The Romanian Studies Program has been providing learning opportunities for American college students in Sighisoara, Romania since 1995. Close to 500 students have come for a semester, or for a shorter January or May term experience. The RSP has many years of experience in providing a safe and supportive environment for cross-cultural learning.
Students live with Romanian families so as to experience true cultural immersion . They either have their own room or share with an American roommate. Families are selected from the RSPs circle of connections in local churches or from Veritas staff and volunteers, or through high school students who participate in Veritas educational programs. Living situations are screened for safety and accessibility , and both families and students are oriented to what it means for a student to be a guest in a host family.
One thing that some students find it hard to get used to, having lived rather independently away from home for years, is that host parents take their responsibility for caring for them very seriously: they prescribe favorite home remedies of they are sick, wait up for them at night, and have on occasion even called the police when a student failed to come home at the expected time. A host mother explained, ”Of course I worry about Amy. If my daughter were far away in a foreign country, I would want someone to worry about her!”
The RSP is thankful that we have had very few serious medical concerns among the hundreds of students who have been in Sighisoara. We have a good working relationship with several local doctors who are available to provide diagnosis and treatment from minor health needs. Students are required to have medical insurance through their home universities, including coverage for emergency evacuation in case of a serious medical crisis. Medical services have improved tremendously in Romania since the RSP has been here, although clinics and hospitals do not look as modern as medical facilities in America. In the last few years 2 students have ended up in the emergency room of the local hospital, one with kidney stones and the other needing an emergency appendectomy, while a third had to have a wisdom tooth extracted. All were treated remarkably quickly and professionally, and had no negative consequences. The bills were a small fraction of what they would have been in the US!
Before your son or daughter comes to Romania you will receive contact information of the RSP Director so that you can contact her in case of an emergency. We will also make sure that we have your contact information, in case we need to get in touch with you. Students are required to let RSP staff know if they plan to travel outside of Sighisoara when not part of an organized group, and to inform their parents of travel plans for their mid-semester break.
Students are given safety instructions at the beginning of the semester, which are mostly a matter of being wise and street smart and knowing who contact in case of emergency. Americans generally feel that they are much safer on the streets of Romania than they are in the United States. Very few Romanians own firearms, and because fewer people own cars, there are more people walking on the streets at all time of day and late into the evening. Students are expected to use caution walking alone at night, and to take good care of their valuables – petty theft is a big problem in Romania. However, in a small town there is little likelihood of a terrorist attack and Romania is not currently dealing with negative effects of the European migrant crisis.
The Ukraine is a neighboring country (the capital Kiev and the Crimean Peninsula are both about two days’ drive from here), and so some Americans have worried that Romania might also become a victim of Russian aggression. Romania is a member of NATO and of the European Union, both of which assure it of protection. Romanians feel empathy for Ukrainians but no longer live in fear of the Russian threat.
In the unlikely case of a national or international incident affecting life in Sighisoara, students know they have to follow the instructions of RSP staff , who will be guided by local police and the American Embassy.