[View the story “Vice President Joe Biden Comes to Moldova” on Storify]

Much like American students, Moldovan students have midterm evaluations half way through the course. Two weeks ago was the dreaded week for many of my students, and I was tasked with the job of laying down the law. While this sounds like a relatively mundane task, laying down the law was no small feat. My co-worker distributed the tests and it was my job to make sure that the students did not cheat. While it’s difficult to cheat on an essay test and a test that required students to express their own opinion, several of my students tried to outsmart me. Fortunately, they did not know as a recent college graduate, I have witnessed numerous forms of cheating in the U.S. In high school I remember witnessing several of my classmates writing the test answers under their clothes.  I was always shocked when teachers never noticed, and never wanted to be the one who got my fellow classmates in trouble. In Moldova, one of the favorite techniques is called “chipagaka”. This is when students take a piece of paper and fold it like a fan. It is small enough so that if the teacher walks by, students can slip the paper in their shirt to disguise it. Students have also tried using cell phones, looking in their copybooks, talking across the room, and looking at texts.

At the Fulbright Conference last week, I was happy to learn that I was not the only teacher who struggled with students cheating. I did learn that I was the only one who made students leave their bags at the door and who took their cell phones away. I think that in the future, I will make different test copies or order the answers differently so that students will be unable to copy each other.

One of the things I realized was that in Moldova, students are taught to cheat at an early age, whether it’s intentional or not. In the U.S. students are taught to think independently at an early age. “Eyes on your own paper,” were words ingrained into my mind at an early age. I started to use dividers to prevent my classmates from glancing at my answers in second grade and in high school, cheaters got detention or were expelled.  In contrast to students in the U.S., Moldovan students are taught to think more collaboratively. Students are grouped and attend the same classes with the same group of students. This system starts in grade school and continues at the college level. Students are grouped by specialty and attend all of their lessons together. Thus, cheating is seen as a way to ensure that the class is successful. I like how Moldovan students work together, but it is difficult as an American to understand the logic behind cheating. However, by viewing their cheating in the cultural context of Moldova, it is easier to understand some of their motivation.

I’ve almost been in Moldova for 3 months and can honestly say I’m enjoying my time here. Today, the weather was 70 degrees and the sun was shining brightly. It is definitely not the hazy winter weather I was expecting by November, but this tarheel is certainly not complaining.

Greetings from Moldova. As I glanced out the autobus window on my way to work this morning, the changing leaves subtly reminded me that fall has certainly arrived in Moldova. Sleeping in a fuzzy sweatshirt and wool socks has become a daily routine and I’ve developed a strong admiration for my heated towel bar. During the day, I dress in layers so that I am warm in the morning when it’s forty degrees outside and cool in the afternoon when temperatures reach  the low sixties. To save on electricity, I lived under a fleece blanket in my apartment for a few nights, but have now decided turn my heat on. I feel very fortunate to have heat and hot water and know that both will come in handy during the next few months. My host brother told me the other day that this winter is supposed to be the coldest Moldova has witnessed in over a century. Though I tried not to wince, he noticed and simply said, “Welcome to Moldova.”

With winter weather also comes the infamous “draft” in Moldova. If you have a door and a window open at the same time, it is considered unhealthy. Doors must be closed at all times, and if you don’t close a door, someone will certainly tell you to close it so. If you’re riding on a bus, all of the windows have to be closed. Obviously, as a firm believer in fresh air, and the benefit of air washing away the germs in a stuffy room, this has been difficult for me to get used to. It is believed to be medically damaging to health if there is a strong draft in the room, so since I’m not a doctor, I can’t prove otherwise.

Looking at the calendar, it’s hard to believe that I’ve been in Moldova for almost two months. The days have begun to blend together as I grow accustomed to a daily routine. My days are spent waking up at 6:48 and teaching lessons until 2:00pm. Getting to school on time is a science I haven’t yet mastered, but I usually make it within five minutes of the first bell’s chime. Everyday, I learn something new. The greatest benefit of living in a new country is that every single day, you learn something new, meet someone new, or make an observation you wouldn’t have made if you were living in the States. I’ve finally gotten used to a slower pace of life here in Moldova. Living without a TV has been the biggest change. Surprisingly, I don’t miss watching TV, but miss spending time with friends and family. Watching TV in the states is a very social activity. As I cook dinner on my gas stove, I often wish I could be watching good ole’ American television with friends and family. I miss playing Jeopardy with Dad or watching Desperate Housewives with Mom. I also miss watching Modern Family with Nat.

