Journalism in Romania by Amy Sable
Romania is land full of experience, promise and opportunity. Please take it from me that the quaint town of Brasov where Projects Abroad bases their volunteers will hold some of the best times of your life.
Embarking upon a 9 week journalism course at the tender age of 17 was considered as brave, some may have even thought stupid especially when the revelation came that I was going to be living in Transylvania, home of the infamous Count Dracula, or perhaps more accurately, Bram Stoker. However, the Romanian people and culture welcomes and relaxes you in an atmosphere I never thought possible. There is a sense that Romania is pushing to become a leading European nation- it will strike you that on your right is a lone man walking his cow and on your left are Mercedes and BMWs whizzing past signs advertising McDonalds and Coca-Cola. The juxtaposition of two worlds combined into one is a shocking fact that is initially difficult to comprehend yet at the same time is strangely comforting.
I lived with a genial young couple rather than a big family but I was immediately welcomed into their lives, proven by the fact that I was given the honour of being asked to be bridesmaid at a family wedding. This is just one of the Romanian experiences that have to be seen to be believed.
Firstly, I will talk to you about the actual journalism programme and then I will give you some personal recommendations of things that MUST be done in your time living in this beautiful and somewhat overwhelming country.
The journalism office is adjacent to the main office where all the volunteers meet after their days and to discuss plans for the next few. The office is the general buzz for the volunteers and as a journalist; you will have the added bonus of always being there. Smart clothes are not a necessity; in fact they are more of a myth. Especially in the hot summer months, volunteers will be found in their own normal clothes. Depending on the time of year you go to Romania will depend on how much work you actually do. If you travel in the winter months you could be expected to compile the entire of the Brasov Visitor (the Romanian magazine) yourself or in the summer months compete with 13 other journalists to get your work published. Both aspects are good experience for what you might expect in the real journalistic field.
The journalism office is not anything like you could expect in a more developed country, it consists of 5 computers, which are all linked to the internet, but only 3 of these primarily belong to the journalism volunteers (1 being for archaeology and 1 being used to design layouts by the senior members of the team). However, the help you can expect to receive is invaluable. The journalism team are eager to encourage you to try your hand at every journalistic aspect ranging from interviewing Romanian celebrities and politicians to designing your own page layout to giving the editing or photography part a go. Basically anything goes, your ideas are your own, and it is a fantastic way of creating or adding to your portfolio. The rush of seeing your name in print for the first time is amazing.
Now for a brief list of things I think you must do while visiting. Skip McDonalds, instead you must go to Blue Viking. This is a pizza place that delivers and is open 24 hours a day. My personal favourite was the Al Pacino, but there is nothing like getting a pizza at 5am and watching the sun come up. Next on the agenda is to do some obligatory sight seeing. Even around the small town square there are plenty of architectural wonders to marvel at including the Black and White towers and the more recent fountain situated in the centre. You must also visit Bran (Dracula's) Castle, go up Mount Tampa and one evening, go and see the bears. The thrill of seeing a mother bear and her cubs just feet away from you is a mind blowing experience. Finally, even if you are not particularly a drinker, a shot of palinca is a must. It is home-brewed and you will never taste anything like it- it did become a personal favourite of many of the volunteers who do all bond immediately and remain firm friends, even when everyone returns back to normality.
The experiences you will have in Romania, like me and many others, will undoubtedly be told, retold and etched in your memory forever.