NWC to begin Romanian study abroad program

Northwestern College is establishing a study abroad program in Romania. The Romania Semester, which will begin offering classes in fall 2007, will be the first semester-long study abroad program operated by Northwestern.

“Romania Semester will be a unique combination of cross-cultural learning, theory about social development, practice, service, and adventure education,” says Dr. Doug Carlson, Northwestern’s associate dean for off-campus programs. “This program will help students develop their intercultural competence and act on their faith as they work with Romanians who are trying to bring change to that post-communist nation.”

The program will be operated in association with New Horizons Foundation, a ministry that seeks to use adventure education and service-learning experiences to help young Romanians develop responsibility, teamwork and trust. One of the organization’s ultimate goals is to aid sustainable development in Romania.

New Horizons’ founder and executive director, Dana Bates, will serve as onsite program director. Bates is a doctoral degree candidate at the Oxford Centre for Missions Studies. He earned a Master of Divinity degree from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and a bachelor’s degree from Gordon College.

“We hope students will understand more about the post-communist trauma and why development is so complicated here,” says Bates. “It is quite hard for an average American to understand the extent of the wound that communism inflicted, and its lingering effects. The positive side of this is that students will better understand the importance of things like social capital, civil society and active media; the dangers of corruption and apathy; and how democratic engagement can help people flourish. This area is a laboratory for these concerns and provides an ‘aha’ experience.”

Romania Semester will include four courses: Romanian Culture and History, Eastern Orthodoxy, Sustainable Development, and Experiential Education: Theory and Practice. Based in Lupeni in Jiu Valley, a deprived coal-mining region, students will live with area residents for five weeks and have constant interaction with Romanians.

The program will be offered every fall and is open to six to 10 students each year. The cost will be the same as a semester on Northwestern’s campus, with a stipend for airfare included.

The roots of the Romania Semester were established in 2004 when Dave Nonnemacher, Northwestern’s director of service learning, spent a week exploring study abroad possibilities with Bates. Nonnemacher returned to Romania the next summer to lead a four-week course for Northwestern students, and Bates met with college officials on campus in the fall of 2005. Last summer, Nonnemacher led a small group of students in a cross-cultural immersion and service-learning experience in Romania.

“Dana has assembled a very gifted and intelligent group of Romanians who seek to transform the culture,” says Nonnemacher. “New Horizons is doing the hard work of incarnational gospel ministry, and working with that organization will provide our students a great opportunity to adjust their perspective and realize that one person can make a difference.”

Northwestern currently sends approximately 30 students a year to semester study abroad programs operated by the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities and other organizations. For several years, Northwestern professors have led short-term study abroad programs over summer and winter breaks to countries such as China, Ecuador, France, India, Oman and Russia.