The void created by a lack of exposure to American culture, has been filled by the company of Moldovans and Americans in Moldova. I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by very hospitable and generous Moldovans. Though Moldova is certainly off the beaten path, it’s a country whose people aren’t afraid to be brutally honest. If your hair is frizzy, your outfit looks amazing, or if your eyes are bloodshot from lack of sleep, Moldovans certainly aren’t afraid to let you know. It’s a breath of fresh air honestly, and I really like how honest people are here. At my host family’s the other night, I was visibly tired after a long day of teaching. My host mother came up to me and I thought she said, “Rebecca, your eyes are beautiful.” Naturally, I said, “Thank you very much.” I knew I said the wrong thing (which isn’t surprising at all), when she and my host brother both started laughing. She had told me, “Rebecca, your eyes are red,” and I had graciously thanked her for noticing my sleep-deprived bloodshot eyes. Luckily, I came to Moldova equipped with a sense of humour and the ability to laugh at myself. I find that being light-hearted and being able to laugh at awkward language mishaps goes a long way.

Getting used to different senses of humour and body language has been one of the most difficult cultural barriers to overcome. Most people know I’m sometimes sarcastic, and so I’ve had to adapt my humour to Moldova. After all, I’m a guest here, and I certainly don’t want to offend people. As an American, my body language is totally out-of-wack in Moldova. I laugh too much, smile too much, and speak too loudly. I’ve become acutely aware of how others perceive me and am more self-aware than every before. I can’t change my gestures, but I can try to adapt them to the cultural norms here. That means laughing at a lower pitch, not smiling on the street, not talking to dogs that inhabit the woods outside of my apartment and on the pathways I follow to school, and speaking quieter. I think smiling less has been the greatest challenge. I like to smile and highly doubt I’ll stop smiling anytime soon. Several of my Moldovan friends have tried to smile like I do, and it’s not physically possible for them. Americans smile and speak with different facial muscles which is why it is hard for foreign speakers to pronounce some English words and why it’s difficult for me to speak with a good Russian accent.

I’m off to teach lessons for the day. Thanks for reading it certainly brings a big SMILE to my face.

Greetings friends and family. Yes, I am still alive and thriving in Moldova. I had a little incident with my computer and haven’t been able to update my blog in over two weeks. Luckily, my host family helped me track down one of the give people in Moldova who work on Macs. He was able to replace my hard drive for $70 and I am now the proud owner of a fully functioning laptop.

Wow, I’ve almost been in Moldova for one month. As I look down streets I haven’t travelled and glance at faces I’ve yet to meet, it doesn’t feel like I’ve been in Cahul for over a month. Going to the market has slowly become less intimidating and I find myself gaining more confidence daily. My priorities for the first few weeks have been to meet many new people, try new things (mainly food), to be open-minded, and to stay busy. I’ve found that the key to not getting homesick has been to stay busy. So my days have been very busy with class from 8-2 and then free tutoring from 3-4 on Mondays and Tuesdays, and English Club from 3-4 on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Making myself available to students has been a big priority of mine, and most of my students have been very appreciative so far. Teachers don’t really hold office hours here, so my students have been very surprised that I’m available to meet with them after class if they have questions or just want to practice their conversation skills.

