Q&A with Oana


Oana Botoc

I couldn’t sleep a couple of nights ago and I decided to stop questioning myself and let somebody else do it. I wanted to see the perception over exchange students from a Romanian vs. an American point of view, so I decided to ask for some questions. And I got lots of them. 

“Was traveling alone scary?” (question from USA) Horrible. I’ve never been on a plane before. I could say I started out pretty strong. A 16-hour flight, to be in a foreign country for 10 months. By myself. If it sounds scary, that’s because it is.  

“Do you miss home? What do you miss the most?” (question from Romania) I do. I miss people the most. I miss the walking areas. I miss hearing people speak in Romanian. 

“Do you want to go back?”(question from USA) I would’ve liked to finish high school here and go to college, but its truly expensive and I know that’s never going to happen. Let’s just say I had nightmares where I had to go home early, and I would wake up crying… you do the math.  

“Do you like the food here?” (question from USA) I love the food here. No other commentary. Maybe just the fact that I put on some weight since I got here. I think that says it all. 

“How long did it take you to adjust to the life here?” (question from USA)  It takes a long time to just realize what is happening and when you finally start to get used to it, it’s also the time you have three months left and it feels like you just arrived. I had to learn everything, from how the house I live in functions, my new family, how to make friends, I changed what I eat, my everyday schedule, my perception of school and myself. I’m not the same person who stepped into this country 7 months ago. 

“What’s the biggest struggle when talking to your friends back home?” (question from USA)  It has to be the time difference. I’m trying to make the most of the time I have left, so I try to avoid spending hours on my phone. “Was it hard being in America without them?” It was challenging. I’ve never moved before, so it was really hard for me to just start everything from scratch. I had no safety blanket. “Was it hard making friends?” Yes. This experience is probably very different for me. I didn’t make a lot of friends. I didn’t have “the exchange student friend group”Since I’m the only one I didn’t get the easiest way. This part has been really tough for me and I put a lot of pressure on myself because of it. I met a lot of people. I made some amazing connections... maybe less than I wanted but I know I am going to miss the friends I made here. A lot. 

“What’s the perception people have over Romania? How do students and teachers from the US treat an exchange student from Romania? How did they help you integrate into their groups?” (RO) Around the world, people have very different misconceptions about people from foreign countries, so I was expecting more… stereotypical questions. I don’t think I got any. If I did, I might not remember so they weren’t that stereotypical. People usually know that it’s an Eastern European country, they know something about the USSR and some of them think we speak Russian. It could’ve been worse. The teachers and the students treat me exactly like I’m one of them, the only difference is that in the beginning the teachers tried to understand my position and helped me a bit more. When it comes to groups I was on my own. Everyone is open to talking to anyone. Technically it’s much easier to make friends here, practically not quite. 

Is sport a big deal there? Do Americans play football in high school like they are portrayed in movies? (question from Romania) Yes and yes. I didn’t actually go to see a game whenever it was football season because I didn’t know it was something that would only last for a couple of weeks. I did recently go to a girl soccer game because I wanted to see for myself what was it about. I’m personally not a sports fan but it was fun, and I might go see another game, but I’ll probably try something different. So, yes, sport is a pretty big deal here, you can get scholarships for college based on it and everyone is taking pride in their team and their school. 

If you could bring one thing you discovered in America back home what would it be? (question from USA)  I think I was probably one of the lucky ones and everything worked in my favor (of course we’re not including the pandemic, or hurricanes or quarantines, or the snow storm…) but I ended up in a place where people are so kind and accepting. Everybody is trying to look after everybody, it’s so nice how everyone is minding their own business and they don’t just try to be judgmental of everything all the time. Thank you for having me and making me feel welcome.