Self-experience: the perks of European integration 

When I was 16 years old I decided to try something different and spend a whole school year outside of Germany. While at first I was unsure which country to choose for my year abroad – prime destinations like Spain or Italy came to mind – I quickly decided against doing the usual stuff and picked something a little more out of the ordinary. The thing is: I wanted to learn a Romance language while I was away but I still wanted to stay in Europe. Portugal was a strong contender at first but I dropped the idea after learning that I wouldn’t be able to go there with YFU (Youth for Understanding) – an educational exchange organization that provides all the infrastructure and host families for students that apply for its program. I was left then with only one obvious option: I would have to go to Romania. Now I wasn’t by all means revolted by that option. On the contrary, I had the feeling like Romania was quite the underdog and I was more than willing to give it a chance. After all the application paperwork and a visit to the assessment board I was good to go and even received one of the few scholarship that were given out to students heading to Southeast Europe.

After learning which city I would be staying in (my host family was from Sibiu) I set out for my year abroad. Coincidentally and to my luck, Romania would become a member state of the EU just 3 months after my arrival, so I didn’t even need to get a whole lot of paperwork done while I was there. I just needed a permit of residence after the 3 months period in which every EU-citizen is granted sojourn no questions asked. I was already settled in well with my host family when I started school at the localSamuel von Brukenthal National College. I spend the whole year experiencing new people and strange customs, made friends and learned Romanian. It was probably the best experience I have made in my whole life – or so I thought. A few months before my scheduled return to Germany doubts arose whether I would be able to continue school in Germany or if I had to repeat the whole year. I decided that I didn’t want to take the chance and asked the Romanian school principal if I would be able to do one more class and finish school in Romania. I was told I would be able to further visit school under the condition that I take an exam in Romanian. After studying the whole summer I passed the exam and continued going to school in Romania and passed the high school diploma. When I applied at university after returning to Germany, my Romanian diploma was accepted without any complaints whatsoever.

Aside from learning a whole lot about what it’s like to live abroad there’s one essential realization I took away from this experience: freedom of movement is something very special and it should be treated as such. It leaves us at liberty to go where we desire without the restrictions of political and bureaucratic impediments. It is something nobody should want to take from us, even if it sometimes creates discomfort to some. The fact that country borders are not an obstacle anymore is a good of the highest value. It stands for the spirit of the EU in general and should be a shining example to the rest of the world.

Author: Adrian Mühlroth

Picture: Author’s ownership

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