On the weekends, I try to do things that aren’t school-related. Last weekend I traveled to Pelinia, a village outside of Cahul to witness the opening of a retirement center. It was the poshest retirement I’d seen in a while complete with a barter system in place to help the retirement center running. As customary in the opening of a new building or house in Moldova, the priest came to bless the center.  Most Moldovans are Eastern Orthodox, so an Orthodox priest came in and blessed the food for about 30 minutes. I was expecting the blessing to be no more than ten minutes, but after the twenty-minute mark, I knew the end was no where close in sight. Halfway through the ceremony, the priest blessed the guests and food by spraying holy water on our clothes and sometimes face if you were close enough to him. It was a great experience and I’m so glad I got to witness it. The food was tasty and I got to meet two more Peace Corps volunteers which was also awesome. Afterwards, we went out to a club in Cahul called Space Club. Like the retirement home, the club was posh for both American and Moldovan standards. I only managed to run into one of my students, so it was a successful evening.

On Wednesday I helped a friend out with his English club at the local Russian-language high school. Here in Cahul, we have both Romanian and Russian language high schools. If a student is from a family that speaks primarily Romanian then they will go to the Romanian high school and visa versa. For the first session of English club, we decided to have a California theme and we played Katy Perry’s California Girls and gave the students some California-fied words such as “dude, dudette, totally, omg, etc.” and had them create skits with new words. We also taught them the conditional tense and had them create sentences such as, “If I went to California, I would buy lots of new shoes.” I think they really enjoyed it and I’m hoping that the students will come back next week.

On Thursday, my friend helped me with my English club at the University. English club is free to the residents of Cahul so it attracts people of all ages. It’s an eclectic bunch and around 20 people come to learn English each week. It’s very rewarding and I’m excited that people are enthused to learn English here. My youngest student is 10 years old and my oldest student is in his fifties. When paired together, they managed to breach the generation gap and produce comical dialogues together.

Another  event worth mentioning is the FLEX test that took place in Cahul last Friday. The FLEX program is sponsored by the US government and provides Moldovan high school students with the opportunity to spend a year abroad in America (http://exchanges.state.gov/youth/programs/flex.html). Participants are chosen through a multi-layered, merit-based open recruitment and selection process. The selection is based upon English ability, personality, social skills, academic achievement, and leadership potential. All students undergo extensive orientation to life in America and pursue a full course of study at an American high school. The State Department awards grants for school and host family placement and overall student monitoring to private U.S. organizations. I helped a friend prepare some of his lyceium students and I also helped my host-brother prepare for this test. He made the first round of cuts and now has to wait for a month to see if he moves on to the next round of the competition.

This weekend I am headed to Comrat to visit with the other Fulbrighters. I am looking forward to visiting somewhere outside of Cahul. I will update more regularly now that I have my computer back. Thanks as always for reading.

I can thankfully say that I survived my first few days of teaching at Cahul State University. After classes on Friday, I walked around town for a bit and explored the market. In Cahul, you can find almost anything you need at the markets. Whether you’re looking for fresh vegetables, need to buy a new microwave, a pair of rainbow socks, or want to get a new key made, you can do it at the market. I bought a kilogram of tomatoes, a kilogram of potatoes, onions, cabbage, and peaches for about $3.00. Meat is more expensive here, but since I don’t really eat meat, and certainly don’t cook it, I anticipate saving money while I’m living here. After my trip to the market, I spent a couple of hours at my host family’s apartment and my host mother made blincichis which is sweet Moldovan pancakes stuffed with homemade strawberry preserves or sour cream. I likes the strawberry ones the best, and made sure to work out the next day!

On Saturday, I went into town with my host brother and got a new key made at a small stand in the market. The markets are very accessible, but you have to know where to find things. Organization isn’t very clear, so while there are many things available in Cahul, you have to know where to look. On the way home, I stopped at Flamingo, which is the biggest grocery store in Cahul. Though I say grocery store, it is nothing like American grocery stores. Everything is kept behind the counter and you have to ask an attendant to get it for you. This sounds simple, but without me knowing Russian fluently, conveying to the attendant what I want and how much of it I want is like a game of charades. There are three cash registers in one small store which is roughly the size of the inside of a gas station. Each cash register sells different things and so you must know ahead of time which cash register to go to. For example, salt and pepper are sold at different cash registers. Pepper is sold with the pastries while salt is sold with the meats. I also ran into trouble when I was pronouncing the word for butter wrong. It sounds very similar to the word for meat, so instead of bringing me butter, the attendant was trying to sell me a very large piece of sausage. After a bit more pointing and enunciating, I managed to walk away with butter and luckily did not have to carry the large piece of meat home with me.

