The Romania of 1979-81 was set in tragedy. The pain of oppression was everywhere—food lines, fear in people's eyes, and, markedly, the 'law' to report all conversations with Westerners to the police within 24 hours. I had the honor of receiving a Fulbright lectureship (teacher exchange) for those two years and was fortunate to have been located in Sibiu/Hermannstadt—German/ Nagy Seben—Hungarian. Yes, in Transylvania, it seemed that all place names had three variations.
I was assigned to teach English as a Second Language to university students in the Faculty of Philology. The university is now named Lucian Blaga University. Yet, the students were fluent in English, and often French and German. Essentially, it wasn't 'language' that I focused on, but specialized courses that used English which would stir my classes to explore paralinguistic areas, i.e., cues, nonverbal language, cultural space requirements.....
At the time in the ongoing progression of linguistics and sociolinguistics, the field was focusing on 'body language', gestures, and other various sociolinguistic, and, what we would today call, cross-cultural differences. One of my reference books was The Naked Ape by Desmond Morris which many students enjoyed. The interest of the students ranged from being totally taken with the subject to being aloof and bored by it all. I learned from my successor that a young man named Marius held on to this interest and did more work in the field.
Being interested in promoting greater fluency in a second language, I wanted to involve the students' skills and creativity in a theater production. It was just at this time I met a young man who was involved with the Cultural Center of Sibiu, Ioan Serban, who offered his talent and expertise as a director. Because of him, we pulled it together with such success and finesse.
As luck and chance would have it, one rainy night in the fall of 1989, I left the Amsterdam Café on Amsterdam Avenue and 120th Street, here in New York City after a brief dinner with an e-meritis professor from astrophysics were I worked at the time. As I was walking under the overpass, a man coming out of the dimness stopping in front of me and said: "Are you Maria Borger"? What a shock!!! It was him!! Ioan Serban. Mr. Serban now lives in New York and is a successful director in the theater scene having many credits to his name.
In my apartment bloc in Hipodrom 3, I met many wonderful families one of whom I am in touch with today. Then there were my wonderful colleagues from the university. There is someone who stands out to this day: the gymnastics instructor Mrs. Panait who was so very extending. We exchanged English conversation lessons for gymnastic instruction. What an amazing experience I had.
University students being the same the world over exert a special energy and hope. In spite of the times, it was the same with the students in Sibiu. Now a few of my old friends have told me how beautifully Sibiu has been developed and celebrated as the Cultural Capital of Europe in 2007. Indeed, the texture of history in 1979-81 was palpable while walking the perimeter around the Old Town, looking at the towers along the wall, the Town Square. Romanians have much to be proud of.
My fulbright experience
Students at the advising center
- Anna's Odyssey - by Anna Claspy
- RomericanJourney - by Damaris Lois Bangean
- A Most Unexpected Year - by Melanie Shoffner
- Eric Fretz
- Polar Bear in the Balkans - by David Jimenez
- Romaniadventure - by Anna Sherod
- Romania plus Hannah equals a blog - by Hannah Wolf
- A Palette for Thought - by Elijah Ferbrache
- A Year in Romania - by Anne Murray
- Lauren Hermele
- Katelyn Arlene Browher