neighbourhood, hiking up Tampa Mountain, trying new restaurants in the town, and having relaxing time in public parks. On some of the nights, I was invited for a dinner with the teachers or to spend time with my volunteer colleagues.
On the weekends, the other volunteers and I went on day trips to explore the other towns. We visited many fairy tale places like Peles and Bran Castle, the ancient Rasnov Citadel, and Sighisoara. Other fun trips were to Poiana Brasov Ski Resort, Postavarul Massif, and the Seven Ladders Canyon.
My overall experience
Overall, this was a rewarding and memorable experience for me. While I had a chance to contribute to the learning of the students, this experience also broadened my perspective and exposed me to diverse groups of people and many new adventures. I really appreciate the hospitality of Romanian people, the new friendships I made, and last but not least, the incredible natural wonders and landscapes the country has to offer.