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February 1, 2010

On the Right Side: Romania provides learning experiences

Being in Romania this last January has prevented me from keeping up with the political process back home. I can't wait to research and write about the Massachusetts Senate election and see how the liberals spin that one.

Until then, I asked Radu Cristea, my good friend and the person most responsible for making the January-term trip so successful for the students, to write a little about his and our experiences. The trip would not have been possible without his involvement. Here he is:

Romania is a country of preconceptions for a lot of people. Some only heard of it because of Transylvania and its bloodthirsty Dracula; others because of communism and its dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu.

There is so much more to it, as the 25 students from Hartwick College, accompanied by their professor and soccer coach, discovered in the three weeks of the January-term trip they took.

This well-prepared visit could not have taken place 25 years ago. Behind the iron curtain, personally, I would've been forbidden to even talk to foreigners "" Americans especially. I probably would've had to ask for approval months in advance to get an "official" translator and to fill endless pages of reports regarding my time spent with them.

This is not the case today. Things changed dramatically in the past 20 years after we put an end to the decades-long rule of Ceausescu, who took power in 1965, and his Securitate police state that became increasingly oppressive and Draconian through the 1980s.

The students who spent almost three weeks in the heart of Transylvania were able to experience the changes that took place here and had a huge impact on the economy, banking system, health care and so on.

Most of them came here without knowing a thing about Romania, with no expectations, but they're leaving this country with so many pleasant memories.

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