Sunday, September 5th, was the day of Moldovan Referendum. It was a nationwide referendum on whether or not the country should amend the Constitution to return to direct election of president instead of 3/5 of total number of seats parliament vote as it is now. The voters were asked to answer the following question “Would you agree with the Constitutional amendment, which would allow the election of the President of the Republic of Moldova by the entire population?”, voting for one of the proposed options: “Yes (for)” or “No (against)”. I went with my co-teacher Tatiana to vote and I noticed there were very few people at the voting booths. On September 6th, it was announced that only 30.4% of registered voters showed up; just under the 33% legal threshold for a valid vote. Prime Minister Vlad Filat said the electorate “appears to have been less active than we had hoped. It seems most likely we will not be able to count on clearing the necessary 33 per cent barrier for recognising the validity of the referendum.” Moldova has been without a president since the four-party coalition, the Alliance for European Integration, won a slim majority in the July 2009 general election.

After going to the polls with Tatiana, we went to visit her sister at the hospital. Her sister is pregnant and so we went to bring her some food. In Moldovan hospitals, if you have to stay overnight, you are responsible for bringing sheets, clothes, food, and anything you might need. Though the hospital is supposed to be free, if you want to be seen, you must pay the doctors and nurses money so that they pay attention to you. Since her sister’s husband was working abroad, the doctors and nurses were not paying attention to her because they did not think she had enough money to pay for their services. Moldovan women who are not married and pregnant are the lowest priorities. Healthcare is a lot different here, and I was surprised when I found out that patients aren’t allowed to have visitors. So her sister, who is 40 weeks pregnant had to walk down four flights of stairs to come downstairs to get food and water. It was an eye-opening visit. There is one hospital solely for pregnant women, a children’s hospital, and another adult hospital . There are public and private hospitals in Moldova, but Cahul only has a public hospital.

After class on Monday, I was afraid that I might have to visit the public hospital in Cahul. On my break, I was walking with my coworker in the market. There were many people in the market since it was a Monday morning. As I was trying to get out of someone’s way, I lost my balance, rolled my ankle and conveniently fell into a bed of flowers. As I was sitting on the ground covered in dirt, my coworker told me to “Be attentive”. Unfortunately for my sake, I had not been attentive enough a few second earlier. I had heard something pop so I knew that I had twisted my ankle and it would be sore later. Right away, I knew I needed to find some ice. This sounds simple enough, except that Moldovans don’t have ice in their drinks and don’t use ice. After visiting three pharmacies, I was very disgruntled to discover that none of them had ice packages. I stayed for my two afternoon classes and froze some water in a ziploc bag as soon as I got home. I iced it and elevated it until my host mother got home for work. She immediately starting saying something about vodka and I looked at her with hazy eyes terrified that she was going to make me drink vodka to cure my pain. I was pretty relieved when she came back from her apartment and said that she was out of vodka. My host brother explained to me that rubbing vodka on an injury cools it off and is supposed to take some of the pain away. I was a little disappointed I didn’t get to see if it worked, but I can now say that I had my first experience with Moldovan домашние средства (home remedies). She wrapped my ankle in gauze as a temporary cure. Today, I stayed home from work and iced and elevated my foot every few hours. It’s very sore, but I’m hoping it will feel better soon. This afternoon, Jon, a Peace Corps volunteer brought me an ace bandage and movies to watch! I was very excited to have an ace bandage as it has helped me immobilize my ankle. I’m also excited to watch an English movie tonight since I don’t have a television in my apartment.

Anyway, thanks for reading. I have survived my first two weeks in Moldova!

I arrived in Cahul on August 26th. I’ve been here almost a week and it’s been a whirlwind of a time. When I first arrived, the folks from the Embassy took me to Cahul State University where I met with the rector and my co-teachers. For the first semester that I am in Cahul, I will be a co-teacher. If I am up to the challenge, I will have my own classes next semester. I will be teaching four English Grammar classes, one text analysis class, and then an English class for first year university students.

