To some, Romania is a mysterious land of vampires and spooky forests. To others, it’s the home of that one annoying song you couldn’t get out of your head eight years ago. (Ma-i-a hi, ma-i-a hu? Anyone?) To yet others, it’s just another eastern European nation with an unintelligible language.
To Iulia Moraru, a student in 2.i at Nørre G, it’s something different entirely – home.
“I lived in a really small city, a hundred kilometres from the capital. It was really, really small, like a thousand-two thousand people,” says Iulia. “In my small town, it was really nice. Everyone knew everyone, and it was really close between each other. I felt really safe because it was a small town.”
Iulia moved to Denmark four years ago because of better job opportunities for her family. Since her move, she has found it easier than expected to adapt to the Danish culture and school system despite the many differences between the two nations with regards to ideals, traditions, and philosophies. This difference is particularly pronounced in the classroom, where Romania’s schools take a very different approach to teaching students information. While schools in Denmark focus on conceptual and skill-based learning, those in Romania rely on strict memorization of lessons.
“Basically, the teachers give you a lesson to learn, word by word. They dictate it to you, and you’re supposed to write down every word they’re saying, and the next time you show up to class you’re supposed to know it by heart. That’s what you get graded on. The tests are the same thing. They don’t put importance on understanding what the things are about. For example, in literature, you don’t write essays yourselves. The teachers write them for us, and you’re supposed to memorize them word by word.”
According to Iulia, the environment was also very different in Romanian schools, where the rules and customs were stricter. “You can’t talk to the teachers. You can’t be open with them or tell them you have any problems or don’t understand something. You had to wear uniforms, you wouldn’t be able to talk a certain way, it was just not very nice.”
Still, the change to Denmark’s schools – although challenging at first – was not too much of a challenge. “At the beginning, I was totally lost. I was like ‘how do I do this, how do I write an essay, how does everything work,’ but after I figured it out I liked it a lot. Teachers are really helpful. (Most of them.)” She believes that the adaptation process was made easier by the laid-back nature of Denmark’s schools. “When I came to Denmark I spent two years learning Danish, and of course at the beginning, it was so different, but I adapted pretty easily. It was pretty comfortable for me, especially because I was always so stressed about school and memorizing everything. When I came here, I could relax and focus on learning the actual language.”
Outside of the classroom, the lives of Iulia and many other Romanians were based on close relationships within communities and families. “When it comes to family, we’re really close – our siblings, aunts, uncles, everything. It’s more of an extended family.” Romanian traditions are, despite the differences in cultures, based on largely the same concepts as those in Denmark. For instance, while Danes dance around the Christmas tree and sing songs at Christmastime, Romanians have their own form of julehygge – cutting the pig.
“It’s a tradition where a week or two before Christmas – if you’re from the countryside you do it at home, if you’re not you go to your family from the countryside – you get a pig, and you cut it, and you burn the skin because it has hair and bacteria on it. Then, you get kids to sit on it. As in, you get a blanket, then put the kids on the pig to ride the pig. It’s a tradition. It’s said to make the meat better. After that, you clean the pig because the skin is dark, and then you cut it up. You make sausages, you make meat. For some people, it doesn’t sound really pleasing, but it’s really good at Christmas. Also, the vibe of it is really, really nice.”
Since her move, Iulia has enjoyed life in Denmark and in NG’s IB program. “I am a bit more relaxed. I don’t worry about things a lot. I’m more careless. I party a lot more. When I used to live there, I thought school was the most important thing. I thought if I didn’t study I wouldn’t have a future, but here if I don’t find joy going to school I know I can do other stuff that gives me a nice future. I also became more open-minded and learned to accept people from other cultures. I love talking to new people, getting to know different cultures.” As for the differences between her small hometown and life in Copenhagen, she has “gotten used to them pretty fast” and feels positive about the change.
Still, she sometimes misses her time in Romania, from her family and friends to the landscapes. “We have really, really nice landscapes. They’re really pretty.”
Fast Facts: Romania
|Land Area||238397 km2 – 5.5 times the size of Denmark|
|Population||19.6 million – 3.4 times the population of Denmark|
|Capital/Largest City||Bucharest(Population: 2.1 million)|