Romania Semester program under way

The first semester-long study abroad program operated by Northwestern College is under way, with seven students participating in the Romania Semester.

“This is the realization of a goal we’ve had for several years, being able to offer our own semester abroad program,” says Dr. Doug Carlson, Northwestern’s associate dean for off-campus programs. “It’s a unique destination, and we think all of the pieces are in place for a great start. We have a group of young people we’re impressed with who have taken the challenge of being the first to participate in the program.”

The program is being 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. The Romania Semester’s onsite director is Dana Bates, founder and executive director of New Horizons and a doctoral degree candidate at the Oxford Centre for Missions Studies.

The study abroad program was designed to be a unique combination of cross-cultural learning, theory about social development, practice, service, and adventure education. The program includes 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.

“It connects the mission of Northwestern to a place that’s in significant transition and an organization that’s doing some incredible work to facilitate that transition with young people in a very culturally and economically deprived area of Romania,” says Dave Nonnemacher, Northwestern’s director of experiential education.

One of the semester’s highlights will be a week spent in Cluj-Napoca, a large city in central Romania. The students will study with Dr. Gabriel Badescu, associate professor of political science at Babes-Bolyai University, the foremost social capital scholar in Eastern Europe and a board member of New Horizons. Students will also tour the gallery of Constantin Brancusi, the national artist of Romania.

Nonnemacher and Carlson will both visit the program during its inaugural semester. Nonnemacher will arrive in Romania after the students have been there for three weeks, giving them the opportunity to talk about their experience adjusting to the culture. He will also lead a backpacking trip in a national park. Carlson will conduct an official site visit during the first week of October.

The Romanian Semester will be offered every fall. The cost is the same as a semester on Northwestern’s campus, with a stipend for airfare included.