By Nadina-Carmen NICOLICI
Drobeta Turnu Severin, ROMANIA
I’d like to start my article by admitting one single personal thing (a really big issue for me): the very first time I found out that the SUSi program also means “homestaying”, I felt quite embarrassed, as I have always been of the idea that for me it’s better to be on my own than sharing things (a house!) with complete strangers. Though the coordinators of the program continually assured us everything was going to be all right, I was still reticent and doubtful. But then, the big day arrived, and here I came to meet a wonderful family from Missoula: Cris and Kevin, their amazing children – Zalie and Asher, their wonderful dogs – Rainy and Bella, and their bunny – Smokie. So, here I am, ready to face a new challenge.
I am sure now that they may have had the same worries as I did, but everything is easier when people communicate, isn’t it right? From the very beginning, we talked, shared ideas, asked questions and all these prepared me for one of the most amazing things related to my American experience: they offered me the chance to get a bite of the American lifestyle, and what I consider to be the most important thing is the fact that I could really live it, I was not a simple spectator – I was part of it.
What impressed me the most? I don’t know where and how to start… For me, communication is vital, and so, from the very beginning we had the chance to talk about everything: education, history, environmental protection, sports, music, daily life, holidays, celebrations, etc. I learned a lot from these discussions, as all the time I compared things (what is good in my country, what is good in the USA, what could be improved, and so on). I am deeply interested in culture and everything it means, and I guess my host family could somehow read my thoughts, as they provided me with plenty of it. We visited the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, which proved to be a great educational tour which enabled me to discover the elk country.
Our next stop was the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula and the Museum of Military History. What deeply touched me were the relics and all the personal things and stories sheltered in that place. I was excited to find some connections with my country as well. We hit the road again, and our next stop was Traveler’s Rest State Park where I had the chance of learning more about Lewis and Clark and their expedition in the area a long time ago. As I am more and more interested in the native Americans, I had one more chance to learn about their lifestyle by visiting the visitors’ center. Later in the afternoon I was invited to attend a retirement party and I got the unique chance of seeing how families celebrate together, how they really are, what belonging means. It was great to talk to people, ask and answer different questions, sharing experience and knowledge.
But, what really inspired me was one tiny thing which may have huge impact on people – I can call it simply “random kindness”, which can be translated as being kind and helping complete strangers, making their day by one little thing you do: paying for a coffee in advance, offering a flower to a neighbor, helping somebody with shopping…. I packed this piece of valuable information and I will take it back to my country, where I will teach the others to apply it.
Now, at the end of the day, I must confess I am tired but extremely happy and inspired, as all my worries vanished. If I am given the chance, I will repeat the experience for sure.