After my meeting with the university professors, I met my host family. They live near the town and it only takes me 8 minutes on the bus to get to work. Very exciting! My host family has two apartments in Cahul, and I live in their second apartment which is just across from their main apartment. Though it has been lonely at times, I have enjoyed having my own space, so far. I have a living room/bedroom, a tub/shower, a toilet (INSIDE), and a kitchen. It is just the right size for me and I love the location. There is a market less than a block from where I live and the bus station is about a ten minute walk. I think I’m the most excited about having indoor plumbing as I was told initially that the bathroom might be a hike away. At night I am usually serenaded by a pack of dogs, which I don’t usually mind because it reminds me of my dogs back home.

In less than a week, I’ve managed to meet a lot of great people. My host mother is an economist and the father is a retired military doctor. Their son is fifteen years old and attends the lyceium, roughly equivalent to middle school in the United States. He likes to practice his English and he helps me communicate in my subpar Russian. I have tried lots of different Moldovan dishes in the first week. Though I’m typically a finicky eater, I’ve tried several mystery meats and I’m still not exactly sure what I was eating. I didn’t want to be rude to my host family, so I’ve tried almost everything they’re put in front of me.  My favorite dish has been mămăligă, which is made from cornmeal. They local cheese is called brânză, and my host family has lots of it hidden in a closet in my apartment. It’s very tasty but doesn’t smell too delicious. Since it’s the end of summer, I’ve also eating lots of fresh vegetables. A decent sized watermelon (pronounced arbooz) costs ten lei or $1.00. Earlier in the season, it wasn’t okay to eat the watermelons because they had been injected with tap water so that they would weigh more and cost more. Now, it is safe to eat watermelon, per the U.S. Embassy and my host family, so I’ve eaten lots of it!

On Monday, I met up with two peace corps volunteers, Jon and Jessica, and helped them repair the kitchen at the lyceium. The kitchen was in dire need of repair and on Monday, they were working on plastering the walls. Since none of us Americans were trained in plastering, we helped by bringing in LOTS of sand from a huge pile outside. Right next to the sandpile, there happened to be six puppies. The puppies were tiny and hungry, so we gave them the leftover sausage from lunch. I eventually got the runt of the litter to warm up to me and he let me pet him! My love of dogs is not shared my most Moldovans. They do not think that dogs are house pets and do not treat them as members of the family. I have a feeling if I took a dog for a car ride or wanted to have a dog sit in my lap, most Moldovans would consider me crazy.

Today was the first day of school. Everyone was dressed up in suits, skirts, dress shirts, and heels. Students often give teachers fresh flowers as a symbol of their appreciation. I arrived at the University around 8:00am and was introduced to the six teachers who work in the English language department. They warmly welcomed me and told me that I’d be co-teaching with Tatiana. She has been very helpful so far in helping me get internet, showing me around town, and introducing me to the university faculty. I am excited to be teaching with her and I think that we have a good group of students. Most of the students were excited to meet an American for the first time and some were also afraid to use their English skills. Some students are able to speak very well while others can only speak a few words of English. In addition to teaching, I plan to run the English club, have tutoring hours for students who need extra help, and perhaps host an English movie night! Tomorrow I only have one class to teach for 1 hour and 25 minutes. Overall, I had a good first day of class and was back at my apartment by 12pm. I went to the market and pharmacy on my own and was able to communicate with a little difficulty. I can tell that my Russian is improving daily and I understood the bus driver when he told me to sit down and that he was closing the doors!

After a weekend of Moldovan holidays (Moldovan Independence Day, Romanian Language Day, and St. Maria’s day) it is nice to relax a little bit. I now have internet and will be able to update my blog more regularly. I appreciate all of the wonderful support!

