When I sat down to think about the six-week experience at Romania, I found two key words to describe the experience, which are CHANGE and LOVE.
CHANGE & SELF
Before I went to Romania, I thought myself as someone who could easily adapt to everything and I had very low requirements of living conditions. Moreover, the academic exchange experience in the UK and a master degree study in Canada could help me adapt quickly into the new environment. However, when I arrived at Bucharest, I realized that I was not the one I imagined. I have already set up some requirements for living. For instance, I felt very uncomfortable while sharing a room with 7 other girls who had different living habits.
After I explained my difficulties of adaptations to Natasha, my Exchange Participant manager at AIESEC UBC, she offered many useful suggestions and encouraged to be proactive to solve the problems. So, I changed the way of doing things as I used to be more passive when I met challenges. I talked to the other girls, the project manager and also the host of the hostel about my difficulties. I was surprised that everyone understood me, and all of them gave tips or offered to assist me overcome the difficulties.
Adaptation to the living conditions at Bucharest was just one example of CHANGES. I have experienced other changes as well. Due to these changes, I knew more about myself. I realized that I was not as open minded as I thought I was, and sometimes I was very judgmental. During this experience, I learnt how to understand the differences, accept them, and also deal with them. That is how I change myself and how I grew with the AIESEC exchange experience.
This part is about my work at Casa Iona orphanage Bucharest. We worked two hours from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm four days per week. The children’s age in the orphanage ranged from 3 to 15 years old, and we had ten kids in total. Most of the children were homeless and their parents could not afford a house in Romania. Some kids suffered from domestic violence and others had mental disorders.
The first two weeks, we were very disappointed and upset with our work at the orphanage, because the kids were not very organized and didn’t like to do group activities. They would always fight with each other when we asked them to play group games.
However, with the help of our translator, a very nice Romanian girl, we found out what happened to the kids. For instance, one boy suffered from domestic violence and had mental disorder. He always felt nervous and lonely. After we knew more about them, we changed our strategy of designing sessions. We slowed down and added more types of activities, such as watching cartoons, drawing and doing origami. The kids became more and more organized and disciplined. They could participate in group activities and learn simple vocabulary within 30 minutes.
After the experience with them for six weeks, I learnt how to love others and take care of others. I got used to being loved by family and friends, but I didn’t consider how to love others seriously. From this experience, I was trying to learn and practice it. It was amazing that we could communicate, interact and play with each other when we spoke different languages.
Finally, thanks to AIESEC, I experienced a lot during the six weeks. I met good friends from different countries; I visited a country I never knew before; I learnt to change and to love others; and I grew from this experience.
From Mengzhen Cheng (Tifa)
Now I am a second year master student at UBC
The first picture is a group picture of our project took on Global Village, including every trainee and project manager.
The second picture is a boy and I in the orphanage, which was taken when we were playing outside.
The third picture is a thank you letter and flower sent from the orphanage we worked at.