Greetings from Moldova! On  Monday afternoon, I arrived safely in Moldova. My flight from DC to Munich was delayed and I arrived in Munich only thirty minutes before my flight to Moldova was scheduled to leave. Needless to say, I shed some tears at the luggage scanner because I was so afraid I was going to miss my flight to Moldova. Scenes of being stranded alone in the Munich airport with limited Spanish and Russian skills flashed through my head. However, after (politely) pushing several grandmothers aside, and running like a mad American through the Munich airport, I made it to the gate in time to make my flight to Chisinau. I was greeted at the airport by my Valentina, who is my first Moldovan friend and has been somewhat of a lifesaver my first few days in Moldova. Liz, the other Fulbrighter, and I arrived at the same time and we spent most of our first day in Chisinau sleeping. After exploring the city for two days, I can say that Chisinau is a pretty city with many green parks and beautiful fountains.

Yesterday, Liz and I explored the city and went to the airport to retrieve her lost luggage. It was an adventure and her luggage was waiting for us as soon as we arrived. After the luggage adventure, we met with two Moldovan ESL teachers who gave us lots of practical advice on what to expect in the classroom. We learned that cheating is often encouraged in the high schools so when students get to college, they often times try to cheat on exams and written assignments. It isn’t a big deal to them and it’s one of the issues that teachers struggle with the most in Moldova. Students also go to classes in groups and will stay with the same students throughout their daily classes.  They said that my class schedule will also change many times and that it is necessary to check room numbers multiple times a day to ensure that you class is still meeting in an earlier assigned room. I’m excited to teach, but I’m also nervous about the differences between the American and Moldovan education system. Patience is golden in Moldova, so I’m trying to just go with the flow. As we learned at orientation, if something isn’t funny now, it will most likely be funny in two weeks.

Today, Melissa, Liz, and I went to orientation at the Embassy. We filled out paperwork to get our visas for our ten month stay (Legitimatie). It was exciting to visit the Embassy and we learned lots of practical knowledge. In Cahul, the biggest security threats are chicken theft and chicken smuggling. I’ve also learned that it isn’t necessary to beat pork against a wall to get rid of trichinosis. It was also advised that I take Dramamine on my bus ride to Cahul tomorrow since the roads are very bumpy and uneven! Though I’m positive I won’t be stealing any chickens or beating raw meat against a wall, such things are good to know in advance. After a long day of orientation, we met Valentina for dinner at Andy’s pizza and enjoyed our first version of Moldovan pizza…not so bad! Tomorrow I am leaving for Cahul, and am looking forward to no longer living out of a suitcase. I am also going to meet with my co-teacher and the faculty at Cahul State University.

Wish me luck and thanks for reading!

So the countdown until when I leave for Moldova has dwindled down to two days. Though a week has passed since I’ve returned home from Bloomington, it seems like I’ve only been home for a few days. I’ve managed to get a lot accomplished in a relatively short amount of time and now am faced with the daunting task of fitting everything I will need for 9-10 months in two large suitcases. Luckily, I’ve found a great packing list @ http://www.peacecorpswiki.org/Packing_list_for_Moldova that has been immensely helpful. I think the hardest part of packing has been compiling clothes for four seasons. Winter weather in Moldova is supposed to be comparable to Michigan, so I’ve had to buy warmer clothes than I’m accustomed to wearing in North Carolina. In case you were wondering, packing a parka is nearly impossible, so I’m probably just going to buy one there.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve managed to go through my mini-bucket list of things to do before I leave. These have included:

1) Visit with family and pups. On Sunday, I was able to visit with my family and assured almost everyone that yes, I was going to have a good time in Moldova, yes I would be careful, and no, I am not going to come back with a husband. I have no idea why everyone is so concerned that I am going to be prowling match.com Moldova style, but I can assure you that is not a priority of mine!

2) Hang out with friends. I’ve managed to see most of my friends within the Pinehurst radius and it’s been great catching up with them after studying in Bloomington all summer. It’s hard knowing I won’t see so many of you for an entire year, but I will keep in touch. Instead of focusing on the goodbyes I’ve had to say, I’ve decided to focus on the many new hellos I will say in Moldova.

3) Witness a great thunderstorm. One of my favorite things to do is listen to thunderstorms in different parts of the world.

4) Buy host family gifts. In Moldova, gift-giving is a big deal and when you’re staying with a host family, you are expected to give a gift to show your gratitude. So far I’ve bought a few small pieces of pottery to show Moldovans a local source of income for North Carolinians. I also stopped by a Southern Season today and bought several NC gifts: key chains, small dish towels, stickers, Moravian cookies!

5) Set up my Skype account and add new friends! My Skype is rebeccaruck so please add me as a friend! I’d love to keep in touch with you while I’m in Moldova. :)

6) Buy phrase books and download English books to take with me. I am now equipped with a Romanian phrase book, Russian dictionary and the complete Sookie Stackhouse series. I know…classy reading materials for the plane.

I will be leaving on Sunday for Moldova. If you happen to see me in the airport wearing two pairs of boots, a large parka, several pairs of gloves, a few shirts, and earmuffs, please don’t hold it against me. The airport doesn’t actually weigh people so if I can’t fit it in my suitcase, the odds are that i will be wearing it.

As many of you might know, I will be spending the next year teaching English in Moldova as an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) with the Fulbright student program. Perhaps the first question that comes to most minds is a) where/what is Moldova? and b) did Rebecca choose to go there? To state it simply, yes, I chose to go to Moldova, a country conveniently situated between the Ukraine and Romania. While it’s off the beaten path and may not be on your top ten list of vacation hotspots, it is a country I grew to appreciate from afar during my last year of undergraduate education at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Last summer, I interned with the North Carolina National Guard and assisted with their State Partnership Program with Moldova and Botswana. Check out this website for more info on the SPP (http://moldova.usembassy.gov/pr012710.html)  My first glimpses of Moldova were through a hazy computer screen, and I knew that wouldn’t suffice. So last October I submitted my Fulbright application and was interviewed by the campus selection committee at UNC. In January, I found out that I made it through the first round of cuts. In Mid-April, I finally found out that I would be spending the next year in Moldova.  The wait was an excruciatingly long process, but in the end it paid off.

In order to help me better understand and speak русский язык (Russian language), I decided to enroll in Indiana University-Bloomington’s intensive Russian program (SWSEEL) this summer. At first, I could not believe what I had gotten myself into. Whether students were wearing their ornately decorated sun hats inside the lecture hall or they were telling me tales of wanting to marry superheros, I was indeed in for a culture shock of my own upon first arriving in Indiana. However, after deciding to stick it out and brave the decorative hats, I have immensely improved my Russian and have managed to meet some wonderful friends. As I find myself with only two days left in the program, I find myself realizing how much I’m going to miss the friends I’ve made here and will certainly miss being surrounded by so many intelligent, motivated individuals.

I guess I can say that the countdown to Moldova has finally begun. In 12 days, I will be boarding a plane in Raleigh to fly to Chisinau. Though the thought of hopping aboard a plane alone with the realization that I won’t see some of my friends and loved ones for ten months is terrifying, I have managed to stay strong so far. I’m looking forward to meeting new people in Moldova and sharing my knowledge of American culture with them. In return I hope to learn even more about their culture on another side of the globe.

While in Moldova, I will be living in Cahul, a town in the south of Moldova that is 5 miles from Romania. Five days a week I will be teaching at Cahul State University. I still have not heard what classes I will be teaching, but I’ve heard I’ll probably be teaching American Culture, English Conversation, English Grammar, and Teaching Methods. In my seven days of freedom after Russian boot camp, I hope to compile some good teaching resources to take with me overseas! If anyone has any ideas of fun lesson plans for the classroom or good materials to take with my overseas, feel free to share your advice!

I will hopefully find out where I will be living in Cahul this week. One thing I’ve learned about Eastern Europe so far is the value of patience. I have a feeling that patience will certainly go a long way in Moldova! In closing, I thought I’d share some of the comical advice I’ve heard about Moldova so far…

1) Dogs are fine in Moldova, just don’t let them bite your face or you’ll get rabies

2) Don’t try to out drink a Moldovan. They will win and you will be deathly ill.

3) While in Moldova, don’t jog and exercise openly in public-it will arouse suspicion and give away the fact that you’re an American. (I’m pretty sure everyone’s already going to know)

More advice to come later. Thanks for reading! :)

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